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Test drove 8 cars back-to-back to finalize my next car: Maruti Swift

Options considered- Hyundai twins- Nios and Exter, Nexa trio- Ignis, Fronx 1.2 and Baleno, Arena- Swift, Tata Punch and Honda Amaze.

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A test drive day out 8 cars and a surprising winner!

It has been some time that my family and I have pondered upon replacing our beloved beater- A Datsun Redigo AMT. At 70k+ kms on the odo, predominantly on Thane and Mumbai roads, we doubt the further longevity of the vehicle and would be happy to pass it on to an owner who would take that plunge, care for our beater and cross 1L kms. As the search for a city car begins, the family is joyous and suddenly it's 100% attendance for dinner table discussions Budget is set out for 12L on-road and every family member is pushing his own agenda creating a miniature election within the household.

Options considered- Hyundai twins- Nios and Exter, Nexa trio- Ignis, Fronx 1.2 and Baleno, Arena- Swift, Tata Punch, and Honda Amaze.

I called up all the dealerships and checked for availability of a test drive vehicle on Sunday and tentatively drew up a schedule to test drive all the vehicles sequentially with a lunch break to enjoy some south Indian food and discuss the initial observations.

  • Modi Hyundai, Thane

At walking distance from my home, Modi Hyundai had a soft corner. Stepped in to be greeted by the Creta followed by the Ioniq and then the Nios. Nios Sportz AMT was supposed to fit the bill.

Extensive reading on this very forum created perspectives that it is one of the best AMTs to own in the market and we liked the way it looked. Also, the teal shade ensured my wife was happy with it. But I wasn't impressed after the test drive.

Deal breaker after the test drive- The steering. Maybe I am spoiled by our Ecosport but even our Redigo's steering feedback and the ability to be light enough to park and weigh up as the speed reaches 80 kmph felt much better than the Nios. I just couldn't convince myself to live with that lifeless steering for the next 10 years. However, remember the soft corner for Hyundai? What soft corners do is that they help you give a benefit of the doubt. I thought it might be the test drive car and thus hopped on to the Exter and instructed my mind to experience it fresh. Result- Same steering experience with Exter and to make things worse- I felt Exter was not as responsive to throttle inputs as the Nios. I stepped away from the showroom with disappointment.

We stopped for some coffee and proceeded to Tata

  • Tata Punch- Petrol AMT.

As the Punch wears the crown of sales charts, we were excited to experience it and also to buy a Tata. After all, after the Tata Indica we never considered Tata Motors in the last 15 years.
Test drive experience- The car felt well built, the doors had significant weight and the interior was well laid out. Seat height was just right with easy ingress and egress, something we valued, as I am 6.1 ft followed by mom at 5.11 ft, father at 5.10 ft, and wife at 5.9 ft.

We liked the ride quality and everything the car had to offer except the elephant in the room- Engine. At about 11L on the road for the variant of choice, the engine that does not respond, the gearbox that jerked just like the Datsun, we decided to move on and return if at all we conclude that this is all we are going to get.

  • Nexa- Ignis AMT

I must say it was one of the best dealership experiences and the staff was well informed, and also provided detailed answers to all our questions.

Test drive experience

The entire family appreciated the advantages of a tall boy design (not enumerating as it's implied).

As I stepped off the brake pedal, the car crept forward smoothly, some input on the gas and it made progress just as expected, some additional input and now we are progressing rapidly. It felt like the car was just inviting you to push it hard. The steering was so much better than the Hyundai experience and I was impressed with that driving experience. The smile that I experienced from driving was back on my face. We noted the points to consider- the same old parts from Maruti's bin. The rear design that we did not like and the fact that the car looks old and might not age well since we plan to keep it for 10 years at least.

Subsequently, we test-drove the Fronx 1.2 Delta AMT and Baleno 1.2 but the Ignis stole my heart with what it had to offer. Also at a price that made it true value for money.

  • Honda Amaze

None of the family members wanted a compact sedan and I had to pursue them by advertising CVT.
Test drive- Oh boy! The smoothness of that CVT was superb! However, the car did feel a bit old. The lack of rear adjustable headrests even in the top-spec, front armrest, etc. were a few points to consider. The fact that a new gen is due was also something on our minds.

  • Maruti Swift

So much has been said about the looks and those 3 cylinders. BHPians have expressed their views and the majority of those views also meant that I ain't boarding this ship. With reluctance, we head to Maruti Arena. Let me put it this way- We did not hate the way it looked and can live with it for a decade. The smoked effect on the head and tail lights is good and adds to some character.

Test drive experience.

The front seats were comfortable. The side bolstering was very useful since the majority of the cars we test drove, did not have a good front seat. The dashboard tilt towards the driver is done so well that instinctively the phone went where it should have so did the wallet and keys. Ergonomics- Good. A lot of things that I hate Maruti for were absent in this car- Eg: I hate the absence of firewall insulation, bonnet insulation, boot cover, wires hanging around, at least some basic layer for underbody protection, no space to tug the rear seat belts, boot lamp at times restricted to top variants, etc. Oh, and I hate that door flex on operating those windows. Well, I curse Maruti every day for this. But....

Swift had all this in place. The majority of my hate points were taken care of by Maruti in this new gen. So far so good.

As I step off the brake pedal, the car takes off smoothly and silently. Very minimal vibrations inside the cabin as well. With every throttle input, the car made good progress. The steering is so light at city speeds but still provides feedback. At 80 kmph it weighed up so well. The brakes were progressive as well. IMHO one can feel the additional low-end torque in play. It probably has helped in reducing that AMT jerk from 1st to 2nd gear. (I may be wrong about this) but the gear shifts were barely noticeable no matter the scenario.

But remember where Hyundai had a soft corner, the scenario was otherwise with MSIL. So I requested that we have a 25 kms long test drive on EEH and a few city roads. The salesperson obliged and we crossed the Mulund Toll. The car built speed and we were cruising on a Sunday early evening at about 90 kmph. The passengers inside were so comfortable. We also liked the speakers provided. The ride quality was stiff. We love stiff suspension set-ups. It meant that minor undulations could be handled at speed and with confidence. We did not scrape any speed breakers with full load and Thane has some crazy ones. I stepped out satisfied with the car. Swift did better than Ignis and had so much to offer

With the best possible objectivity, the Swift came out to be a winner! Never expected this and have yet to bite the bullet due to the absence of that cylinder, decrease in power, parts from the same Maruti bin, etc.

However, in reality, the car did its job so well!! Here I say it- It was fun to drive and as mentioned in the official review- It is brisk and probably that brisk behaviour is all we need in our cramped cities.

What also helped was test-driving all the cars back to back and taking notes after every drive.

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