Launched in 2005, the Swift hatchback proved to be a saviour of sorts for Maruti. Not only did it manage to reignite the love that enthusiasts had for the brand, but also brought back the relevance that Maruti badly needed in the premium segment. Don’t trouble yourself if you’re having problems in recalling all this – it’s a decade old affair now. We take a look at how it all started: from the Hayabusa powered GSX-R/4 concept to the almost production-ready Suzuki Concept S.
Starting with the GSX-R/4, which might not directly link with the Swift, but with the said product, Suzuki wished to showcase a fun-to-drive vehicle using its two-wheeler (motorcycles, mainly) expertise. Showcased in 2001, the GSX-R/4 was powered by the same 1.3-litre engine as found in the Hayabusa motorcycle. Other features that were unique to the mid-engined, two-seater concept included a Seiko-made Wrist Mount System, which worked as a remote door release and a driver identification system, and also doubled up as a hands-free for mobile telephony. All this back in 2001!
The silhouette and design of the very few panels that the GSX-R/4 boasted is similar to that of the Swift (previous generation), and the same could be said about the underlying philosophy. And to top it all, it weighed just 640 kilograms, which when powered by a 1.3-litre monster of a motorcycle engine… Sadly it was just a concept.
Lightweight aluminium construction was complemented by Advanced Safety Vehicle Technology, which altered the engine settings according to how a particular driver drove the car. The information could be viewed on the car’s 10.4-inch monitor. Stuff of the future, I say!
Drawing a comparison with the Swift, the production version of the sporty hatchback prove itself to be driver oriented and rewarding when driven right. Wasn’t the GSX-R/4 all about that?
Moving to 2003, when, in retrospect, the Swift appeared to have taken its final shape. Another concept, after the above mentioned four-wheeled GSX-R, called Suzuki Concept S, made its presence on the global arena. Powered by a 1.6-litre engine which was mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox, the Concept S showcased the then upcoming (but not announced) Swift.
While it was a new name for the Indian market, Suzuki was using the Swift to sell the hatchback and sedan versions of the Esteem in a lot of markets. Launched in 2005, the Swift essentially became the first car in the premium hatchback segment to have become so successful that there’s a proper segment now to accommodate products from various other manufacturers, including Honda, Fiat, Hyundai, etc.
Only the G-series petrol engine (a 1.3-litre unit that did duty in other Suzuki vehicles as well) was available at the time of launch, but with the arrival of the 1.3-litre, the Swift became a hugely popular (and frugal) choice.
The ageing petrol unit was soon replaced by a new 1.2-litre K-series engine, while 1.6-litre petrol never made it to India.
This year, Maruti Suzuki celebrated ten successful years of selling the Swift. A generation update came in 2011, which made the car slightly more potent. The sub 4-meter Swift Dzire sedan (also in its second generation) is sold alongside the hatchback, is a real volume gainer for MSIL, but sadly doesn’t follow the same philosophy as the GSX-R/4 concept.