Esteem or Swift?
We sort out the dilemma
Text: Srinivas Krishnan Photos: Pablo Chaterji
So you go to your neighbourhood Maruti Suzuki dealer with Rs 5 lakh in your pocket, with the aim of buying the smashing new Swift. You have done your research on the car and have read everything that Business Standard Motoring has written on it. You sit with the sales guy and arrive at the conclusion that a VXi in red is the one for you. It comes with airconditioning, power steering, power windows all around and central locking as standard, and the front and rear fog lamps plus the key not removed warning is a welcome bonus. And what's more, you can also bung in ABS into the equation – even with this all-important active safety feature, at Rs 4,53,962 ex-showroom Mumbai, the Swift VXi fits well inside your budget. Excellent. Then you pop the question: So when can I get delivery of the car?
The answer shatters all your visions of driving the car around with your family during the festive season and showing off your new acquisition to your relatives. It will take six months for your Swift to arrive, so what do you do now? Your eyes fall on the display Esteem...
Now you are really confused. For your budget, you can get an Esteem LXi, which comes with airconditioning, power steering, power windows at the front and other bits. The damages? Rs 4,92,145 ex-showroom Mumbai. A little over the budget? No problem, says the dealer's man. He will give you a discount of Rs 24,000 on the Esteem, and if you're opting for finance, a further 3 per cent discount is also part of the deal. No issues on delivery either. So do you want to go for the Esteem then?
In that perplexed state, you come back empty handed and send off a mail to Business Standard Motoring, hoping we'd help you decide between the Swift and the Esteem.
So be it.
First off, go on a test-drive! Let's take the keys of the Swift first. It looks every bit a contemporary car, an automobile that won't look out of place on the streets of Spain, Holland, Hungary or the UK. A well-rounded front-end (to meet with pedestrian impact safety tests), a high waistline, peeled-look lamps and an overtly sporty stance makes it completely different from any other car on our roads today. Inside, the vast expanse of plastic is cleverly and intelligently moulded and the overall layout is tuned to making the driver feel as if he is piloting a hot hatch. But hot hatch it ain't. The Swift's 1298cc 16-valve inline-4 squeezes out 87 bhp at a high 6000 rpm and 11.6 kgm of torque at 4500 revs. Yes, it's the same engine you'll find inside the Esteem, only here, the Suzuki engineers have tweaked it to offer better performance.
Shift the five-speed tranny into first, rev it the way a Japanese engine deserves and let go of the clutch. The Swift's needles fluctuate violently and you're rewarded with a enjoyable acceleration rush. A quick shift to second, with the engine still singing, and you'll see the speedo needle almost touch the 100 kph mark. Really, this car can be fun when you are in the mood for some. Though the engine is a bit harsh and the gearbox a little notchy, the Swift makes up for it with its sheer ebullience.
The Swift's dynamics are well-sorted. It comes with McPherson struts up front and a torsion beam at rear, assisted by coil springs at all ends. Some may find the ride a bit harsh, but it's decidedly in keeping with the car's overall sporty imagery. And you'll enjoy driving the Swift best when you have some corners in front of you to tackle. A quick dab of the sporty three-spoke steering wheel and the turn-in is virtually instant. Every time you go through a curve, you will enjoy the sensation of the Swift matching you move for move.
With some reluctance, you return to the dealership and pick the Esteem keys. Standing next to each other, you can't come to terms with the huge generation gap between the Swift and the Esteem. No matter how well the dealer has buffed the car and polished the tyres, the Esteem looks dated. The basic shape, which you have seen from your teenage years in the form of the Maruti 1000, is still around – no facelift is going to make it any younger. It's the case inside too. The ergonomics are a bit off and the layout screams the 1980s at you. Maruti, over the years, have been steadily working on the Esteem, nipping a bit here and tucking a bit there. For example, if people had an issue that the Esteem seating is low, well, Maruti has ensured that's not the case anymore.
The engine, this time around, makes 84 bhp at 6000 rpm and 10.7 kgm at 4500 rpm – the Swift is more torquey. This old warrior of a power unit is known for its ability to rev freely and matched to the Esteem's light build, makes it an engaging car to drive. Okay, the Esteem also enjoys being revved hard, but it still is not geared to increased performance like the Swift. Besides, the gearbox is a bit too clunky for comfort. And when it comes to dynamics, the Esteem's age shows. It's not involving around corners like the Swift and the ride is not exactly satisfying – its somewhere between springy and soggy.
So now that it's established that the Esteem is not the driver's car it once was, let's ignore the fact and look at what else it brings into the equation. The biggest factor is that it's got a boot – and a three-box car aka 'a big car' can be flattering to the ego in our country. Then it's fuel efficient, pretty reliable and easy on the pocket when it comes to maintenance.
Though the Swift is still new in the market, these attributes can generally be found in all Marutis – there's no reason for the Swift to disappoint. Okay, maybe the Esteem has a boot vis-à-vis an excuse of a rear storage space in the Swift, but other than that, the new Suzuki has everything going for it, including interior room.
Even with the waiting period, the Swift is the clear winner. Okay, that long delivery time can be a bit irritating – if it's intolerable, look beyond the Suzuki stable. But if you are willing to wait, what you will get is a safer, fun-to-drive, good-looking and contemporary automobile compared to the Esteem. Only if you really, desperately, want a three-box budget Maruti should you go for the Esteem. And what's more, every time a bright and cheerful Swift passes you by in your new Esteem, it will gnaw your heart – you can't do an injustice to your heart, can you?