The new Maruti Swift Dzire is smart to look at, comes decently specced and is good fun to drive, writes Nikhil Bhatia

The second-generation Dzire is quite different from the car it replaces. For starters, it's only 3995mm long so it is a whole 165mm shorter than its predecessor. To keep length under the crucial four-metre mark, the new Dzire sports an extremely short boot. As a result, the new Dzire looks more a notchback than a proper saloon.

The tail section integrates neatly with the rest of the body and the look is more cohesive than the older car. Rear styling is neatly executed but the squarish profile of the bootlid links the new car with the older Dzire. Boot space, at 316 litres is a whole size down on the old car, but is large enough to hold a weekend's luggage.

Maruti has tweaked styling to differentiate the Dzire from the new Swift on which it is based. The front gets a slatted grille while the bumper features a wider air dam and larger enclosures for the fog lights. The rear quarter glass has a more conventional fall to it and the rear door is marginally larger as well.

The interior of the Dzire is identical to the Swift's though the use of beige plastics on the lower portion of the dashboard and door pads, and the light seat fabrics enhance the ambience inside0. The front seats, also from the Swift, are very comfortable, while existing Dzire owners will notice the increased space in the back courtesy the new Swift platform's 40mm longer wheelbase. Rear-seat comfort is decent but the backrest is a tad too reclined. Adjustable headrests and a rear centre armrest do enhance comfort here.

As before the Dzire will be available with two engine options — an 86bhp, 1.2-litre petrol and 74bhp, 1.3-litre diesel. Both engines are identical to those on the new Swift, as is the gearing. The K-Series petrol engine benefits from Variable Valve Timing and this has resulted in a 2bhp power bump compared to the older car. Driving the car at the media launch at the Buddh International Circuit, we were reacquainted with the engine's good low-speed response, slight lack of mid-range punch and impressive top end.

Surprisingly, it was the diesel that was more enjoyable at the track. With the turbo on song past 1800rpm, the engine's healthy mid-range performance allowed us to power out of the slowest corners with ease. In real-world conditions that should translate to good driveability.

The five-speed gearbox felt smooth and light as we worked through the gears on track. This brings us to the big surprise — the new Dzire will also be sold with a four-speed automatic transmission on the petrol model. The gearbox complements the petrol engine quite well and shifts are smooth too. Moreover, it adapts well to changes in throttle inputs. It's only when you floor the throttle that the build of power is slightly jerky. Maruti will offer the automatic only in the middle-level VXi trim since a fully-loaded version would have escalated the price. The Dzire shares suspension hardware with the Swift, though the rear has been tuned for comfort. It tends to roll a fair bit more than the Swift. What we did like though was the feedback at the steering wheel and good body control even when driving the car at its very limit.

On the whole, the new Dzire makes a compelling case for itself. It is smart to look at, comes decently specced and is good fun to drive too. The engines are refined and also score on the fuel economy front with ARAI-tested figures of 19.1kpl for the manual petrol and 23.4kpl for the diesel. Automatic transmission only adds convenience to the package.

Although Maruti is expected to announce the pricing today at the car's launch, prices are expected to be similar to the model it replaces which will continue to sell in taxi avatar.