The original Dzire made its debut in March 2008, Maruti engineering a boot onto the Swift hatchback to make the India-specific model, despite much apprehension from parent Suzuki. The car has been a huge success and Maruti has sold more than 300,000 cars in the four years that it’s been around. Don’t think you’ve seen the last of it though; the car will continue to soldier on, albeit only in the base diesel LDi guise, and only in the taxi market. However, this new Dzire diesel starts at Rs 5.8 lakh, which is where the Indigo CS tops out. So it’s clear that Maruti is aiming its new ‘only-for-India’ creation at someone who is willing to spend a little more, doesn’t particularly need a big boot, but doesn’t want a hatchback either.
The pricing also slots it neatly into a narrow gap between big hatchbacks and full-fat entry-level saloons like the Tata Manza and Toyota Etios. So the question is, what exactly is the new Dzire like? Is it an entry-level saloon, a hatchback or something in between?
Twist the key and the familiar 1.3-litre, 74bhp engine settles into a smooth, refined idle. You’ll discover a bit of hesitation at low revs, but this engine’s power delivery has been tuned to be far less spiky than the old Dzire, so power comes in more smoothly when the turbo comes on. Still, it’s not as immediately responsive as the 1.4-litre DiCOR motor in the Indigo CS, so you do need a bit of planning when you slot in and out of gaps.
Post 1800rpm is where the action is, and the strong mid-range is where you should aim to be when you are driving. The engine is impressively refined and smooth at low and mid-rpms, but really doesn’t like being stretched to its redline. So it’s best when you use the mid-range, upshift early and power on. Because the engine, gearbox and kerb weight are identical to the Swift, the 13.4sec 0-100kph time is almost identical. It is beyond this where the Dzire’s slightly slipperier shape gives it a two-second advantage to 140kph. Even the in-gear times are, not surprisingly, very similar to the Swift.
The biggest difference between saloon and hatch is the softer rear suspension setup in the Dzire. What this means is that the ride, especially at the rear, is more pliant and the suspension, like the new Swift’s, is quite refined for a car of this class and price. The rear does tend to bob when the car is fully loaded though.
Most owners won’t complain about the way it handles either – the steering is accurate enough for highway speeds and light enough for town work. Sure, the Swift feels sharper than the softened-down Dzire through corners, but you really have to push it hard to feel the difference.
It’s a brave and unusual move for a carmaker to launch a new car that offers something substantially less than its predecessor. There have been badly styled redesigns and less entertaining new motors, but to take away something as crucial as boot space is a big step. But that’s just what Maruti has done with the new Dzire. The new car’s boot capacity is 124 litres lesser than the old car’s, but there’s good news too. Taking a cue from Tata’s successful Indigo CS, which started the trend, the new car ducks under four metres to take advantage of small-car excise benefits and effectively give the customer a better price.
This top-end Dzire looks smart as it stands on its 15-inch alloys and wide 185-section tyres. In profile, the car looks like its boot has been abruptly cut off but, given the tight dimensions, it’s not a bad job, especially compared to the ungainly first-gen car. Still, you can tell exactly how Maruti has kept the length at 3995mm. At just 145mm longer than the Swift it is based on, the rear overhang is extremely short, the bumper lip is almost flush with the tail-lamps and you can liken it to a bushy-tailed rabbit, if you will. There’s also the squarish boot-lid that accentuates the chopped look. At the front, there are a few changes that distinguish the Dzire from the Swift, but you’ll need sharp eyes to tell that the grille is new and the bumper has been reprofiled too.
As with the previous cars, Maruti didn’t have to change much from the Swift to make the Dzire. The width, the wheelbase and the rear track are identical, although the new Dzire is 25mm taller. The engines are identical, as are the gear ratios. The gearbox gets detent pin tech for smoother gearshifts though. Maruti claims that the Dzire, despite the extra metal for the boot, weighs the same as the Swift at 1080kg. And though it does not look like it, boot space – at 316 litres – is a useful 112 litres more than the Swift’s tiny hatch.
The upmarket theme continues when you step into the car, the ZDi version in particular. All models get a two-tone dashboard based on the Swift’s, which in turn is based on the Rs 16.5-lakh Kizashi. You’ll notice the convincing faux wood strips that bisect the dashboard – stretch your imagination a bit and you’ll see references to VW’s big saloons in here.
Plastic quality though is exactly like the Swift, which means it is far better than what you see in most of its competition, but still not up to the solidity of, say, a VW Polo’s interiors. The big difference from the Swift, obviously, is the beige lower half of the dash. It really helps brighten up an age-old complaint we’ve had about the Swift’s coal-bin interiors.
The seats are identical to the Swift, so you get the well-bolstered, comfortable front chairs. The rear seats have more space than the old Dzire, thanks to the new platform’s longer wheelbase. That said, the Dzire’s narrow interior width means it’s best for seating two at the rear and is nowhere as spacious as an Etios or Manza. So if you do travel with a full load of passengers most of the time, it’s the bigger cars you need to be looking at. And, while we’re at it, the Dzire’s rear seatback is a tad too reclined as well. This shouldn’t be that much of an issue because we’ll assume most owners will be driving themselves.
Fuel economy too is the same as the Swift’s 14.6kpl in the city, but the better aerodynamics make it more efficient on the highway.