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FUEL THROTTLE AHEAD The Swift diesel is every bit as handsome as its petrol sibling, and is extremely refined on the move
FUEL THROTTLE AHEAD The Swift diesel is every bit as handsome as its petrol sibling, and is extremely refined on the move

This is about a Fiat diesel engine under the bonnet of a Maruti. So, just how well does the new ticker work for the Swift?

Until the rest catch up with the inventors of the common rail diesel technology for cars, - Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Bosch actually invented the technology - Fiat are a generation ahead. This is true of the motor under the hood of the Swift, Fiat's 1.3 litre Multijet.We all know about Maruti's attempts at dabbling with diesel engines (Zen and Esteem) in the past. "A scalded child dreads the fire," they say, but not this player. Maruti dared to go all out and play with fire again and subsequently, like the Phoenix that re-emerges from its own ashes, Maruti succeeded in bringing out the new Swift Diesel. In case of the Zen and Esteem diesel, Maruti had imported the Peugeot diesel engines, which resulted in expensive cars and the fact that the engines were retro-engineered, proved to be a disadvantage. This time around though things are different. Maruti has invested Rs 2,500 crore on an all-new plant. Licensed assembly of Fiat's 1.3 Multijet will give it a tremendous amount of flexibility and in addition, Maruti has localized parts for the motor. Engineers at Maruti claim they are sourcing the five `Cs' - the cylinder head, cylinder block, camshaft and crankshaft with even the `cracked' connecting rods that will be produced locally. Moreover, with Bosch producing the CP1K common rail pump and injectors in India as well, this motor is more than 75 per cent localized! The bonnet is badged Suzuki DDis and the motor is mounted with the help of one large hydraulic mount, among others, with the compact dimensions of the Multijet motor making it an easy fit. Suzuki got lucky with the acquisition of the Fiat motor. One of the outcomes of the now defunct GM-Fiat alliance as well as the General's substantial stock holding in Suzuki, non-existent now, Fiat's Multijet hopped from GM to Opel to Suzuki. Outside and inside the Swift is identical, the stylish nose, the blacked out pillars, the fighter canopy look to the glass area, the wide haunches; nothing less than the best looking hatch. The diesel Swift is available in two trims, LDi and VDi and is fantastic to drive. And on account of the seamless, well engineered marriage of the chassis to the motor, the Swift diesel feels like it was always meant to be. Vibrations are well under control, and once the motor is warmed and you're moving, you can't tell it's a diesel motor. A clue to this impressive refinement comes from the name of the Fiat motor; Multijet which uses five injections (jets) of fuel per power stroke of the piston. The pulsating injectors play out a high tech symphony, delivering fuel in four short bursts and one larger one. Instead of one sharp rise in pressure, on combustion, the cylinder head is heated up more smoothly and the pressure build up and discharge is less sudden. This translates as less noise, and also better torque and better control on emissions. Still, it doesn't feel as refined as the exceptionally quite Fiesta diesel, which feels both smoother and better insulated. Designed to be a city car, start-stop traffic is not what the Swift is perfectly suited for. Surprisingly, a bit of turbo lag is present which is more evident on inclines. Also being a diesel the clutch is heavier than the petrol's, but not uncomfortably so. The gearbox is positive and direct, the stubby gearlever makes gear slotting a breeze. The pace of the car impressed as did the ride quality. Smaller bumps just don't register at low speeds and the Swift rides silently over larger bumps too. The suspension also inspires confidence to sail over the worst patches of bad road. There is none of the typically nose heavy diesel character, the steering feels light and accurate and body control is good. The strong brakes and the nicely tuned ABS help and body control is good too. What is lacking, however is grip. The relatively narrow 165 tyres aren't very grippy and you cannot corner at very high speeds. Nonetheless, driving the well-balanced Swift diesel hard is super fun. Launched a while back in Europe, the Swift diesel had to wait to come to India on account of Maruti wanting to localize the engine to keep costs down. However, it certainly has been worth the wait considering the car is superbly engineered, refined, powerful and fast. But for the turbo lag at low speeds, it is perfect. Fuel economy wise, expect a figure around 15 in city conditions. Yes, the car certainly does have the technology and the tuning for it. While you'll be compromising on comparatively poor space at the rear and in the boot and wider tyres, and airbags will definitely take the price higher, the overall brilliance of the Swift diesel cannot be denied. Kudos to a company for a job well done considering that at one point they hated diesel cars so much they tried to ban them altogether. SHAPUR KOTWAL

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