Diesel delight

Team OD  /
25 Jul 2013 14:51:10 IST

Over the last few years there has been a surge in diesel powered cars in the market. Not surprisingly today almost every manufacturer offers a diesel car in almost every segment. The diesel C-segment cars contribute to more sales than their petrol counterparts because with the hike in fuel prices, diesels are the need of the hour. Take Maruti Suzuki for instance. Every single diesel that the company has launched in the last few years has been a runway success. The Ritz, Swift and Dzire have large bookings and people don't mind waiting for months till they own one. The only other car from the Maruti Suzuki portfolio that desperately needed to be powered by a diesel engine was the SX4. The petrol SX4 was launched in 2007 and after a long wait Maruti Suzuki has finally introduced a diesel variant, and it's the first in the company's portfolio to feature a VGT. Does the SX4 diesel have what it takes to be yet another best-seller for Maruti? Let's find out.

ENGINE

We were expecting to see the 1.9-litre DDiS engine that is available in the SX4 internationally under the hood of the SX4 diesel, but Maruti Suzuki has opted for the popular 1.3-litre DDiS engine found in other Maruti Suzuki models. However the SX4 features a VGT (Variable Geometry Turbocharger) similar to the Fiat Linea and Tata Manza. The engine is already manufactured by Suzuki Powertrain India for existing models and it made sense for Maruti to offer it in the SX4.

The 16-valve, DOHC unit displaces 1248cc and generates maximum power of 90PS at 4000rpm. VGTs are known to display less turbo lag and the SX4 is no exception. The VGT has been optimised to provide boost early and the engine makes a healthy 200Nm of torque from as low as 1750rpm. The torque is the most important aspect in this car because the petrol SX4

is powered by a 1.6-litre engine and given that the diesel SX4s kerb weight has increased by 45kg to 1245kg, one would expect a decently sized diesel to be at work under the hood.

Modern technologies however ensure that the size of the equipment has little to do with how it performs. The VGT and latest generation high pressure fuel injectors ensure you have all the torque you need. The power delivery is linear and the engine revs up to 5000rpm cleanly. The power feels adequate and the car doesn't lack grunt.

However there is an audible diesel clatter from the engine bay and it gets louder at higher engine speeds. Maruti engineers have added lots of noise suppressants but the NVH levels are on the high side compared to the competition such as the Linea which also features the same engine.

However, the SX4's engine is mated to a new 5-speed manual transmission developed by Suzuki. Shift quality is precise and is definitely one of the best in its segment. The ratios feel more like in the Swift diesel and have been set to maximise fuel efficiency and also improving engine response. The gearbox features a 'detent pin' housed in the gearbox that aids in positioning the gearshift and locks the gear in place once it is slotted. Maruti Suzuki claims the technology helps in smooth and precise gear shifting. It also claims that the SX4 diesel is the first car in India to comply with the Bharat OBD-II advanced emission norms. OBD refers to On Board Diagnostics. The system detects any malfunction in the emission control system which may lead to an increase in exhaust emissions.

PERFORMANCE

The SX4 has a power-to-weight ratio of 72.28PS per tonne. That's low compared to its competitors. We expected the SX4 diesel to be sluggish at best. But slot it to first, release the clutch and what you get is a car that literally wants to take off. The 200Nm of torque puts the 205-section tyres into wheelspin and you would expect the SX4 to lose time, yet the 0-100kmph came up in just 14.24 seconds which is surprisingly quick (quicker than the Linea diesel) keeping in mind the SX4 diesel is the heaviest car in its class. The Suzuki gearbox definitely helps the engine shave off those extra seconds. Acceleration is strong if the car is kept in the powerband. The injectors rapidly get down to delivering their charge and the linear turbo boost from the VGT keeps it quick at high revs and all the way up to the redline. The quarter mile is then covered in 19.34s.

The weight of the car however is reflected in the roll-on acceleration tests. The lack of bottom end torque, especially below 1700rpm is more apparent in higher gears. Third gear acceleration runs are brisk but trying to overtake in fourth gear from 40kmph onwards is a waste of time. Drop a gear and one can overtake without a problem. It takes just 11.04 seconds for 20-80kmph in third gear while 40-100kmph in fourth and fifth gear takes 14.44 and 21.49 seconds respectively.

EFFICIENCY

ARAI figures state the fuel efficiency of the SX4 diesel to be 21.5kmpl which makes the car the most fuel efficient in its segment and that is commendable. This should comfortably ensure its success and one is sure to see frenetic, mile-long waiting lists and even longer delivery periods once the car arrives in showrooms. The ARAI figure achieved in combined cycle testing also means that on the highway the efficiency figure will be much higher.

VERDICT

The SX4 diesel has arrived late but it should see an interesting turn for the SX4 brand. Given that the petrol SX4 has not emulated the success of the Honda City, there is a lot riding on the diesel variant. The SX4 is known to handle well, has a precise and well weighted steering and boasts most comfort features, but fuel efficiency was its biggest drawback. Now the same car is endowed with a super diesel engine that has adequate power and is economical to run. As for the pricing, we tested the SX4

before its scheduled launch and the price announcement, but we can safely assume that it should cost around a lakh of rupees more than its petrol counterpart, perhaps a little less even. If our prediction is right, Maruti Suzuki certainly has another winner on its hands and you will just have to get in line.

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