If you went to the Manila International Auto Show in April, you likely saw the centerpiece of Suzuki Philippines’ booth at the annual event: the all-new Dzire subcompact (or mini?) sedan. Previously called the Swift Dzire as an acknowledgment of the fact that it was based on the Swift hatchback, the car is officially its own model now, dropping its trunkless sibling’s moniker from its name. At the time, we said that the launch date could take place within a month.
Today, Suzuki’s local distributor gave the motoring media a chance to drive the Dzire at Batangas Racing Circuit ahead of the small sedan’s formal market introduction on June 27.
Imported from India (where Maruti Suzuki mass-produces it), the new Dzire measures 3,995mm long, 1,735mm wide and 1,515mm tall, with a wheelbase of 2,450mm. By comparison, the Mitsubishi Mirage G4 has the following dimensions: 4,245mm in length, 1,670mm in width and 1,515mm in height, with a 2,550mm wheelbase. While the Dzire is shorter, it is also wider from side to side, contributing to just a little more space girth-wise.
The new-generation Dzire is based on Suzuki’s new Heartect platform that is touted as having lighter weight, higher rigidity and better energy absorption in the event of a collision. You might recall that the recently unveiled second-generation Ertiga is also already based on this platform.
One thing you’ll immediately appreciate about this latest Dzire version is that it is significantly better-looking than its predecessor, which was essentially just a hatchback with an awkwardly grafted trunk at the back. The new model represents a more homogeneous styling execution, so that it appears to be a true sedan.
Under the hood of the new Dzire is a carried-over 1.2-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine that has reportedly been tweaked to achieve a higher compression ratio and better fuel efficiency. Rated at 82hp and 113Nm, this powerplant is mated to either a five-speed manual shifter or a five-speed Auto Gear Shift transmission. Suzuki Philippines assistant general manager Cecil Capacete made sure to emphasize the number of cylinders as this obviously trumps the three-pot mill shoehorned into the Mirage G4.
The whole point of the four-lap test drive was for Suzuki to flaunt the new Dzire’s Auto Gear Shift transmission, which is basically an automated manual gearbox that features an electro-hydraulic actuator to automatically engage the clutch and the gearshift. In Drive mode, the AGS behaves just like a regular automatic. In Manual mode, it delegates shifting duties to the driver—you nudge it forward to downshift and you tug it toward you to upshift. As with any newfangled gizmo, the AGS takes some getting used to. Perhaps why we were given four laps each. There is some trick required in avoiding shift shocks, a simple action that involves releasing the gas pedal before you change gears. The process felt confusing at first, but quickly became intuitive as the corners piled up.
The new Suzuki Dzire will be offered in two variants: the P638,000 GL MT and the P698,000 GL+ AGS. Yes, it undercuts the longer but narrower and lower Volkswagen Santana (P686,000). We have a feeling Suzuki Philippines put together the media preview to sway countless consumers seriously tempted by the entry-level VW. This should be an interesting fight.