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Swift: BS Motoring Car Of The Year 2006
January 07, 2006
Yes, the Maruti Suzuki Swift is the big winner this year. But winning India's longest standing Car Of The Year Award was not easy for the Swift as you would have imagined.
Sure, this beautiful hatchback is doing creditable numbers on the sales front and owners seem to be a happy lot, but it had to compete with some worthy automobiles from across four segments.
Still, there's no denying that the Swift had the winner's aura around it ever since it was launched in May 2005... it was just that the battle was hard fought.
Cars that are eligible for Business Standard Motoring Awards for 2006 are cars that we have tested during the calendar year 2005.
And that meant the Skoda Laura was not a contender -- sure, the A5 was launched just in time, but it's just that BSM did not get a chance to evaluate the newest Skoda before we went for the final evaluation drive.
Also absent for the final evaluation drive were two Hyundais -- the Tucson and the Sonata Embera. Since we had already subjected these machines to mandatory tests, they were included in the final contenders list.
Ford India's three-pronged attack at the crown began with the economical Fiesta 1.4 and ended with a peppy 1.6, while aiding the economy equation further was the 1.4 diesel.
Toyota's big innovation, the Innova, also had both the diesel and petrol variants helping each other. That, along with the Swift, completed the contenders list.
During the course of the year, we had extensively tested all the cars that were launched. Yet, we fixed up a final evaluation drive for the jury. The jury comprised the BSM team, which has significant experience in evaluating diverse cars over many years.
The route that was laid out for the COTY drive was a 250-km loop that included congested urban roads, relatively free B-roads, the ultra-fast Mumbai-Pune Expressway, and also a very curvy mountain stretch thrown in.
This allowed the jury to subject each car over diverse terrain and traffic conditions to arrive at a well-informed judgement.
Business Standard Motoring Car Of The Year 2006
This car is a little celebration in itself. Soon, Indian car buyers will have the option to buy hatchbacks that are better than the Maruti Suzuki Swift -- but they will thank this new Suzuki for setting the trend. Sure, the basic models did not have the spec level the jury would have liked but they all manage to look good, offer decent ride quality and brilliant handling.
In the top end ZXi version, the Swift is a car that sticks its tongue out and says boo! to pricier C-segment sedans.
ABS, EBD, airbags for driver and passenger, automatic air-conditioner... what more do you expect?
The jury considered the fact that the car comes with a powertrain derived from that of the Esteem -- but then, since the said powertrain makes the Swift fun-to-drive (it earned maximum points in this department), economical for its class and meet emission standards, they found nothing to complain about.
The Swift also scored heavily on the looks department (expected, right?) and safety (maximum points), but still needed help from the price benchmark to beat the Innova to the throne.
Yes, it was the Toyota Innova and not the Ford Fiesta that challenged the Swift to the top honours.
The biggest complaint of the jury centred around the build quality of the Swift (least points) which needs immediate attention... no, we are not happy with malfunctioning electricals in test cars.
And that meant, in true BSM tradition, we ended up thrashing the Swift for over 6,000 km ever since it was launched before coming to the conclusion at our final evaluation drive.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Business Standard Motoring Car Of The Year 2006 is the Maruti Suzuki Swift. Congratulations, Maruti Suzuki, let the celebrations begin!
At BSM, we test the wheels off cars. And when it comes to a potential COTY winner, it gets a bit severe. Here's what the Swift has been through with us
The Swift simply revitalised Maruti Udyog. A brief test-drive was organised at Gurgaon for motoring journalists to get an initial impression of the Swift. The entire top brass of MUL was there to convey how critical the Swift was to the firm.
They even brought in Eiji Mochizuki, chief engineer-compact cars, Suzuki Motor Corporation, widely known as the father of the Swift, to proudly show off his new baby.
Battling it out
It was inevitable, a comparison between the Hyundai Getz and the Swift. Though the Getz had better interior space, build quality and refinement going for it, the Swift scored in terms of looks, performance, ride and handling. Besides, the Swift's brilliant value-for-money pricing meant that it was a clear winner.
Suzuki says that the Swift was inspired by motorcycles. So, we just couldn't help pitting the hatchback against the fastest motorcycle in the world, the Suzuki GSR-R1300, aka Hayabusa. They do have some things in common.
Both were developed at Hamamatsu, both have names of birds and both have close to 1300cc engines. But that's where it ends. Though the Swift is fun to drive, the Hayabusa literally flew!
Even now, "Which Maruti to buy?" is a question that is still tough to answer. If you went to the Maruti showroom with a budget of Rs 5 lakh, you could buy the Swift VXi or a proper three-box car, the Esteem.
Besides, in the initial days, MUL simply couldn't make and deliver enough Swifts. So you could either wait or pick up a larger car. We recommended people to wait!
Raid of your life
The ultimate challenge for the Swift? Subject it to unearthly altitudes, the worst terrain possible and ferocious driving. Yes, we participated in the last Raid de Himalaya in a red Swift. The Team Motoring Swift suffered two punctures, its lower chin got ripped off and it even survived an earthquake in Kashmir. Yet, it came out tops. We were placed third in the Reliability Trial, in the cars category!