This is the year 2018 and over 2.8 lakh passenger cars are sold in the country each month and yet, India still does not have a true ‘hot hatch’ on sale. No, I will not consider the Fiat Abarth in the list simply for the fact that it does not sell. Not a single unit sold last month, or the month before for reasons that we will park away for an article some other day. The Baleno RS and Volkswagen Polo TSI are fast, but truth be told, cannot be termed as ‘hot’ either.
This brings us to the Swift Sport, Suzuki’s potent little hatchback that Maruti should launch for domestic consumption this year. The sooner, the better. Why?
There is a market for it, finally!
The crucial homework has been done by rival companies. Tata Motors has been showcasing ‘sporty’ variants of their hatchbacks for over a decade now – from the yellow Indica Sport that had me drop my jams in disbelief way back in 2002 to the recently showcased Tiago JTP that comes with a 109 bhp turbo-charged engine sourced from the Nexon. The Baleno RS and VW Polo TSI have shown that there is a market, even if small, for powerful small cars. Ford teased us with the 96 bhp Figo based Freestyle and no matter which enthusiast car-nut I speak to, the feedback is positive. We want powerful small cars. Period.
These cars are as it is not about numbers. These are niche products with a sizable chunk of prospective owners in bigger towns waiting in anticipation with their cheque books ready. Blame social media or Kenneth “Ken” Block and this videos, but the ‘itch’ to own a fast hatch has never been so evident in our country.
We have better roads
Yes, we still complain about bad roads in India but head out of the confinement of your city limits and you will be surprised with the network of safe, high-speed stretches in India. Be it the upcoming expressways or smooth twisties heading up to hill-stations of Nainital up north, Mount Abu in the West or Ooty down south that will allow you to enjoy your hot hatch while powering out of a hair-pin or dropping the anchors while negotiating a downhill curve.
Speed limits are increasing, road sense is better than ever before and the time is right to enjoy 100+ horses without burning a big hole in your pocket. Remember, hot hatchbacks, thanks to their low weight, can deliver surprisingly high figures when it comes to fuel economy, if driven with a light right foot.
I am lucky enough to be living in a city that is home to a Formula 1 spec race track. And then we have the Kari speedway in Coimbatore and MMRT just outside Chennai. If you do not live around these three cities, fret not as we are witnessing an increasing number of Motorsport events with 400 meter drag races held in a controlled and safe environment – remember the Valley Run 2017?
Imagine participating with your stock Swift belting out 138 horses and capable of doing a 0 to 100kph run in under 7 seconds – that’s twice as fast as the conventional 1.2 K Series powered Swift petrol. We kid you not!
Taking the legacy forward
The Swift has already been associated with terms like ‘fun’, ‘sporty’ and ‘youth’. I think its the right time for Maruti to justify all these terms with the 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine. The all-new generation model is already a faster car thanks to weight shedding and the Swift Sport has all the ingredients to be the flagship model. Its way faster, handles like a dream and has more safety aids than what an Indian driver would mostly need.
The Swift Sport will be Maruti’s most powerful car ever for India. It will also be the quickest and the fastest car this side of the Rs 10 lakh mark. Top speed? Given the road conditions, over 200kph. Pricing? Well, lets just ignore this point for a while – it will still be ‘affordable’ for an enthusiast in terms of ‘fun factor per rupee’.
Want one? Yes, in red please!