Say hello to the new Swift Dzire. And goodbye to the Esteem. That's right, the new Dzire effectively replaces Maruti Suzuki's tired, old workhorse.
And about time too, considering that the Tata Indigo and the Mahindra Renault Logan have been actively biting off sizeable chunks of the Esteem's traditional marketshare. Now Maruti has the right ace in the pack... and about time too.
Maruti Suzuki started work on engineering a three-box version of the Swift way back in 2005. And the brief given to the engineers was that the Swift sedan would in no way lose out on the core attributes of the hatchback, which is primarily funky, cutting-edge looks and driving pleasure.
As the Dzire is just 30 kg heavier than the Swift, the engineers of what is essentially an indigenous project, have been successful.
And before you ask, there has been no change in the wheelbase, which means that the legroom for the rear passengers is unchanged. The only concession to back-seat drivers is that the rear backrest is now wider and angled back a little bit for more comfort.
Again, the powertrain options are also unchanged. Both the four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines mated to a five-speed manual transmission are on offer. The 1,298cc petrol engine of course develops 87 bhp at 6,000 rpm and 11.5 kgm at 4,500 revs, while the famous Fiat-derived 1,248cc turbodiesel motor has 75 bhp and 19.37 kgm on tap.
As you can see, there has been no upward revision in the power ratings, while the gear ratios have not been tweaked around either. Except for some marginal reprogramming of the ECU, the drivetrains are identical to those of the smaller sibling.
We drove both the diesel and petrol versions of the Dzire, and the first impressions are that the presence of a boot does not make itself felt. The torquey diesel could be the car of choice, as it pulls the Dzire on the highway very well, and is equally driveable on city streets... with no drop in the fun quotient either.
The petrol engine is, of course, rev happy and should please those who find the sticky fuel, um, a little sticky. Maruti Suzuki engineers have also revised the spring ratings at the rear, which means that the ride is slightly better for the rear passengers and not as hard as it is in the hatchback.
We expect the Dzire to be priced quite competitively, maybe a little above Rs 500,000 for the entry-level petrol LXi, going all the way upto almost Rs 700,000 for the top-end diesel, the ZDi. And going by Maruti Suzuki's Midas touch with virtually all their recent launches, it looks like the Esteem will soon be a distant memory.
For a full driving impression and more details and specifications of the new Swift Dzire, pick up a copy of the April 2008 issue of Business Standard Motoring