My Maruti Esteem, though lovingly maintained and still in superb condition, was getting on in years and I had been thinking of a new car for somtime. My requirements from a car at present are mainly :
1) High fuel efficiency (I want to keep pursuing my old passion of long drives – like Jamshedpur to Bombay / Delhi / Gangtok, etc. – without thinking of having to get out of early retirement which I am enjoying immensely).
2) Space is not much of an issue as most of the time the car will carry only my wife and me. So a compact hatchback will also serve our purpose quite well.
3) Driving pleasure and comfort – car should not be too lightweight and should have as solid a feel as a good sturdy compact can provide. Since car will be self-driven, driving pleasure is very important.
4) Good quality of service, good service network and economical spares.
Diesel was my preferred choice because :
(a) not only is diesel substantially cheaper than petrol in India, being more efficient thermodynamically, every litre of diesel gives many more KM for the same cubic capacity or power
(b) with the advent of CRDI technology, new generation diesels have much less NVH (noise, vibration, harshness) than their older cousins
(c) being a mechanically oriented car lover, I was excited about the huge quantum leaps in diesel technology and wanted to try it out
(d) now that I have retired, this may well be my last car; new generation diesel engines have a much longer life than equivalent gasoline ones
After a preliminary survey of the cars available in India, I zeroed in on the following three cars and did a comparative study : Maruti Swift, Ford Fusion and Tata Indigo Dicor.
1) Maruti Swift : 1248 CC, 4-cyl, DOHC, 16 valve, max power 75bhp @ 4000 rpm, max torque 190 Nm @ 2000 rpm, kerb weight 1075 kg.
2) Ford Fusion : 1399 CC, 4-cyl, SOHC, 8 valve, 67bhp @ 4000 rpm, max torque 160Nm @ 2000 rpm, kerb weight 1180 kg.
3) Tata Indigo Dicor : 1396 CC, 4-cyl, DOHC, 16 valve, max power 69 bhp @ 4000 rpm, max torque 140 Nm @ 1800-3000 rpm, kerb weight 1155 kg.
From the above tech specs, the Swift theoretically emerges as the peppiest. Additionally, its price (around 5.2 lakh INR), sexy looks, service network (having owned two different Maruti vehicles in the past I'm satisfied with Maruti service and cost of spares), feedback posted by users on the internet, etc., clinched the decision in its favour. The nearest Maruti service station happens to be just 1 km from my house in Jamshedpur!
I went for a test drive in the Swift Vdi along with my younger daughter (who happened to be visiting) and boy, were we thrilled! It's a real peppy little beast. Just look at the specs of the Swift petrol and diesel -- though the petrol's max power is 12 bhp more, its 87 horses come at a high 6000 rpm; the diesel gives 75 horses at 4000 rpm only. I'm sure the petrol version's power at 4000 rpm would be much less than 75. And when it comes to torque, the diesel wins hands down -- an obscene (for its size and weight) 190 Nm at just 2000 rpm as compared to a measly 113 Nm at a high 4500 rpm for the petrol version. In the 6 years that I owned my Maruti Esteem, I reached a max rpm of 3000 a few times while climbing some ghats in the Darjeeling hills. Most of the time, I have driven around 1500 rpm. At my age (55 years), I'm no longer a speed freak. But it's nice to know that the max rated speeds of both the petrol and diesel Swifts are the same (160 kmph / 100 mph). I'll surely try out the max speed once in a while and share my experience.
During the test drive my daughter reminded me to try rough roads (not readily available in Jamshedpur!) and we did find a bad stretch and drove over it. The suspension felt solid. I'm told that the front suspension of the diesel version is appreciably better than the petrol one. Please note that the weight of the Vdi is only 75 kg more than the Vxi.
Some other interesting specs of the diesel engine : turbocharger (fixed geometry) with intercooler, 5-step multi injection (in every power stroke, the fuel is injected in 5 separate spurts, each individually metered and timed by the on-board computer), 1400 bar common rail pressure, chain drive timing system, cooled exhaust gas recirculation and an aluminium bed plate for the engine to reduce noise and vibration.
After the test drive, the decision to buy the Swift Vdi was obvious. I did not even bother to test drive the other two cars. By the way, I had booked a test drive for the Tata Indigo Dicor online, promptly received an acknowledgement that some dealer would contact me -- but they never did. BTW, I came to know that Tata's Dicor engine fitted on the Indigo is a flop and has a higher fuel consumption than the old non-Dicor version fitted on Indigos and Indicas. Tata engineers are now burning the midnight oil (and also scouting for tie-ups with reputed engine makers globally) to come up with a decent engine for the Indigo Dicor and the Indica V3 Dicor (slated to be introduced in 2008).
I booked the Swift Vdi a couple of weeks ago. I have been told that my car (Metallic Silky Silver colour) has been despatched from the factory at Gurgaon on 10.10.07. I'm eagerly waiting for it to arrive. Especially since 13.10.07 when my old Esteem was handed over to its new owner.
Check out my love affair with my earlier wheels at http://picasaweb.google.com/debashis1/MyWheels