Premium hatchbacks are maturing through their adolescence years, and just like life in college, some of them are developing faster and also becoming better rounded. Case in point is the Maruti Swift, which now comes with twin airbags and ABS standard even on the base version, something which was only available on the top version ZXi in 2005, when the car was launched. But it does have a strong challenge from Hyundai’s Grand i10, which is no pushover either. New car buyers in the hatchback space have never had it so good.
The Swift is a design and architecture victory. It looks posh, premium and upmarket along with looking sporty as well. When seen from a full front on position, the car has hints of the Jaguar F-type from a distance. The only bit of styling debate that buyers will have is with the positioning of the rear door’s handle, which is in the position of the quarter glass. That said, the design mimics that of a three-door sporty hatch rather than a family car.
Move onto the Grand and you will appreciate the fact that despite being around for five years now, it still manages to look fresh. The front end with its big grille and slanted ‘H’ Hyundai logo is a typical Hyundai design element, while the back with its stylish bumpers with brake lights in them look nice too. From side on, the Grand looks like a nicely balanced design and one that won’t be offensive to any.
In terms of equipment, there is hardly any difference, both cars get Android Auto/Apple CarPlay in the top versions along with start/stop button and auto AC, which are all the fare now in this segment. Buyers though will appreciate the Grand for thoughtful touches like the cooled glovebox as well as the 1GB storage space on the stereo, these two items are a big boon on a long highway trip.
Buyers will find the front seats of the Swift to be much better though. They are more supportive, better cushioned and simply more relaxing than the Grand i10’s soft cushioned seats. In the back though, it’s the other way around. The Grand offers not only more leg space but also has useful touches like AC vents and a 12-volt charging socket for the ‘always on the phone’ generation of today.
For sheer boot capacity, it’s really neck and neck and no one has any major advantage.
Engine, performance and gearbox
Both cars come with 1.2-litre petrol engines. Though diesel options are also on sale we are keeping our comparisons to petrol only here. In terms of power, the Swift will make 85bhp while the Grand makes 82bhp. The winner here is the Swift not only on sheer power output but also the engines feel and drive. This free-revving, rev happy, silky smooth K-series engine from the house of Maruti Suzuki is simply an enjoyable unit to punt around town. The engine offers good response from even the lower end of its rev band thus making it a nice car for town travel. Even for the highway with a full complement of four on board and the AC turned on, this engine never feels underwhelming. The gearbox too is a nice and crisp unit, offering short, precise and sporty throws.
The Grand i10’s engine feels nice and refined from the word go. It isn’t as alert at low rpms as the Swift though. Power delivery is linear too, but the engine never feels as free-revving as the Japanese rival does here. Out on the highway the engine feels adequate but you will have to drop a gear for that quick overtaking manoeuvre. The gearbox is a nice and light unit, which doesn’t need too much effort to shift, making it a nice car for city dwellers.
Ride and handling
The Grand i10 errs on the side of comfort with its soft, supple suspension. This makes it a better car for the city and more comfortable too than the Swift’s stiff suspension set-up. Buyers will truly like this aspect of the Grand since it offers a nice and relaxing ride even on the highway. The steering with its ultra-light feel will make city driving a boon and not a bane.
Keener drivers though will look at the Swift for some thrills. The stiffer suspension means that the car doesn’t lean as much into corner as the Grand and feels a little more pliant at faster highway speeds as well. The steering on the Swift is ultra-light too, but it is accurate and feels pretty reassuring on hilly sections of the road.
Anyone looking at a small car primarily for the city won’t be disappointed with either one of these cars, both of them are winners. However, since we have to pick one winner, we will give the edge to the Maruti Swift. Its fresher appeal makes it desirable, while its comfortable front seats and lovely petrol engine give it the edge for long distance trips on the highway. It’s the winner here, but only just.