When the all-new Swift goes on sale around May this year, you can foresee the tough time Maruti is going to have explaining to customers that it is actually new. You need to stare long and hard to spot the differences in the next-generation Swift, which looks remarkably like the old one.
The new Swift may look more or less unchanged, but is in fact built on an all-new platform and every body panel is new. It’s grown considerably too and the new Swift is bigger than its predecessor in every dimension. Though the width and height have increased only marginally, length is up by 90mm and the wheelbase has been stretched too by a very useful 50mm.
The Swift looks very modern and fresh despite the familiarity of its shape. The new Swift looks even better with subtle tweaking of the design. The nose is characterised by the same swept-back lights but they are much larger and extend further back into the body. Again, the new grille is remarkably similar to the old car’s but subtly cuts into the leading edge of the bonnet.
The front intake is more prominent, the bumpers are a bit more sharply cut and the fog lamp surrounds are more contoured. Move to the side and the changes include bigger and more bulging wheel arches while the familiar blackened A-pillar contrasts nicely with the body. The rear tail-lamps stretch further along the length of the car and come with clear inset panels, which differentiates them from the all-red clusters of the original Swift.
The most noticeable change perhaps is in the tailgate, which has a distinctive overhang above the number plate. The boot’s higher loading lip adds to the car’s structural rigidity, increased significantly, and this is mainly due to the extensive use of high-tensile steel.
The new Swift sticks to the tried and tested format of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear, but the design has been tweaked for better dynamics. Under the bonnet not much has changed, and the new Swift will come with the same 1.2 K-series petrol and 1.3 Fiat-sourced diesel motors as before. There are some small tweaks though. For example, the radiator’s cooling shroud is now made of plastic instead of steel and this has knocked 1.5kg of weight.
The benefits of the additional 50mm in the Swift’s wheelbase can be seen in the cabin. Rear seat space or a lack of it has always been one of the Swift’s weak points and this has now been addressed to some extent. Legroom has noticeably improved and a more generous seat squab offers much better under-thigh support. However, even with the increase in rear passenger room, the new Swift fails to feel as spacious as its competitors.
Headroom is still tight, the small glass area continuing to give a cooped-up feeling at the back. At 204-litres, boot space isn’t generous either.
The front seats are very generous and have a sportier design with more contours and strong side bolsters, but we prefer the flatter and softer design of the current Swift’s front buckets, which are among the comfiest around.
Suzuki hasn’t managed to lift cabin quality substantially with the new Swift. The plastics don’t feel greatly improved and the all-black insides, relieved only marginally with the use of silver plastic trim, continue to exude a gloomy ambience as before. However, with Indian customers showing a strong preference for beige interiors, we wouldn’t be surprised if Maruti offered a lighter, more cheerful interior trim for the Indian market.
The dashboard design is much tidier and sharper looking. The V-shaped centre console is a design theme that’s also present in the Kizashi and works well. The new instrument dials are superb with increments highlighted by red-lit, glass-like markers as on the Honda City. The dashboard is quite functional too, offering more storage space than before.
The all-new steering wheel feels nice and chunky as do the steering-mounted buttons which have a nice tactile feel. A lot of the switchgear is new and feels a lot better but some parts still get carried over like the power window cluster and some buttons on the lower dash. The gear lever as well is all too familiar and a carry-over from previous Suzukis.
The UK-spec Swift comes with a keyless stop-start system and we expect Maruti to offer this same feature in India to counter the Nissan Micra’s claim of being the only car in the class to come with this convenience. We wouldn’t be surprised if a USB input and Bluetooth connectivity are also added to the Swift’s roster of kit.
Fire-up the engine and it becomes immediately apparent that the Swift is a much better car to drive. It feels more grown up but without losing its innate entertaining character. The first impression is that it feels more refined than before, if not quicker. It’s a lot quieter, the body seems less creaky and the K-series shows no signs of harshness even when revved to its max.
That’s a good thing actually because low-end torque is pretty weak and you really need to cane this engine to perform. It works best after 4,000rpm and whizzes to its 6,200rpm redline without any fuss. This is one of the smoothest and most refined 1.2-litre units around and is sure to continue delighting enthusiasts. Performance is more than adequate and in fact, after the Honda Jazz, it’s the Swift that is the quickest hatchback in its class.
However, for everyday driving, the lack of grunt at low speeds will mean more frequent gear changing than you expect. That job is made less of a chore thanks to the sweet-shifting gearbox which is again a carry-over from the previous Swift.
The Swift’s grown-up feel comes largely from the substantially improved ride and handling. It feels much more planted and less fidgety than before, cruising at high speeds with a new-found air of confidence. It’s less prone to getting tossed around and soaks up bumps very impressively.
The best bit is that the Swift hasn’t lost its perky handling in its new avatar. The steering has been completely revamped with low-play joints in the steering-column shaft and a new variable-gear ratio design. However, Suzuki still hasn’t managed to get rid of the inconsistency in the steering feel, which is a big fly in the ointment.
According to company sources, Maruti plans to launch the all-new Swift in May this year, which is exactly six years after the launch of the first model. The new Swift addresses many of the flaws of the old model while still retaining its very desirable character. It’s bigger and better in every respect but we can’t help feeling that Suzuki could have made more of a jump in key areas like cabin quality and space.
There is little doubt though that it will remain the benchmark in this segment for others to follow and on the assumption that Maruti will price this all-important hatchback very competitively, the new Swift will begin life in the Indian market where the previous one left off. Right at the top.