The new Maruti Suzuki Swift is all set for launch on August 17 and despite previously setting the benchmark in its segment as far as price, specifications, features, fun-to-drive factor and value goes, it still has a lot of competition to deal with.
The next best-selling hatch in that segment is the Hyundai i20, a sort of B-plus premium hatch that is surprisingly notching up the numbers. The Ford Figo and VW Polo doing decent numbers as well and the Etios Liva, though only available in petrol for now, will get a diesel option too, come September.
We look at what the Maruti Swift is up against in the next few pages. From the Fiat Punto and Tata Indica Vista to the upcoming Honda Brio and Nissan Micra-based Renault that are also headed to our shores. All these cars (with the exception of the Honda Brio for the moment) have diesel motor options.
For the Swift, there are volumes to be gained as the 40,000 plus initial booking seem to indicate. From the 11,000-12,000 units a month, the Swift is expected to grow to a minimum 15,000-16,000 units a month and maybe more. In fact, it is expected to become the second best-selling Maruti and possibly even car in the country after the Alto, taking over the position from Maruti's very own Wagon R. Yet, the going won't be easy.
We take a look at each of the Swift's competitors and tell you exactly what they offer and where the Swift has an upper hand or loses out to its competition. If you read this elsewhere on the web, you know where they took inspiration from! :)
TOYOTA ETIOS LIVA
The Etios Liva is Toyota's smallest and cheapest car in the country. In fact, it wouldn't be wrong to say that it is Toyota's cheapest produced car, anywhere in the world for now.
The Etios Liva is part of the Etios platform that has so far spawned a sedan and this hatch, but don't be surprised to find a people mover on this very platform in the future. The Liva has a shorter wheelbase than its sibling, but is just as wide and tall. The Liva's trump card is its kerb weight, starting at just under 900 kg, it is the lightest of the lot that you see here.
The other trump card is the space on offer. There's just acres of it and given its footprint, very well thought out. Rear seat passengers will find the car particularly good and three abreast there's still some spare shoulder room, as long as you aren't Big Mike. The Liva comes in five trims with the basic version not even offering power steering, but it's the price that makes everyone sit up and take notice.
Under the hood is a 1.2-litre petrol motor that's good fo 80 bhp. In-city driveability and fuel efficiency are its hallmarks, not outright performance. It isn't the quickest, mind you and it just doesn't have enough poke once you enter three digit speeds, something that it's efficiency cred suggests. It also doesn't have the best NVH levels nor is the plastic quality and fit and finish the best in some areas. A 1.4-litre diesel motor with about 70 bhp is coming next month and should help the Liva expand its sales footprint, more on which we shall elaborate in a future story. It rides decently and doesn't handle badly too, given its light weight nature, but it fails to excite when pushed hard.
It also lacks features, especially at the lower and mid-spec levels to keep many customers interested, while the top-spec hatch could actually have done with a USB port, electric ORVMs and even auto-climate control.
For now, the Liva works out to be a practical, roomy hatch that appeals to your sensibilities. The lack of perceived quality and some sound engineering rob it off much needed charm, but maybe the presence of a diesel option can change things for the little Toyota.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 80 bhp, Rs 4.12 lakh to Rs 5.97 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Diesel: 1.4-litre, 70 bhp (estimated), Rs 4.9 lakh to 6.9 lakh (ex-showroom, estimated, Mumbai)
Where the Swift scores: Build quality, fun-to-drive factor, strong motors, appeal
Where the Swift loses: Space, practicality
TATA INDICA VISTA
Like the VW Polo, Skoda Fabia, Fiat Punto and Hyundai i20, the Tata Indica Vista comes with three motor options – two petrol and one diesel. It borrows the same motors from the Fiat range that power the Punto – the 1.2-litre Safire petrol with 65 bhp, the 1.3-litre Quadrajet diesel with 75 bhp, the 1.4-litre BSIII TDI with 69 bhp and the 1.4-litre petrol 90 bhp motor, badged the Vista 90.
The Indica Vista, now on Indian roads for the last three years has helped change the face of Tata Motors as a company that has brought its quality and finish levels up several notches. While the car has still some way to go, before it can match the quality levels of the Hyundai i20 and VW Polo, the Vista does boast of best-in-class space and comfort levels.
Like the erstwhile Indica, the Vista has space levels that can match or even better most C-segment saloons. Legroom at the rear is excellent and the seating position is good for long drives. The use of soft-touch materials on the dash has helped the Vista look richer and plusher than erstwhile Tata cars. It's loaded with features too, with top-end models fitted with airbags, ABS and Bluetooth among others.
The Vista has decent dynamics on offer, though it isn't the most fun-to-drive car of the lot. Ride quality is the vehicle's strength, offering good pliancy and a comfortable ride for its occupants. Handling is understeery, the steering doesn't provide adequate feedback and body-roll, though better controlled than its predecessor, is still some way away from class benchmarks.
The 1.2-litre petrol motor is basic and good for city use but lacks grunt for the highway. It's pretty efficient though, but the heavy kerb weight means you really have to give it some stick to get a move on. The 1.3-litre Quadrajet is refined and has decent power and torque, with nicely spaced gear ratios. The Vista 90 is positioned as the hot hatch of the lot, though performance is adequate and it makes for a good highway cruiser. The 1.4-litre, turbocharged diesel engine is also available, but is not on sale in metros (only BS III compliant). It's efficient, but isn't as refined as the common-rail diesel Quadrajet. A facelifted version with more features and better equipment levels can be expected in the near future.
The facelifted Indica Vista will feature triple barrel headlamps from the Manza, a new black cluster on the boot with the Tata logo and new colours such as Summer Sparkle (yellow). The Vista will also do away with trim names like Aura and Aqua and have trim levels like LX, ZX and GZX to name a few. The engines will remain the same, but it will have more features like Blue 5 on the higher-end variants while a new beige interior with black trim will adorn the dash. Better quality materials and softer touch dash as well as revised suspension to improve ride quality even further will be the hallmarks of the new Vista.
The facelifted Vista can be expected rather soon. Keep watching this space for more on it.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 65 bhp, Rs 3.87 lakh to Rs 4.17 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.4-litre, 89 bhp, Rs 4.59 lakh to Rs 6.06 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 75 bhp, Rs 4.86 lakh to 6.04 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Better handling, efficiency, Maruti's reliability reputation
Where the Swift loses: Space, ride quality, doesn't have features like Bluetooth
>>>>>TURN OVER TO READ ON THE FIAT PUNTO>>>>>
Fiat's only credible small car currently on sale, the Punto hasn't really taken off on the sales charts. Despite improved build quality and attention to detail, vis-a-vis the Palio, the Punto still continues to lag on the sales front. But that doesn't stop it from being a competent little car.
It's easily the best looking hatchback on sale, with its Maserati-inspired snout and teutonic-like build. That doesn't necessarily translate into the car being comfy on the inside. Space is adequate, given its overall dimensions, the thick A-pillar and swooping roofline and high waistline cut into the car's overall interior space. Solidly built, the Punto is pretty loaded with features on the top-end variants like the Emotion and Emotion Pack with ABS, airbags, Bluetooth connectivity, USB port, multi-information display among others. Rear legroom and kneeroom feels a bit short for its dimensions, while the large dashboard in front also doesn't help in better space utilisation.
What the Punto is, is a very good handling and riding automobile. It rides with a degree of authority that rates it among the best in the segment, and yet, despite its higher kerb weight, it handles very well. Steering feedback is good, the car turns in positively and the chassis feels it can handle a lot of power.
That unfortunately isn't the case. The 1.2-litre Fire powered Punto is okay for city use but feels a bit out of breath on the highway. The 1.3-litre Multijet too is adequate at best, but pretty efficient. What you need are the 1.3-litre Multijet 90 hp version that gives it better top-end performance and the 1.4-litre 90 bhp petrol that makes it a 'warm' hatch.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 67 bhp, 15.2 kpl (ARAI) Rs 4.4 lakh to Rs 5.1 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.4-litre, 89 bhp, 13.8 kpl (ARAI) Rs 5.6 lakh to Rs 6.22 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 75 bhp, 19.9 kpl (ARAI) Rs 5.33 to 6.7 lakh
Diesel: 1.25-litre, 90 bhp, 20.0 kpl (ARAI) Rs 7.05 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Maruti's reliability records, better after-sales service, maneuverability, better mated diesel engine, power-to-weight ratio
Where the Swift loses: High-speed stability, not as solidly built, ride quality
>>>>>TURN OVER TO READ ON THE FORD FIGO>>>>>
Ford's biggest success story in India to date, the Figo has changed not just the volumes that Ford India now has to deal with, but also the perception of the company - from one whose cars are expensive to buy and maintain with little resale value, to a company that can build and sell cars that are not very different in value and approach that the market leaders offer.
The Figo comes with two motor options - a 1.2-litre petrol with 70 bhp and a 1.4-litre TDCi, Duratorq diesel with 68 bhp. Both these engines are built in India with the car enjoying high levels of localisation, a reason why Ford has managed to price the car competitively. The petrol motor isn't the most enthusiastic of the lot and neither the most efficient. It's a good cruiser and deals well with start-stop traffic, but isn't our pick. The diesel motor on the other hand changes the character of the car. It's good fun to push, is efficient and offers great driveability both in town and on the highway, thanks to well-selected gear ratios.
What makes the Figo particularly good is its ride and handling package. The ride is a bit on the stiffer side, but what you gain is a neat handler with decent amounts of steering feel with quick turn in and good amount of body grip. On the inside, the Figo is spacious with enough room for five occupants for a weekend getaway. The dashboard is shared with the Fiesta Classic but altered accordingly to suit the Figo customer base. On the high-end Titanium variant you get airbags and ABS, apart from a bluetooth system and an optional red treatment on the dash. Ford, however have cut some corners to bring the car at this price and the presence of scruffy plastics all around does take away some of the sheen. Despite being a last-gen Fiesta, the Figo suits well to the needs of most Indian consumers.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 70 bhp, 15.6 kpl (ARAI) Rs 3.63 lakh to Rs 4.67 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Diesel: 1.4-litre, 68 bhp, 20.0 kpl (ARAI) Rs 4.6 lakh to Rs 5.6 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Better after-sales, sportier handling, better power-to-weight ratio and better motor (petrol), better quality interiors
Where the Swift loses: Boot not as large, not as much legroom at the rear
Volkswagen's big ticket entry into the volumes segment, the Polo is best known for its big-bang launch and advertising campaign that shook up the small car market early last year.
Since then, sales of the Polo have settled down to a more realistic 3000-3500 units a month, with its larger sibling, the Polo based Vento saloon raking in better numbers. BSM's 2011 Car Of The Year, the Polo has some pretty sound engineering behind it. Tight shutlines, good finish and build quality and good overall dynamics are the hallmarks of what is the cheapest car to wear the VW badge.
On the inside, the car is a bit short on space, especially at the rear. In the front, the seats are supportive and the dashboard is well built. On the Highline version, you get airbags and ABS, but you don't get steering mounted audio controls nor do you get aux-in or USB connectivity, something that will be corrected when a slightly tweaked Polo and Vento are expected around the festive season (September-October 2011).
On offer are three motors - a 1.2-litre three-cylinder 75 bhp petrol that is adequate for most purposes. The 1.2-litre diesel motor, derived from the 1.6-litre diesel engine found on the Vento is torquey and has decent performance too. The downside with both these motors is refinement, something that's not the case with the Polo 1.6. This four-pot petrol engined hatch with 102 bhp makes it a proper warm hatch with good performance all the way through to its 180 kph top speed.
It also has a decent combination of ride and handling. The softer setup makes it good on most bad roads, though it has a tendency to bottom out. Handling, despite its softer setup is pretty good, also down to the fact that it weighs under 1050 kg for most variants. Where the Polo doesn't hit the mark is in the overall value department, but it makes up with some solid German engineering behind it.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 74 bhp, 17.2 kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.6 lakh to Rs 6.1 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.6-litre, 102 bhp, 15.26 kpl (ARAI), Rs 6.5 lakh
Diesel: 1.2-litre, 74 bhp, 22.1 kpl (ARAI), Rs 5.6 lakh to Rs 7.1 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Better after-sales service, more features, better performing engines, sweet handler
Where the Swift loses: Ride quality isn't as good, not as solidly built
Not many know it, but the Hyundai i20 is consistently ranked among the top-three selling hatches in the B-segment today. From a humble target of 1500 units during its launch in early 2009, the i20 today sells and impressive 6000-7500 units month after month.
There are several reasons for its success. One is that it looks appealing to most, but it's also well-built and well-finished. On the inside, the i20 has acres of space with a richly finished dash, good ergonomics and features list. Apart from ABS and airbags that are standard on the top variants, the i20 is also the only hatch to offer six airbags. Climate control, a nicely finished stereo unit with aux-in/USB and a gear shift indicator with a multi-information display unit ensure it's the best loaded car of the lot.
On offer are two petrol motors and one diesel option. The 1.2-litre petrol, shared with the i10, produces about 79 bhp. It's reasonably efficient and refined, though not a stonker by any stretch of the imagination. We hope Hyundai offers the variable valve tech equipped 1.2 from the i10 soon! The 1.4-petrol is mated to a 4-speed automatic, the only car in its class to come with an auto-tranny. It's good for city use, with the engine providing adequate power, though efficiency does take a hit. What's best is the 1.4-litre diesel motor. Producing 90 bhp and mated to a six-speed manual transmission (only one in segment), it's the quickest diesel hatch in the country today. Not just that, it's efficient too, making it a good option for many looking at a premium diesel hatch.
The i20's focus is primarily ride quality, which explains the soft suspension settings. It does sometimes tend to get a tad bouncy on flat surfaces, but is fine otherwise. High-speed stability is average, while the steering is too light and the handling rather disappointing. If you like a car with light controls, lots of features and an international appeal, look no further.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 79 bhp, 18.15 kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.8 lakh to Rs 6.7 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.4-litre, 99 bhp, 15.03 kpl (ARAI), Rs 7.95 to Rs 8.55 lakh
Diesel: 1.4-litre, 90 bhp, 22.1 kpl (ARAI), Rs 6.1 lakh to Rs 7.93 lakh
Where the Swift scores: More fun-to-drive, better value, easier to maneouvre, 1.2-litre petrol motor is stronger
Where the Swift loses: Not as spacious, interiors aren't as well finished
When Nissan first sent out a press-release a few months ago, that it had rolled out its 100,000th Micra from the RNAIPL plant in Chennai, we were stunned for a few moments. For a company that had begun operations 16 months ago and retails no more than 1500-1700 units a month in Indiacurrently, the numbers didn't add up. Until, we looked at the figure again and realised that it also included their exports. That should give you an idea, that Nissan's focus currently on the Micra are the export markets.
They have been slow and calculative, but dismiss Nissan you musn't. Come early-2012 and Nissan will have a sedan based on the Micra's platform called the Sunny and then a host of other vehicles will follow. The Micra is built as an inexpensive car, that will fit not just developing, but developed markets as well. Which explains features like a Start-Stop button or the funky-looking automatic climate control unit. Well-loaded with ABS, airbags and electric folding mirrors on the top-end petrol and a single airbag and ABS on the top-end diesel, the Micra's strength are its features and roomy cabin. Headroom, shoulder room and even legroom are quite decent, though the seats themselves lack good underthigh support. Quality is a bit inconsistent though and there are too many panel gaps on the dashboard (made up of several pieces) that take away the Nissan-ness from the car.
Ride quality is another key takeaway from the Micra. Softly sprung, the Micra is good on most surfaces, though like the i20 can feel a bit bouncy on good surfaces. Handling is sloppy and it's best driven sanely. The steering feels light which is good for in-town use, but with not much weight for highway use.
What the Micra is, is a good city car. The 1.2-litre petrol with 75 bhp has a nice torque spread and good selection of gear ratios, strangely feeling more diesel like in its torque delivery. The diesel is the well-known 1.5 dCi unit from the Renault Logan and with 65 bhp, it is a very efficient unit. Performance and dynamics are not the forte of the Micra, but ease of driving is.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, 18.06 kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.15 lakh to Rs 5.5 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Diesel: 1.5-litre, 65 bhp, 23.08 kpl (ARAI), Rs 5.75 lakh to Rs 6.25 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Stronger petrol motor, sweeter handling, Maruti's wider sales and after-sales presence
Where the Swift loses: Is a little less easy to maneouvre, doesn't boast of as many features
Skoda probably was among the first to offer a genuine, large-sized B-segment hatch in the country. When it was first launched in 2006, it commanded a premium at a time when the thought of a hatch over Rs 6 lakh was, well, unthinkable! That, eventually turned out to be the downfall of the Fabia. Less than a year of its launch, sales of the Fabia started to falter. The 1.4-litre diesel motor was considered to be okay, but the 1.2-litre and 1.4-litre petrol motors were considered underwhelming and efficiency was perceived to be on the lower side. Despite being built like a tank and loaded with features, the Fabia couldn't recover from its downfall. Until 2010.
Since the introduction of the revised Fabia, sales have started to show a healthier trend. The company dumped all the three motors and adopted Volkswagen's motors for the Polo instead. The three-cylinder 1.2-litre petrol and diesel motors are of identical capacity and produce identical horsepower, with the diesel producing more torque. The 1.6-litre petrol motor is the hotter version, but in a more practical garb than the Polo 1.6.
On the inside and out, the facelifted Fabia has fewer features than before, but with a substantially reduced price-tag. The strengths of the Fabia are its well-thought out interiors with a bent towards practicality, good interior room, comfy seats and a well-built and finished cabin. The 1.2-litre petrol motor provides decent performance, while the diesel is reasonably quick and efficient. The 1.6 is the pick of the lot that somehow seems to blend performance and practicality in a rather irresistable package.
The car has nice poise and it rides and handles like a larger, more mature car. Ride quality is quite good, with handling bordering on the neutral. In fact it is a more involving drive than the Polo. On the whole, the re-packaged and re-positioned Fabia is a serious contender in the small car market and it deserves a re-look.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, 16.25 kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.44 lakh to Rs 5.8 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Petrol: 1.6-litre, 102 bhp, 15.75 kpl (ARAI), Rs 6.3 lakh
Diesel: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, 20.95 kpl (ARAI), Rs 5.7 lakh to Rs 7.1 lakh
Where the Swift scores: Better after-sales service, more fun-to-drive, stronger petrol and diesel motors, better equipped.
Where the Swift loses: Ride quality isn't as mature, rear seat comfort not as good, doesn't have Fabia's vault-like build
Like Toyota, Honda has been a little late in catching the small car bus. Despite its presence with the Jazz, it hasn't really managed to catch the fancy of the small car buyer. But with the Brio it not only wants to do that, it wants to convert many into the Honda car-fold and importantly arrest its falling marketshare
The Brio could very well be the answer to all of Honda's woes. Designed to be a low-cost Honda but without losing much of Honda's engineering finesse, the Brio is a hatch that is shorter than the Swift, but with focus on maximising space utilization. On the inside, the Brio has good amount of headroom and legroom, with lots of storage areas. The Brio's lighter coloured interiors too may play a role in amplifying the space on offer.
Under the hood of the small Honda is the same 1.2-litre i-VTEC motor from the Jazz that produces 89 bhp and 11.2 kgm of peak torque. A diesel motor will be offered on the Brio on a later date, maybe as early as late-2012, but for now, the petrol motor is what will have to keep the flag flying for Honda. This engine is refined and rev-happy but lacks good bottom-end torque. What may help the Brio in this case would be its low kerb-weight, which should offset it.
For India, the Brio is expected to ride on 14-inch wheels, feature ABS and EBD as standard on all variants and twin airbags on higher-end variants. The top-end variant will also have an audio unit similar to the one found on the City with aux-in and USB ports, height adjustable steering wheel as well as an alarm and immobiliser system. Apart from the green exterior finish you see here, expect another 4-5 options for the colour palette.
Pricing will be key to the success of the Brio – we expect the car to start at a price of around Rs 4 lakh and end just under Rs 6 lakh. Expect the car on Indian roads this September.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 89 bhp, Unknown kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.2 lakh to Rs 5.8 lakh (Estimated, ex-showroom, Mumbai)
RENAULT SMALL CAR
Renault's entry in India has been on the back of cars like the Fluence and the soon-to-be-launched Koleos SUV. While these have been Renault's premium offerings, their focus lies on playing the volumes game. Apart from the Duster SUV, it plans to bring two more cars to India next year – a Nissan Micra based small car and a Nissan Sunny based saloon.
The Micra-based small car will be based on the same V-platform that underpins the Nissan. What will be different will be way certain elements such as headlamps, tail lamps, grille and other small design elements are conceived. So expect more of the Renault design language to find its way on to the Micra-based small car in the same way Nissan's design language can be found on the Pixo, based on the Maruti Suzuki A-Star.
On the inside, the interiors too may borrow heavily from the Micra, but have the Renault touch to them. What you can expect though is that some of the quirkiness will disappear to make the interiors more functional and easy to use for the average Indian motorist, unlike the Fluence. Comfort and ease of entry and exit will be quite similar to the Micra. Expect the suspension to be better tuned for Indian roads to find a sweeter ride and handling setup, though it's a matter of conjecture at this moment.
Under the hood will be the same pair of motor options that one can find on the Micra. The 1.2-litre petrol engine with 75 bhp is refined and driveable, making it good for city use while the tried-and-tested 1.5-litre dCi diesel engine with 65 bhp should do the job as well. Mated to the same 5-speed manual gearbox, the new Renault small car should be nearly as efficient as the Micra, if not more.
Pricing for the small Renault could start just above the Rs 4 lakh mark, going up to Rs 5.5 lakh for the top-end petrol variant while the diesel option could start about Rs 5.4 to 5.5 lakh and go up to Rs 6.5 lakh.
Petrol: 1.2-litre, 75 bhp, Unknown kpl (ARAI), Rs 4.05 lakh to Rs 5.5 lakh (Estimated, ex-showroom, Mumbai)
Diesel: 1.5-litre, 65 bhp, Unknown kpl (ARAI), Rs 5.4 lakh to Rs 6.5 lakh (Estimated, ex-showroom, Mumbai)