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Who dares, wins!

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 Ever wondered why every single model replacement is followed by one that is larger? Well, no matter what you do, packaging has its limitations, and the only way to get around it after a point is by pulling at the edges a bit.

So  you will be surprised to find that the Hyundai i10 has actually gained nothing in terms of length and wheelbase over the Santro, while the new kid on the block, the Suzuki Ritz, has instantly gained a couple of centimetres on the Wagon R in practically all areas. So has someone here forgotten the replacement formula, or does the current segment best, the i10, send another potential rival to the bottom of the hatch heap?
Well, numbers do have something to say here. Hyundai sells a little under 8,000 units a month of its wonder car, on an average. And we aren’t even talking exports here! Which is precisely why Maruti Suzuki is looking to grab some part of that slice, with not one, but two cars. The A-Star has grabbed the collar of the base versions of the i10, while the Ritz takes on its Kappa engined variants. A seemingly simple comparison, then? Not quite.

DESIGN
Ideally, this would have been a Ritz-i20 comparison, but for forces prevailing at Maruti’s senior management, who’ve managed to keep the introductory pricing so competitive that the i10 has appeared in its crosshairs. But that has got nothing to do with the design here, right? Uh oh, it does, because you get more metal for your money. Longer than the i10, the Ritz can’t hide its larger proportions, especially since the wider track and taller stance make the Ritz bulkier. The overall design language might not excite, but Suzuki have left behind the Wagon R’s boxy appearance for some curves. What instantly catches your eye is the swooping roofline, which defines the overall design. Tall headlamps and a simple grille remind you of its utilitarian appeal, while the wide rear arches and neatly integrated tail lamps just bring in a slight hint of aggression.
In contrast, the i10 is far more contemporary. When it was first launched a little less than two years ago, it looked like nothing on the road and even today the i10 stands out with its unique pear drop headlamps, its small mustachioed grille, the bonnet that pretends to have a ‘power bump’ and the sweeping C-pillar. You can’t complain about the way it looks, even though some might find it too radical for their appetite.
Maruti Suzuki Ritz:3 stars
Hyundai i10: 4 stars   INTERIORS

 

The Swift changed the way Maruti built cars. And that continues with the Ritz. In fact, it’s just gotten better. The overall panel build and the interior trim in particular feels plusher and there’s ample use of soft materials. For instance, the rubber-like sheet on top of the dashboard lends the car a soft look, though on close inspection it can appear cheap and causes reflections on the front glass. Like the A-Star, the tacho is integrated on the dashboard, rather than in the instrument binnacle, which isn’t inconvenient once you get a hang of ‘looking London, talking Tokyo’. There are familiar bits here and there, even the integrated stereo is familiar too. There are lots of places to store knick-knacks and as a current owner of a Wagon R, I can tell you, they can be pretty darn useful. The front seats are wide and provide ample support, and that’s a far cry from the unsupportive numbers on the Wagon R. The rear provides lots of room, especially head and shoulder room, with decent knee and legroom too. The boot is large and spacious, but the kink on the hatch robs it of vertical space and Wagon R owners might not appreciate it.
The i10 on the other hand feels even better built. The quality of materials and the overall integration leaves little to complain about. The fantastic stereo, with its deep resounding bass, makes it one of the best OE units available on a car in the country today. The driving position is nice and comfortable for short drives, but lumbar support is slightly awkward, tending to dig into your back. The overall feel of materials on the dashboard and the ergonomics are pretty good, while the rear seat can feel slightly cramped for legroom.
Maruti Suzuki Ritz: 3 star
Hyundai i10: 4 star   POWERTRAIN AND PERFORMANCE
It’s the battle of the Ks. The i10’s Kappa versus the Ritz’ K12 M. Both are pretty high-tech units, with stuff like hydraulic lash adjusters, twin-overhead cams, aluminium construction et al. These smart engines not only claim to produce good power for their small capacity, they also tend to produce better torque over the rev range. While the 1197cc i10 produces 78.8 bhp@5200 rpm, the Ritz produces 84 bhp@6000 rpm, thus pulling no punches on the power front.

Both produce identical peak torque of 11.4 kgm, with the i10’s curve starting at 4000 rpm while the Ritz starts at 4500 rpm. Then, when one gets to read the power to weight and torque to weight columns, the Ritz starts to lose heavily. The extra pork and stuffing on the Ritz means it weighs a full 170 kg more than the i10 on test here. And that translates into quicker acceleration times for the i10 as it gets off the blocks.
Take any aspect of  performance and the i10 just nudges the Ritz to the back of the field. Both cars take off reasonably quickly, but it’s the i10 that surges ahead. Zero to 60 kph comes up a second quicker in the i10 at 5.3 seconds, while the gap grows to one and a half seconds to the tonne. Passing speeds are identical, but at the top end, it’s the i10 that is quicker. The i10 also brakes quicker, utilising less space, but the Ritz is the one that feels more planted while doing so and there’s also less drama.

It’s on the driveability factor that the Ritz comes up trumps. Despite the slower times, the Ritz feels less lumpy and the production of torque lower down and gear ratios make it a better driver around town. The engine on the Ritz also feels more refined and NVH is better too. Both have a positive action to their gearboxes, with the i10 clicking into place and the Ritz delivering a little less feel while doing so. Both came back with similar fuel consumption figures. The i10 isn’t as efficient in the city, but it turns the tables on the Ritz on the highway. Eventually, the Ritz falls short, but by a very small margin.
Maruti Suzuki Ritz: 4 star
Hyundai i10: 4 stars

RIDE AND HANDLING
The Swift is an excellent platform for a good handling car. And that translates on the Ritz as well. Despite a higher roofline than the i10, the Ritz compensates with a wider front and rear track. Around a winding course, both cars exhibit roll, with the Ritz just that mite better. The turn-in on the i10 is quicker, thanks to its lighter mass and quicker turning steering that gives out decent feel. The steering on the Ritz feels heavier in comparison but has more feel and therefore tends to give you a better idea of the road curvature. But it lacks the outright agility of the i10 and therefore won’t win urban traffic races.

It’s the Ritz that uses its better body control to win the contest in the ride department. The i10 can feel like a yo-yo once you get into triple digit speeds, while the Ritz exhibits a very planted feel. At very low speeds, the i10 feels pretty decent while the Ritz can tend to thud around. Though once the speedo needle starts to climb, the Ritz feels surefooted and transmits less of the vertical oscillations to the occupants. It feels like a car that’s a class larger and that alone can inspire a driver to push the car harder.
Maruti Suzuki Ritz:4 star
Hyundai i10: 3 star

 

VERDICT
You see, it’s very hard to go wrong with either car. Both offer pretty good value and won’t give you much trouble over extended use, so even if you choose one over the other, you really won’t be called a nitwit. The i10 is a quality hatch that has proven its credentials and is a fun car to drive, even though it’s a touch short on space and doesn’t necessarily ride the best here. It has the go to match the show and really doesn’t put a foot wrong. It set the benchmark when it first arrived, but it seems that benchmark has moved forward.

The Ritz is a touch short in the quality department and the performance is a bit short of the small Hyundai. Those seem to be the only two points working against it. Otherwise, the Ritz is an accomplished performer in every other area. It feels and drives like a larger car. It rides like one and handles like one. There’s decent  space on the inside too and with Maruti’s service backup, it offers that little extra peace of mind. The overall feel-good factor is stronger with the Ritz and can’t be ignored. That, and the fact that it has moved a full two steps up on the Wagon R, makes it our winner here.