This new model has raised the bar once again; think of any feature and the Dzire has probably made it available

The Swift Dzire was the first of the compact saloons when it was launched in 2008. It began a flood of excellent ‘me too’ models from Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Tata, Toyota and Volkswagen. The original Swift Dzire was essentially the very successful Swift hatchback with a boot added to it, but as it and its competitors tried to squeeze all the elements needed for a saloon into a sub 4 metre length they all looked a bit stubby and foreshortened.

With several model upgrades the Dzire managed to hold its position as the king of the pack, but this new model has raised the bar once again, significantly this time. With a new lighter and stronger platform, an increased width of 4 cm and a 2 cm longer wheelbase, it carries little of the original Swift DNA. As a result the chromed Swift is now being dropped from its monogram. Its new style is also very attractive so it is ready to proclaim itself the emperor of the compact sedan segment.

It is now a very attractive car that looks like a real saloon - from the graceful lines flowing from a slightly lower bonnet to its steeply angled A-pillar and the enlarged boot shaped faintly like a spoiler. The old chunky look is gone and chrome highlights embellish the eye-catching front grille, the projector headlights, daytime running lights as well as the precision-cut alloy wheels.

A number of little improvements add up to a lot, and 4 cm extra seat width, 3 cm extra rear shoulder room and 2 cm longer wheelbase makes for a surprising amount of extra comfort for the rear seat passengers. And it is the rear seat that is most important to most saloon buyers. To this end there is also a rear AC vent to ensure complete comfort. The extra seat width makes a third passenger quite comfortable and makes a fold-away arm rest also practical. Needless to say the car comes with many options for improved safety, including air bags on many models. An ISOFIX child seat is also available as an option.

The front seat is also a good place to sit thanks to the elegant pseudo-walnut plastics with chrome highlights blended with beige to give a premium look and feel. Many features earlier seen only in top-end saloons are also available like push-button start, remote keyless entry and a touch screen ‘infotainment’ console that helps with everything from entertainment to navigation, parking and weather. Buyers will also immediately notice that the leather wrapped steering wheel has a flat bottom like in some sports cars to make a driver’s entry and exit easier. Think of any feature and the Dzire has probably made it available.

As about 40 per cent of new buyers are opting for automatic gears despite the slightly higher price, auto gears are offered with many models with zero impact on fuel consumption. While the well proven 1248 cc diesel and 1197 cc petrol engines continue, these have also seen refinements to make them both about 5 per cent more fuel efficient. A new torsion beam rear suspension will make the model more robust on poor roads. Despite a heavy package of luxury features the price remains quite attractive.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist