How much are you willing to downsize?
From engines, to smart phones and other everyday gadgets, it seems like there is no stopping modern technology from making things tiny and compact in size. Even some sedans nowadays are becoming smaller rather than bigger. And with that, a niche segment has slowly grown in the local car segment for those that prefer the comforts of a four-door sedan, but has the size and practicality of a pint-sized hatchback.
We'd like to call this class the mini sedan.
Serving as one of the early pioneers in this particular segment is the Suzuki Swift Dzire, and now it's simply called 'Dzire'. The model is essentially a more practical and spacious version of the Swift hatchback, but does this mean it's just a five-door wearing a four-door body? What is so special about its powertrain, specifically its automated-manual transmission? Also, is it better looking compared to the old model?
I admit, I was never fan of the original Dzire when it first came out. They simply took the hatchback, made it longer to fit a trunk, and voila, the five-door is now a four-door. Quite frankly, it was one of the ugliest sedans I've ever seen. But it appears that Suzuki has learned from this.
It's clear that Suzuki made it appear more substantial. Sure it still has some similarities from the new hatchback like the distinct headlights, the shape of the grill and the side mirrors. But other than that, the Dzire now has a more rounded and cohesive design. No longer does it share the sloping roofline with the five-door which made it look unconventional back then.
Granted, it's never going to be as cool as the Swift, but I do have to give credit to Suzuki for making the new Dzire somewhat look upmarket. Instead of a honeycomb-style front grill, the Dzire has horizontal-style grill slats that is complemented by a chrome trim. Then there's the front bumper which has its own look, as well as additional chrome trim near the foglights. Around the back, a new set of taillights, along with a chrome trim piece on the trunk give the Dzire some pizzazz. Suzuki even went to the trouble of reshaping the trunk and rear quarter panels to give it the Dzire a better look.
Kudos to Suzuki for making the new Dzire look like an actual sedan. Sure it's shape is not as sweeping and attractive like most sedans in the market, but the redesign has now made it look more proper than before. Although I can't help but think that the Dzire's rear somehow resembles that of a certain Mitsubishi, but I digress.
Pop the doors open and you are invited in a plain yet comfy cabin. It may not be as sporty as the Swift, but it has a stylish and clean look to it. It shares several design cues from the hatchback like the hooded gauges, flat-bottomed steering wheel, piano black trim pieces, and a center console with two cupholders and ports for the 12V power socket, USB and Aux. The only telltale difference that makes the Dzire’s cabin different from the Swift are its rectangular-shaped aircon vents (the Swift has circular vents). Providing in-car entertainment is a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment that comes with Bluetooth and optional navigation via SD card.
Despite its small size, the Dzire comes with several standard features one would normally find on bigger (or more expensive) sedans. For starters, it has a rear vent that sends cold air to the rear passengers. Then there’s the center-mounted 12V power socket that lets the rear occupants charge their gadgets with ease. Finally, the rear passengers are treated to a center armrest; a neat feature that is mostly reserved for more upmarket sedans.
There's also the generous legroom and headroom which are probably one of the main selling points of the Dzire. Passengers that are about 5’8" and above can fit in the back seats without any problem. Elbowroom was also surprisingly ample despite its limited width. But what I really liked about the Dzire is its cold air-conditioning system. Even without any window tint, the powerful aircon of the tester I drove made short work of the intense heat.
Like the Swift hatchback, the Dzire is also powered by a 1.2-liter inline-four dubbed the ‘K12M’. Strangely however, the updated engine actually produces less horsepower and torque than its predecessor; 82 PS (-5) at 6000 rpm and 113 Nm (-1) at 4200 rpm. As this is the top-of-the-line model, the K12M is connected to a five-speed automated-manual transmission (AMT) called ‘Auto Gear Shift’ (AGS).
So what is an AMT you may ask? An automated-manual transmission is a manual gearbox that benefits from an electronically-controlled clutch that automatically engages/disengages when changing gears. Think of it as a bridge between a traditional automatic slushbox, and the tried-and-tested stick shift. It gives you the fun driving experience of manually changing cogs, without actually having to step on a clutch pedal. Plus, it gives drivers peace of mind when it comes to fuel consumption which I’ll get to later.
Off the line, there is some considerable pull from the tiny 1.2-liter motor. It's not the torquiest of engines but since the car is so light to begin with, it has more than enough pulling power to get the Dzire moving. And since the engine is connected to a 'manual gearbox' instead of an automatic slushbox or CVT, there is practically no delay from the drivetrain.
But you'll immediately notice that there is some shift shock coming from the transmission whenever it changes gears. That's because most of the time, your foot is still planted to the accelerator even though the system is in the process of switching cogs. This can be quite annoying between first and second gears, but it is less noticeable once you reach third, fourth and fifth.
A nifty workaround to negate the shift shock while in automatic mode is to lift off the throttle at around 2000 rpm when just tooling around. On normal driving conditions, the system will automatically switch gears at around 2000 rpm to save on fuel. If you’re driving spiritedly however, the system will shift much later. However, the system will automatically change gears once you lift your foot off the accelerator. On the flipside, the AGS can initiate a ‘kickdown’ much like a traditional automatic transmission, meaning it can go from fifth gear to third gear in an instant for those times you need to overtake quickly.
The ‘lift-off’ technique also works while in manual mode. Like with a traditional manual, you have to lift your foot off the gas, switch gears manually, and then get back on the throttle. The result is a smooth changeover between each cog which is actually satisfying to do. In fact, there were times that I drove the Dzire like a manual car, permanently setting the transmission to 'manual mode' and going through each gear.
As far as fuel consumption is concerned, the Dzire is as frugal as its hatchback brethren. Cruising around light city traffic, the Dzire can average between 11.0 - 12.0 km/l which was impressive. Take it out on the highway and the Dzire is capable of returning between 20.0 - 21.0 km/l at an average speed of 80 km/h. It would have been nicer however, if Suzuki put in a sixth gear. Go beyond 80 km/h, and the Dzire’s engine will turn over at about 2500 - 3000 rpm due to transmission's close gear ratios.
Over to its ride quality, the Dzire is probably one of the most comfortable mini sedans in the market today. Thanks to its soft dampers and thick 185/65 series tires, the Dzire managed to absorb most of the rough stuff Metro Manila had to offer. Granted, it can still have a slightly bouncy ride when going over rough patches of road (as it has a short wheelbase), but compared to the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 and Honda Brio Amaze, the Dzire beats them both when it comes to overall riding comfort. Did I mention it also has comfy rear seats and generous amounts of rear legroom?
Handling, on the other hand, is as predictable and agile as its hatchback counterpart. Since it uses the same 'Heartect' platform as the Swift, the Dzire handled corners and bends with ease. Plus, it has a tight turning radius which is something I always look for on any automobile. The electronic power-assisted steering (EPAS), however, could have delivered more feedback as it felt numb most of the time.
Retailing at a budget-friendly Php 698,000, the Dzire GL+ is by far one of the best bargain finds in the market today. More affordable than typical subcompacts, but packed with all the features one would ever need (and then some), the new Suzuki Dzire is great for those that still prefer a small four-door instead of a five-door. In addition, the Dzire now looks good and feels a lot better than their first offering. It's no ugly duckling turning into the proverbial swan, but it's close.
If the Ciaz is too big and the Swift not as practical, I highly recommend checking out the Dzire and its downsized quirks.