The small and refined Maruti Ritz has arrived. Should its on-road rivals be worried? ASHISH MASIH reports

The Ritz is the eighth new model within 48 months after the launch of the Swift, Zen Estilo, SX4, Swift Diesel, Grand Vitara, Swift Dzire and A-star. The Ritz is Maruti’s practical and spacious alternative for those who don’t quite fancy the Swift and find it too cramped. The Ritz is based on the Swift platform, but it’s taller (3.7 metres) and longer (1.7 metres) which will appeal more to families. Though the rectangular shape doesn’t have the same style quotient of the Swift, it still manages to look smart and very urbane.

The tall stance means that getting in and out of the car is a comfortable affair, thanks to the relatively wide and tall door apertures. The car will be available in three variants — Lxi, VXi and ZXi with petrol engines and Ldi and Vdi with diesel engines.

Step into the cabin and you’ll be instantly impressed with its airy feel. There’s an oval theme running across the interiors, ranging from the centre console through to the grains on the dashboard. The large speedometer is similar to that on the A-star and is surrounded by the warning lamps cluster. It also gets a digital fuel gauge, which isn’t as convenient to read as a regular analogue gauge. Just like the A-star, you get a separate rev gauge bolted onto the dashboard (it’s on the left rather than to the right of the driver) and can be distracting at times.

It’s a clever interior as well. There are plenty of places to store your cellphone, coins, wallet and similarly sized items. The front passenger seat gets a tray under it — a good place to put that book you just bought.

Keeping costs low is the name of the game in the small car segment and Maruti seems to have done this with the Ritz, which shares its steering wheel, gear lever and power window switches with the Swift and SX4.

The top-of-the-line ZXi variant comes with steering-mounted audio controls and integrated stereo though climate control (available on the Swift ZXi) is oddly missing. All controls are clear, logically placed and intuitive to use.

The gear lever is housed in the centre console, just like rival i10, and is easy to operate. The driver’s seat is height-adjustable on the top-end ZXi version.

The front occupants get a good view of the road ahead, but the driver will find reversing a tricky proposition, thanks to the massive rear pillar.

The Ritz passes the rear seat comfort test with ease. The wide seat has decent legroom and the tall design means headroom is unbelievably brilliant. The rear bench can accommodate three occupants with relative ease and the high-set seats shouldn’t leave occupants tired, something that families will appreciate.

What’s disappointing though is the boot which, at only 178 litres, is smaller than the Swift’s 232 litres and good enough only for a couple of small bags. Not the ideal car for airport transfers.

Build quality and general plastic quality, areas where Maruti hasn’t been too strong in the past, seem to have improved as well and are better than the Swift.

The cabin has generous splashes of colour and this adds to the cheerful feel about it.

You get an all-new 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, 16-valve unit with a maximum power of 85 PS petrol engine which is Bharat Stage IV-compliant. This new 1197cc unit will be complemented by the tried-and- tested 1.3 Common Raol 16-valve diesel (DDiS) engine that delivers a maximum power of 75 PS. The new petrol feels far superior to the Swift’s 1.3-litre engine in terms of refinement. It feels inherently quiet and only gets a little vocal at the end of its rev range. But, unlike the busy-sounding Swift engine, this motor feels relaxed. The 85bhp powerplant feels more than adequate for town use and doesn’t mind being revved. Best power comes once it’s past the 4000rpm mark. However, being heavier than the Swift, the Ritz doesn’t feel as quick as its sibling.

Refinement levels of the Ritz diesel are similar to the Swift and there’s little to suggest there’s a diesel motor under the hood at cruising speeds. The gearboxes on both cars feel slick and are a joy to use; extracting power is an enjoyable affair.

The Ritz may be built on the Swift platform but this car feels different to drive and isn’t as exciting. The generous height means that body roll, though well under control, is evident. But there is decent grip from the tyres, which are similar to the Swift. The steering weights up nicely and gives good feedback.

Ride quality is better than the Swift and the impact of most patchwork roads won’t be felt inside the cabin. Ride comfort improves as speeds increase as well. On the highway, the car feels well planted and composed, even at speeds in excess of 100kph, and doesn’t feel light like some other small cars.

As an overall package, it is hard to find fault with the Ritz, save for the small boot. It’s well-built, the cabin is spacious and smartly styled as well.

We expect fuel efficiency levels to be similar, if not better, than the corresponding Swift diesel and petrol variants.

At an expected starting price of Rs 4.10 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) for the petrol, the Ritz might be more expensive than the Swift but makes sense as a family car, thanks to its superior cabin space and build quality. Don’t be surprised if the diesel version has a waiting period.

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