Maruti Ritz: the talking pointJul 1st, 2009 | By editor | Category: Lifestyle, On Wheels
By hatchback standards, Maruti’s latest model has a lot going for it but does Maruti really need another hatchback?
Look at the company’s sales chart and you will see that India’s top car company already sells a staggering 50,000 hatchbacks a month. The buffet table is pretty full with everything from the very basic 800 to the bread-and-butter Alto, the stylish but not-so-successful Zen Estilo, the funky new A-star and of course the wildly popular Swift. Plus, there’s the spiritual forerunner of the Ritz, the Wagon R, a car that uses space so efficiently that we’re still scratching our heads. But after driving it for a day, we believe the Ritz with its unique blend of practicality and style will find a dedicated set of customers.
Tall boy designs are difficult to be made attractive as they are not only as tall as SUVs, but their tiny footprint means they often look more like a post-box. Though the Ritz is a good 90mm taller than the Swift, it suffers none of these maladies. Its steeply raked windscreen, sloping roof and prominent wheel arches prevent it from being a mere flat panel job. Striking details such as the prominent nose, the tipped-forward stance with its rising beltline and, of course, those boomerang-shaped tail-lights make for a jaunty angle.
The Ritz’s interiors are smartly styled as well and quality has taken a huge leap forward. Except for the hard plastics on the door pads, a few of the buttons and ordinary looking air-con controls, the materials and fabrics used inside are worthy of a premium hatch. The heavily textured effect on the dashboard feels rich and the silver-coloured piping around the centre console and the vents lifts the mood of the cabin. The dash has an oval theme and a subtle two-tone colour scheme. And the seats are blue as well, but we found them a touch garish.
The ZXi gets the stereo integrated into the dash while the LXi/LDi have to make do with aftermarket sound systems. You’ll also notice a lot of common Maruti bits-and-pieces in the car, such as the steering wheel and gear lever that’s the same as the Swift’s and SX4’s, while the stand-alone tachometer pod has shared the A-star’s, in the Ritz it’s moved to the left and doesn’t obstruct visibility. Unique to the Ritz is the large, white circular speedo, which adds a lively feel to the dashboard.
Up front, there’s generous legroom, and forward visibility is excellent from the high seating position. However, the thick C-pillar causes a few blind spots, and the tailgate’s narrow glass area are a hindrance while reversing.
Legroom in the rear isn’t exactly generous, but the high-set seats, with good under-thigh support and generous headroom, compensate. The Ritz’s cabin feels bigger than it actually is, thanks to the airy design, and unlike the Swift, there’s no cramped feeling.
The wide recess above the glovebox, a jewel case on top of the centre console and large door pockets provide more than adequate storage space. The 178-litre boot is disappointingly small and can hold a couple of soft bags at best. However, the 60:40 split rear seats do help. Suzuki’s new 84bhp K12M petrol and the Fiat-sourced 74bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel, known as the DDiS — the pair of motors that power the Ritz — will prove hard to beat.
The talking point is the brand new K-series petrol motor, which is an all-aluminium, twin-cam, 16-valve design, which comes with a raft of technical advances normally reserved for more expensive cars. Idle is vibration-free and almost silent, with only a hint of the engine audible. The gearshift is direct and precise. The Ritz motor is Honda-like in its refinement. And, to top it off, this is the first Maruti to be Euro-IV compliant, which means it’s cleaner too.
Dab the throttle and the Ritz moves forward effortlessly, the motor feeling refined and responsive. It cruises well too, the sound of the motor drowned out by air rushing by and the excessive tyre noise from the JK Vectras. However, let the revs drop, and the Ritz does take a while to get going again. If you are in a hurry, you will need drop down to a lower gear. However, once you’re past 2500rpm, it’s always ready for action. The motor spins freely, loves to be revved hard, and performance and punch are strong towards the top end.
Meanwhile, the Multijet diesel has also been re-tuned to meet Euro IV emission norms, and the remapped ECU has blunted the engine’s low end response. The Swift diesel with its pronounced turbo-lag always made you wait a bit before that spike in power came in, and the wait seems to be marginally longer here. You need to keep the motor above 2000rpm if you want to pass someone in the diesel Ritz, but once you have that engine speed, the car will simply run away from the other car. Compare the in-gear times with the petrol to see just how much quicker the diesel can be in real-world driving.
Acceleration again is strong, and the diesel Ritz will get to 100kph in 14.3 seconds. It also revs high for a diesel motor, its 5100rpm or so redline allowing for a wider power-band. Again, the diesel Ritz feels more refined than the Swift diesel, thanks to better insulation.
A comfortable ride and good ground clearance are essential for mass acceptance and Maruti has made sure both these are taken care of. The Ritz’s suspension has been raised and softened to deal with our road conditions, which will make it appeal to a wider audience. Ride is much better than the sportier setup of the Swift, and the Ritz takes to our potholed roads with a greater sense of calm. You don’t need to steer around rough patches, the suspension taking the punches silently and it’s only the larger bumps that unsettle the Ritz.
The tyres on the Ritz are identical to those on the Swift, 165s for the L and V versions and 185s for the Z. The softer setup, however, means that the Ritz lacks the Swift’s sporty edge. Straightline stability and roadholding are good but the rear tends to pitch on an undulating surface at speed. The softer suspension settings and tall stance result in considerable body roll but you always have a sense of control, at any speed. Key to the secure feeling the Ritz imparts is the steering that has none of the dead feel around the straight-ahead position you find in the Swift. The Ritz’s steering feels linear, precise and shows how electric steering (EPS) has dramatically improved.
With prices starting at Rs. 5.02 lakh (ex-showroom, Mumbai) for the petrol, Maruti has assured the Ritz a strong start. A super combination of stellar engines with greater space, comfort and practicality, the Ritz is a great product with great pricing and threatens to decimate a wide range of competitors.
Fuel Petrol, Diesel
Installation Front, transverse
Type 4-cyls in-line, 1197cc, 1248cc
Power 84bhp at 6000,74 bhp at 4000rpm
Torque 11.5kgm at 4500rpm, 19.37kgm at 2000rpm
Power to weight 81.55 bhp per tonne, 66.6bhp per tonne
Torque to weight 11.16kgm per tonne, 17.45kgm per tonne
Gearbox 5-speed manual
CHASSIS & BODY
Construction Five-door, monocoque
Tyres 185/70 R14, 165/80 R14, tubeless
Front Independent, MacPherson Strut, coil springs
Rear non-independent, torsion beam, coil spring
Steering Type Power-assisted rack and pinion
Front Ventilated discs
Anti-lock Std on ZXi, Opt on VXi/VDi