No longer as Swift

By Abhijit Menon-Sen <ams@toroid.org>

2011-08-16

I traded in my 2005 Maruti Swift VXi for a 2011 Swift ZXi a month ago. There are some things about the new car that are nicer—the rear wipers and alloy wheels are especially welcome, and the height-adjustable seat belts are a nice touch. Mostly, though, this car is just the same as the old one.

The only dramatic change is the new K-series engine, which is supposed to be lighter, and have better fuel efficiency and lower emissions. Its 1197cc capacity is slightly less than the old engine, but the peak power and torque figures (85PS@6000rpm and 113Nm@4500rpm) are quite similar. The engines perform very differently, however, as I have learned over nearly two thousand kilometres of driving in varied conditions. (It's too early to say anything about fuel efficiency, though.)

(Aside: the official Maruti Swift web site—which should have been able to give me the specifications for engines both old and new—has been given over to a stupid "hold your breath" splash page for the new Swift to be introduced later this year.)

The new engine is louder and higher-pitched (annoyingly so) with the throttle open. The power curve has been shifted to the left, resulting in noticeably more low-end torque (which makes city and hill driving easier). The disappointing corollary is that highway performance is compromised by the loss of power at the high end.

Given a good road, my old car seemed eager to go up to 140kmph, and it accelerated nicely past 100kmph even in fifth gear. The new car begins to feel reluctant at 100kmph, and needs a lot of coaxing to move up to 120kmph. I had to keep shifting down to fourth or even third gear while overtaking cars on the highway. The old car also felt perfectly stable at 120kmph, while the new one feels a tiny bit flaky beyond that speed.

I know that conditions in India are rarely such that one can drive at 120kmph for any length of time, and one can take advantage of extra low-end torque more often, but I can't help feeling a bit disappointed.

I wanted a Swift, dammit, not a semi-laden swallow!

Update 2012: The problems went away when I switched from the stock JK Vectra 185/70 tires to Yokohama A-Drive tires of the same size. The car handled better, felt so much more stable at highway speeds, and were noticeably quieter. I guess the stock tires (which were all right for the LXi) just didn't suit the slightly heavier ZXi.