Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire, launched in 2008, has been a phenomenal success. The sub-4 metre sedan, which has sold about 13.5 lakh units until now, has been amongst top-three sellers in the industry for over four years now. In fact, last year, the Dzire was the second best-selling car in the country with sales of about 2.4 lakh units, translating into monthly average of 20,000—that is, a Dzire is sold every 2 minutes in India!
It is available in both petrol and diesel engine options and manual and automatic transmissions (the automatic is available only in petrol, which is the industry trend). In addition, Maruti sells one model of the Dzire with its famed Auto Gear Shift (AGS) technology, which is essentially automated manual transmission. It is the first diesel car in India to be offered with AGS.
So, what is AGS and how does it function in the Dzire diesel?
AGS uses a manual gearbox and a clutch (there is no clutch pedal, though), but acts like an automatic, changing gears for the driver with the help of a dedicated ECU and actuators. Unlike traditional automatic transmission, there is no torque converter.
The gear-lever, placed between the front seats, looks exactly like a traditional automatic transmission unit. On the right side of the unit, there are three slots: ‘N’ for neutral, ‘D’ for drive and ‘R’ for reverse. On the left, there is one slot marked ‘M’ for manual. It doesn’t have the ‘P’ slot—‘P’ is for parking.
Take the driver’s seat, ensure the key-fob is inside the car, or your pocket, and press the button on the right side of the steering wheel. The engine will start only if the gear lever is in the ‘N’ mode and the brake pedal is pressed. Once the engine starts—it’s a rather noisy engine—you have to put the gear lever in the ‘D’ mode and release the brake. The car will start moving, but slowly, which is very effective in urban stop-and-go traffic. Based on how much you press the accelerator, the car will move to a higher gear, the highest being fifth.
The ‘M’ mode is for manual transmission—you have to slot the gear lever in the ‘M’ position and then shift gears by pushing the lever to either the ‘+’ or ‘-’ modes.
The AGS gearbox takes about half a second to change gears, which is slightly slower than what a traditional automatic transmission unit does. However, the difference is not ‘that’ apparent. The reason is that the 1,248cc DDiS engine, which generates a peak torque of 190Nm@2000rpm, is powerful enough to nullify the gear-shift lag, or the feel of it.
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Press the brake and the gears shift down automatically until the car comes to a complete stop. Then you have to shift the lever to the ‘N’ mode, switch off the engine by pressing the start button again, and engage the parking brake. Unlike traditional automatics, the Dzire diesel AGS doesn’t have a ‘P’ slot—which indicates ‘parking’—therefore engaging the parking brake is important.
The Dzire diesel AGS has a claimed mileage of a high 26.59kpl. Because it is available only in the top-end ZDi trim, it has features that are generally found in sedans one class higher. However, for R8.58 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is rather expensive for its size—the rear seating area is cramped and the boot space is marginally more than a premium hatchback’s. In case you want to buy, the reasons are the driving pleasure and the features it offers. (Next year, Maruti is expected to launch the