Opinion: Is the Maruti Swift forgetting its ethos?

What made it a legend in India was that it provided car buyers, especially enthusiastic ones, something to sink their teeth into.

By Shapur Kotwal, Autocar India calendar 30 Jun 2024 Views icon6726 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Opinion: Is the Maruti Swift forgetting its ethos?

Suzuki’s Swift was born to provide European car buyers with an affordable but fun hatch. It had sporty styling, crisp handling and a healthy dash of power. Inspired in many ways by the original Mini, it kept its mass between its wheels and a big smile on its face. The Swift, however, was a big gamble from Suzuki. Would there be a market? It was nothing less than a leap of faith for the Japanese brand.   

What made it a legend in India was that it provided car buyers, especially enthusiastic ones, something to sink their teeth into. And then there was Maruti’s masterstroke: slotting Fiat’s light, super-efficient and free-revving common-rail diesel under the bonnet. It just transformed the Swift, and Indian buyers loved that it could be fast, fun and efficient—all at the same time.

However, over the years, the Swift has progressively lost its sheen. The second-generation car sacrificed some of its go-kart-like handling to better ride, and came with a more comfort-oriented and lighter steering. Then, the attractive third-gen car was shorn of the diesel and lost plenty of heft and feel. Now, there’s the new fourth-gen Swift

On the face of it, the fourth-generation Swift’s three-cylinder engine is one cylinder down and makes 8hp less than its predecessor’s. But the manner in which the engine responds on the move—nearly instantly and with a good dollop of torque—is impressive. A far cry from the first gasoline Swift that felt dead at low speeds but actually made more power, this one feels quick on the draw. And that’s just perfect for the cut and thrust of city traffic. The strong push from those big pistons clearly makes their presence felt with the light kerb weight.  

The new Swift even rides well, swallowing up all manner of bad sections of road, probably better than any Swift before, with the 65-profile tyres helping here. The chassis also feels stiffer than the earlier Swifts’, like it is made of tougher material. Even the steering seems to be better, and while it rolls on its India-specific suspension, it feels agile and playful. The engine, however, doesn’t like to rev, and you can tell it is a three-cylinder unit. Overall, the Swift is clearly an impressively engineered and thoughtfully put-together hatch, one that will see a lot of success.

But is it a good Swift? That’s a bit more complicated. Sure, the fourth-gen car crosses over the line and makes the cut (just about), identifying as a Swift from the outside and from behind the wheel. That said, the new Swift is nowhere near the hero car it could have been if it were faster, nimbler, more fun to drive, and cheaper, too. After all, the Swift was born to be an affordable, fun hatch. 

What happens to our icons? Either they live on—true to their ethos—and flourish (Porsche 911, Jeep Wrangler), or they progressively get watered down, lose focus (to broaden their appeal), and eventually fade away. So, which way will the Swift go? And don’t say Swift Sport; that’s never happening. Ever.

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