Just last February, Suzuki Philippines quietly released the 2021 Dzire and the minor upgrade includes retouching its looks and adding a few safety features.
Having been in the market for only three years as a standalone model from the Swift, this nameplate seems to be getting something new every year: a new trim (the GA) in 2019 and this facelift in 2021. Well, except for 2020.
This third-generation model is one of the brand’s top sellers locally, consistently making up a little more than 10 percent of their annual sales, which is why it’s important for it to always look fresh and perform well. After a week with it, we find out what’s new, what’s good, and what’s not.
While may seem subtle, the changes to its façade are the most obvious. The grille is now bigger thanks to the slimmer chrome border and the slats are fewer but thicker. Also more prominent are the chrome accents by the fog lamps. The nose is a little rounder too plus the front bumper has been restyled.
I like the new face. It’s still plain but it somehow matches the simplistic design of the whole body’s surface – no creases or pinches and just a couple of faint character lines plus that wavy flow of the sheet metal on the hood that gives the whole package a bit of an upmarket appeal.
If I may, I would suggest slimmer headlamps on the next update, and make them LEDs too.
The rear is the same and still comes with the chrome garnish and rear combination lamps with LED. Topping off the exterior updates is the power-fold function for the exterior rearview mirrors.
It’s still the same inside with its black fabric seats (comes with a pattern in the middle that stretches from the backrest all the way down to the seat), and hard plastic that makes up the surface of the dashboard and the door panels.
There’s a touch of chrome down by the gear shifter and the shift knob, and a single silver accent that runs almost the length of the dashboard to break up the overall monochromatic look but it really doesn’t do much to change the basic appearance of the cabin.
The shape of the aircon vents takes after the form of the grille, which is good as it shows some form of continuity and the Dzire also boasts of vents at the rear for occupants of the second-row seats. While the latter isn’t segment-exclusive, very few of its competitors offer this feature.
I like that Suzuki even dared to give it a flat-bottom steering wheel but its diameter feels a little too big relative to the size of the vehicle and the cabin. This feels more suited to the Dzire’s bigger siblings like the Ciaz or the Ertiga. But at least it comes with audio controls and even buttons for hands-free telephony.
One thing the techy market will appreciate is the 7-inch touchscreen system. The fonts and icons are big and the interface is very easy to use. It doesn’t seem to run on third-party software and it isn’t cluttered with too many unnecessary apps that make other systems slow and clunky.
The climate control system is manual and still uses the tried-and-tested rotary knobs. Below it are a couple of ports, one is a 12-volt outlet and the other is for USB and AUX-in connections. There’s also an extra 12-volt outlet at the rear.
Another thing it's endowed with is plenty of storage spaces. There’s one in front (at the bottom of the center stack), a slot by the rear aircon vent, by the doors, and even an armrest in the second row that comes with cupholders.
This small car boasts of a spacious cabin. That feeling is enhanced by the high ceiling which provides plenty of headroom. With a simple dashboard layout, plain door panels, and the absence of a center console, Suzuki was able to trim excess fat instead of more space for passengers. That being said, five would fit but four would be better. It isn’t fancy by any stretch of the imagination but it comes with the essentials for modern motorists.
The trunk is as petite as the vehicle’s size and will only accommodate about six overnight bags.
Its engine is the same K12M unit that has a 1.2L capacity and puts out 82 PS and 113 Nm of torque. The latter is available early and makes the vehicle jump quickly from a standstill and feel energetic on EDSA and its side streets while the former is just enough for an active city drive.
Once I hit the expressway, the meager numbers became telling. While the torque still provided a good amount of pull for overtaking maneuvers, the engine strained as it had to go beyond 3,000 RPM to get the pull it needed to stick the move. It can decently maintain 100 km/h and cruise on the highway but any faster and engine noise will start to creep into the cabin.
Even though I constantly pushed this vehicle to its limits, overall fuel consumption is 12.5 kilometers per liter.
It uses Suzuki’s platform for small cars, and they say it's supposed to make it rigid enough for an increased safety rating, have a more comfortable ride, and offer better handling as it’s made of advanced and ultra-high tensile steel.
The effect is palpable and eye-opening. Ride comfort is very good for a vehicle with an SRP of only Php 708,000. It easily dampers the noise, vibration, and harshness from potholes and cracks on the road and just dials it down to a very quiet thud, while it allowed me to take on corners more aggressively, which injected a normal daily drive with some much-needed excitement.
What will take a little getting used to is the five-speed AGS (Auto Gear Shift) transmission. This is Suzuki’s version of an automated manual transmission (AMT) that uses actuators to automatically shift the gears based on speed and throttle input; it is not a torque converter-style auto.
It is different from an automatic in that it would be best to lift off the throttle (during normal driving conditions) at around 2,000 RPM as the engine shaft will temporarily disconnect from the transmission (like a real manual). If you treat it like an automatic and continue putting pressure on the throttle, there is no effect and you’ll actually feel like it lost power because it’s shifting gears and there is no drive to the differential. Once you can wrap your head around that concept, the faster you’ll get a smoother drive.
The changes also bring in several new safety features. The update gives this trim Electronic Stability Program or ESP, which automatically controls engine torque and brakes to suppress wheel slip when the roads are slippery or wet and help the tires keep traction, Hill Hold Control that will come in very handy on EDSA and its many flyovers when traffic is bumper to bumper, and reverse parking sensors.
Suzuki did well with this nameplate and rightfully so as it outsold one of the brand’s most popular models, the Swift, by 42% in 2020 in the midst of a pandemic. You can just imagine how it will do once it stretches its short legs and hits the ground running this year with its new looks and features.
The best part about the Dzire is that the price of PHP 708,000 is actually the SRP. Being that the vehicle comes from India means that it's not covered by the safeguard bond that is causing a lot of concern in the domestic auto industry. So if you’re car-hunting with a sub-800k budget, the new Dzire GL+ has enough to put its name for heavy consideration.
Aesthetically, it may look modest but this now comes packed for its segment with modern connectivity features, essential amenities for comfort, and vital safety enhancements. The only thing you really have to get used to is the transmission.