Friday, January 20, 2012
When the Swift DZire was first launched a little over four years ago, it was not the first sedan that was sharing the platform of a sibling hatch, but I had expected it to be amongst the first to leverage the under-four-metre size advantage to come up with a killer price-to-value package for buyers in the entry sedan segment.
But, unfortunately, the DZire had been conceived and its design and concept had been frozen two years earlier when the regulation to offer the lower excise duty advantage for cars under 4,000mm didn't exist. The DZire was still a runaway hit, with the big advantage of the diesel engine giving it a early mover's advantage.
Personally, my heart never wanted to choose the DZire; its rear design was weird and unsightly and the integration of the boot seemed slapped on as an after-thought. But, my head was still telling me all along that the DZire was one practical car, combining the ability to tackle the kind of limitations that the Indian driving condition has and at same time packing the allure of the Swift's design and performance into an affordable entry sedan.
In about fours years, since its launch, the DZire has sold over 3.3 lakh units and owns about 39 per cent of the market share in the sedan segment. So, the change over the new platform could have been delayed a bit more too. But, now the possibility of rectifying some of the design quirks and the prospect of packing in more cabin space with the new Swift platform was a big draw. And with the possibility of working on the design to keep it under 4 metres and gain a pricing advantage must have been even more interesting to ignore for Maruti.
With the new Swift out last year, Maruti and Suzuki engineers decided to pick on the new platform and advance the generation change for the DZire. The DZire is, as a result, a lift from the Swift when you look at it from the front. Overall the Swift's lines are all there though there are changes to the bonnet grille and the front bumper, giving it some what of a unique identity. The headlamps are shared with the Swift, as is the blacked out A-pillar.
The new DZire clearly looks smaller and more compact, though at 3,995mm, it is only 165mm lesser than the previous generation's overall length. But, other than its reduced sub-4,000mm length, the other dimensions have all increased thanks to the use of the new Swift's platform. The width of the car is now 1,695mm (up 5mm) and the overall height is now 1,530mm (up 25mm), while the wheelbase is the same as the new Swift's at 2,430mm (up 40mm compared to the outgoing DZire).
The ground clearance remains the same at 170mm compared to the previous-gen DZire, while the turning radius is marginally up at 4.8 metres. But due to the shorter, stubbier boot designed to fit the shorter length, the luggage space in the boot is now only 316 litres compared to the outgoing DZire's 440 litres, However, the fact remains that for the most part, the boot rarely gets used to its full capacity in urban conditions and the 316 litre boot in the new DZire isn't looking all that small either.
The design of the current DZire's backside was clearly lacking in class. The new DZire managed to put me at ease, with its cleaner design and the more natural flow of the lines at the rear with the rest of the car. The tail-lamps are also more suited to the overall design of the car and the stubby boot lid too doesn't really affect the rear design of the DZire. The new model should find more admirers now, though it is still undeniably familiar to the new Swift and its rather hatch-oriented body style.
The entire set of body panels at the rear, the roof panel and the rear door are all new compared to the Swift. The rear glass seems a bit smaller and the C-pillar also remains thick. The outside rear view mirrors now get integrated turn indicators and the same large mirror unit seen in the new Swift.
The interior of the new DZire also draws heavily from the new Swift. The modern steering wheel design, waterfall design centre console, the auto climate control and the integrated audio system with six speakers are all very familiar. But, these new elements along with the new lighter beige and black dual tone colour theme give the new DZire's cabin a much more upmarket feel. There is also the addition of wood finish inserts on the dash and door panels, silver accents, chrome inserts and leather trim have also been thrown in. The new DZire also gets all of the intuitive storage options that were offered in the new Swift.
Similar to the Swift, again the increased wheelbase and the scooped rear of the front seats manage together to liberate about 20mm more legroom for rear passengers. The rear bench seat in the new DZire feels a bit more upright than the earlier version. Depending on trim level you get all the creature comforts that buyers have come to expect from this brand. Seats are comfy, though I wonder how the softer upholstery might wear over the long term.
Engines and performance
The new DZire continues to be offered with the same K 12M VVT petrol engine and the D13A DDiS diesel engine. To experience the new DZire, I had travelled to the Buddh International Circuit at Greater Noida at the invitation of Maruti Suzuki. The race track is not the best of places to gauge the performance of the car in real world driving conditions. But it still put the car's prowess in perspective.
The engines feel very similar in the new DZire compared to the new Swift. One of the reasons of course, is the fact that both the cars weigh the same at bout 1,000 kgs. By saving weight after using thinner high-tensile steel for the body of the new DZire, the addition of the boot has effectively been nullified. The result is a power-to-weight ratio that is identical to the new Swift and the co-efficient of drag (aerodynamic co-efficient) has also improved compared to the previous DZire. The effect is the familiar peppy nature of the Swift is immediately evident even in the new DZire and apparently the lower Coe-d has helped improve the fuel efficiency of the new DZire.
The K12 petrol engine delivers a peak power of 87 PS at 6,000 rpm and a peak torque of 114Nm at 4,000 rpm. On the track the manual transmission variant of the DZire petrol is the quietest and there is also enough power in the 3,000 to 6,000 rpm band to push the car. Top speed achievable was in the region of about 145 kmph. The engine gets all the tech from the new Swift too including the variable valve timing for the engine and the detent pin tech for the transmission, to ensure smoother shifting.
The addition in the petrol engine DZire is the new automatic transmission. The new four-speed automatic - a torque converter unit - is being imported from Japan and marks Maruti's re-entry into the auto gearbox category in the lower price segment. Automatics are being accepted in many congested cities in India and this one too should find a few takers. However, being a rather city-focused auto gearbox, with no manual option, the DZire AT wasn't that much fun on the track. But, according to Maruti officials it is only marginally poorer in fuel efficiency (2 kmpl lesser) than the manual gearbox variant.This should be good news for buyers who would otherwise be put off by fuel guzzling automatics.
The DDiS diesel engine felt very similar too in the DZire like in the new Swift. This rev-happy, engine behaves so differently in Maruti cars, though it is found in the bonnets of cars from other brands too. The 1,248cc, intercooled, turbocharged diesel engine offers the same characteristics as in the previous model with a peak torque of 190 Nm at 2,000 rpm and a peak power of 75 PS at 4,000 rpm.
The new DZire behaves a bit more nimbly than the outgoing model. There is again a lot of the new Swift in the sedan's behaviour on the track. Since I didn't get to drive it on normal roads, there is not much I can say about how it would feel in real world conditions, but the suspension felt a bit more rigid and cabin noise levels was lower, though under hard acceleration in both the diesel and the petrol automatic, the noise levels go up. The new DZire's ZXi and ZDi models also get new 15-inch alloys instead of the earlier version's 14-inchers.
The new Swift DZire will clearly be appreciated by many more buyers now. The design has more appeal and the cabin feels more upmarket. The improved power-to-weight ratio also enables the new DZire to offer better fuel efficiency of 19.1 kmpl for the petrol (up 6.7 per cent) and 23.4 kmpl for the diesel (up from 21.7 kmpl earlier).
The current DZire is priced in the range of Rs 4.94 lakh to Rs 6.4 lakh for the petrol models and at Rs 5.95 lakh to Rs 7.30 lakh for the diesel variants. The new DZire's prices are unlikely to be dramatically lower and Maruti officials say that the cost of the new platform and associated technologies will not enable the company to pass on the entire benefit of a lower duty. Yet, buyers can expect the price to be retained at the same levels or be positioned just a bit lower, maybe.
The new DZire will be out by the first week of February this year.