At last count, there were a dozen small cars sold in the country with a petrol engine under 1200cc. And nearly another half a dozen are set to enter the market in the next 18 months or so. Everyone is scrambling to engineer cars that conform to excise duty benefits, while also making a beeline to get their Euro-IV cars ready before the April 1 deadline. Surely, the one manufacturer who has a lot riding on it is Maruti Suzuki. With nearly all their small cars ready to meet the new emission norms, they turned their attention to one of the last — the Swift.
For all these years, Maruti Suzuki has found ways of making the G13BB unit work for them. Since its introduction in 1994 in the Esteem, it has found home in practically everything, from the Gypsy to the Versa and then adapted for application in the Swift and Swift Dzire. Ask tuners and they will tell you how brilliant an engine it is to work on and engines producing northwards of 120 bhp aren’t unheard of. But like they say, every good run has to have an end, and this was the G13BB’s last gasp with the Swift before it made way for the K12M.
You are probably thinking what’s with all this nomenclature, but let me rephrase it to you in a simple manner. The Swift and Swift Dzire now get a 1200cc, K-series engine from the Ritz, instead of the 1300cc engine that powered it before. Meeting emission norms is one thing, but there’s more to it. The K12 is one of the strongest reasons why the Ritz was crowned our Car Of The Year 2010. It’s frugal, powerful and yet refined throughout the rev range. It's flexible in both the city and out on the highway. In fact, it is probably the best 1.2-litre engine in a car on sale in the country today, such is its impact. But does it make an impact on the Swift and the Dzire? Well, on paper there is some effect. The 1.3-litre engine that used to make 87 bhp@6000 rpm is now replaced by one that makes 84 bhp at the same peak rpm. Torque is near identical at 11.5 kgm at 4500 rpm. There is no impact on the car’s kerb weight though, so you are staring at a slightly lower power-to-weight ratio. The gearbox too, has been borrowed from the Ritz. Externally, there are no visual indicators to tell you that a new engine now resides in the car(s), but once you do open the bonnet, you realise that the engine is neatly packed in and there’s a bit more empty space than before. Start them up and there is decidedly more refinement, especially in the Dzire where Maruti seems to have used some more deadening. The gears slot with the same confidence as before, but until 2000 rpm, this new engine lacks that little bit of driveability that the larger cubed 1.3-litre had. You can’t upshift early into a higher gear like before, though that is a very small price to pay, because with the new engine there is a nice surge of torque past that mark. It also feels a bit more rorty as the revs start to climb, especially in the mid-range. Where the Dzire feels slightly hamfisted, the Swift feels a bit like a small rocket pack has been attached to its back. If you ask me, the tuners won't be crying at this prospect and we should be back with 120 bhp Swifts and then some more.
But strangely, it’s the Dzire that delivered better acceleration timings than the Swift. Down to a slightly different engine mapping, the Dzire hit 60 kph in 5.91 seconds, the tonne in just 13.53 seconds and went on to a top speed of 165 kph before wind and tyre resistance came into play. This is a couple of tenths better than the outgoing Dzire whose numbers read as 6.35 secs, 14.04 secs and 162.9 kph respectively. The Swift registers slightly slower times, with the 60 and 100 kph coming up in 6.02 seconds and 13.88 seconds respectively, while top speed is 162 kph. These times are also slower than the outgoing Swift's numbers, which blitzed past 60 kph in just 5.8 seconds, go on to 100 kph in nearly 13 seconds and register a top speed of around 170 kph. Also, the Swift and Dzire now deliver 17.94 kpl (ARAI figures) versus the 15.9 kpl they used to deliver earlier. Does that mean that the Swift pair has become jaded in search of better efficiency? Hardly. In the quest for better efficiency, the engines have also improved in terms of in-gear acceleration times. These times matter the most in real world conditions, where overtaking and getting out of the situations becomes easier if the times are quicker. And thankfully, they are! Our testing equipment revealed that the passing speeds, especially from double to triple digit speeds, are quicker by about a second. However, where the older engine scored over the new one is at the top end, where it still had enough juice to go on, thanks to those extra cubes. Still, most of us wouldn’t notice this on a day-to-day basis. Where the two engines benefit is also with regard to smoothness ,which was missing in the earlier power unit. It’s completely unstressed even while you’re redlining the engine on empty roads on Sunday mornings. While no changes have been made to either suspension or steering to account for the lighter-by-three kg engine, the Swift feels just as lively as before and if I may say, even better to tackle corners with. It seems more agile and with the revised rear suspension setup from its minor facelift in 2008, it feels more settled and seems to have better straight line stability. The Dzire always felt pretty stable in a straight line and that hasn’t changed one bit. Both cars are good fun to drive on the whole and reward enthusiastic drivers in a manner that very few cars do in India.
So, does the new engine leave its mark? Yes, especially with overall improved driveability and fuel efficiency making it even more practical than before while retaining the cars’ original traits that have made both such a success in our country. Maruti Suzuki lost a good opportunity by not giving the Swift a major facelift to go with the new engine — heck, the car’s almost five years old!
Also, Maruti hasn’t passed on the excise duty benefits that the Swift now falls under on account of increased input costs — yes, it’s a pretty useful catch-all phrase. Besides, they would like the Swift to retain its premium over the Ritz. On the other hand, the Dzire has seen a marginal increase in price on account of the same. As for the K12M, well it still has a few more engine bays to go into, isn’t it Maruti?