Maruti Suzuki Swift v VW Polo
The new Maruti Suzuki Swift is the latest entrant into the hatchback segment and steps into the same space that the VW Polo occupies. So which one should you buy?
The smart, new Swift takes on the ‘built-likea-tank’ Volkswagen Polo
The Swift and the Polo are two much vaunted lineages in India’s hatchback market. Two names easily recognized and two cars easily spotted in India’s urban jungle. By virtue of their longevity, both had also begun to feel a little dated of late. To counter that, the Polo has been refreshed in the recent past, and the Swift has essentially changed in every respect apart from the name and the engine options. They’re both priced within a few thousand rupees of each other, which means that if you’re looking to buy one, you will probably consider the other too. So it only makes sense that we put them to the test and see which one comes out on top.
In terms of aesthetics, the Polo is still distinctively familiar. The sharp lines and simple fascia give it a more understated and conspicuous look as opposed to its competitor. The Swift, on the other hand, is brand-new and looks a lot more in line with current design trends. The elongated bonnet, big grille, LED DRL-lined headlamps, and smooth, svelte lines are all very contemporary elements. The sweptback headlamp design catches the eye, as does the door-handle design for the rear doors. Style is always subjective and both cars do have their own distinct approaches. In the eyes of this particular beholder, though, the Swift comes out on top in the looks department.
In terms of dimensions, the two are pretty close. The Swift has a shorter wheelbase and overall length, although it is taller and wider than the Polo. The ground clearance on both cars differs only by two millimetres and tilts in favour of the Polo.
Moving on to the interior, both cars are fairly well put together. The Swift has a nice dark themed interior with a black-and-silver dash and seats wrapped in black and grey too. The dash on the Polo, too, is black and silver, although the interior and seats have more of a beige tinge. The quality of the plastics is essentially the same, as is the amount of storage space spread around the cabin. Both cars can just about squeeze in five people and there’s nothing much to separate the two in terms of seat comfort. However, where the Swift wins out is in terms of knee-room, though this comes at a compromise: there’s 280 litres worth of boot space in the Polo as opposed to 268 litres in the Swift. The Swift also has a smaller 37-litre fuel tank while the Polo’s boasts of a capacity of 45 litres. Feature-wise, both cars sport some cool kit.
Both cars have touchscreen infotainment with the usual USB, AU X, and Bluetooth connectivity solutions, voice commands, and integrated parking cameras and sensors. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are present and correct, too, and this, coupled with steering-mounted controls, means enjoying your tunes is easily
accomplished in both cars. However, while both cars get auto lights and auto climate control, only the Polo gets rain-sensing wipers and cruise control.
Safety tech-wise, both cars get ABS and dual-front airbags as standard across variants, so nothing to separate the two here. But all things considered the Polo has the better kit of the two cars when you think about it.
The two powertrains are quite different from each other, at least on paper. We drove the diesel manual versions of both cars and the Polo is still powered by the same 1.5-litre TDI in-line four that produces 90 PS at 4,200 rpm and 230 Nm of torque at 1,500-2,500 rpm. The Swift, on the other hand, is powered by a 1.3-litre four-cylinder DDiS 190 engine that is capable of churning out 75 PS at 4,000 rpm and 190 Nm of twist peaking at 2,000 rpm. Engines of both cars are mated to five-speed gearboxes. The Swift starts up with a push of a button and the gearbox slots into place smoothly. The Polo requires the key to fire up and its gearbox is pretty smooth through the motions too. The Swift lives up to its moniker when driving in a straight line, though, for it beat its rival across the board
The Polo has been refreshed in the recent past and the Swift has essentially changed in every respect apart from the name and the engine options
in our performance runs. For example, the Swift clocked 80 km/h in 9.16 seconds and 100 km/h in 13.37 s. The Polo manages the same speeds in 10.44 s and 15.03 s respectively. NVH levels in both cars are respectable, so no complaints there.
Coming to ride quality, the Swift is a tad more adept at bump absorption. This is because the Swift is sprung slightly softer and takes in the speedbreakers and “car-breakers” (the huge potholes our roads so delight in suddenly tossing up) with a little more grace. The Polo isn’t bad at soaking up the bumps either; though the Swift does edge it in this respect. When you show them a corner, the Polo takes the lead in the ride quality stakes. It’s more planted and more agile than its Japanese challenger and, in the bends, a lot more fun to drive. Both cars come with leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheels, but even the steering on the Polo is a lot more precise and communicative than that on the Swift. Although both these cars sport a front-disc, rear-drum brake set-up, the Polo takes the win in the braking stakes as it performs better when stopping from 100-0 km/h: 3.04 s and 40.86 m, and in 80-0 km/h braking performance 2.40 s and 26.39 m taken to come to a standstill. The Swift is a little slower to a standstill and requires a longer distance in both respects.
Both cars are neck and neck in terms of fuel efficiency, too, posting overalls of 17 km/l for the Polo and 18 km/l for the Swift. Price-wise you’re looking at shelling out Rs 8.78 lakh for the German and Rs 8.29 for the Indo-Japanese hatch. So the big question is: which should you choose? The newer, cheaper, and more efficient Swift or the more understated, fun-to-drive, and harder braking Polo? Well, that mostly depends on what you’re looking to get out of the car. For me, I’d usually go fun all the way, but if I were buying a hatch, my priority is more likely to be city use; so for its softer suspension, better fuel efficiency and the 50k-odd I’d save, and the fact that I think its the better looker too, the Swift would be my pick of the duo.
( Right) The Polo has also got an understated interior with a brand new touchscreen
( Above) 1.5 TDI produces 90 PS and 230 Nm