Winning India’s foremost automotive award thrice is no mean feat. It’s even more impressive when it’s won by three generations of the same car. To celebrate this hallmark achievement, we take the latest Maruti Suzuki Swift on a very unique journey across the northern plains of India.
How do you measure success? Well, the most obvious answer would be that one’s achievements are a reflection of one’s success. If that’s true, then for cars, there are perhaps two clear measures of success. One is, of course, sales figures and how a car performs in the market. And the second is critical success – the way a car fares in the opinion of professional critics, like the ICOTY (Indian Car Of The Year) jury that comprises of eminent automobile journalists.
The Swift, of course, has been a resounding success in the Indian market. Right from the first generation of the car, it’s been a smash hit. It seems, then, that the Swift does very well on the first measure. But what about the second one – critical success? Well, let’s see. The Swift has won three ICOTY awards – one for each generation of the car sold in India. Need we say more?
To celebrate this amazing critical success, Maruti Suzuki came up with a rather unique idea – to use GPS art (their term, not mine!) to etch the word ‘SWIFT’ on a digital map of India. And to help them in this unique drive, we traversed across the northern plains – from Bareilly to Jaipur. Other ICOTY jury members handled the other sections of the drive.
Hitting the road
When you get into the driving seat of the Swift – any generation – and start piloting the car, you begin to understand the reason behind its success. It’s a feisty little machine that’s very responsive and agile – so-much-so that you immediately enjoy pushing it to its limits.
As we left Bareilly for the industrial town of Moradabad, all this became immediately evident. Our job was to carve out the ‘S’ of Swift on the map of India. Now, the route itself was quite ironic because right between Bareilly and Delhi is Moradabad, which just happens to be my home town. Therefore, I know these roads like the back of my hand – having travelled across them for over three decades. And while I’ve been on over a thousand trips to Moradabad for personal visits, this was the first time ever in my life that I was there on a work assignment.
However, there’s a rather interesting angle to Moradabad that I think fits perfectly with the Swift. You see, Moradabad has progressed massively over the past few decades and has become a major export hub for handicrafts. As many of you might know, made-in-Moradabad handicrafts are famous the world over. And, exports from Moradabad stand at many thousands of crores every year, giving employment opportunities to thousands of people. A true ‘Make in India’ story – one that came into being well before the slogan became famous.
Similarly, the Swift is a prime example of what a car manufactured in India is capable of. It’s been manufactured in India right from day one and has also been exported to many countries across the world – demonstrating just how Indian manufacturing has evolved to become world class, and even world beating in terms of efficiency and cost-effectiveness.
After a brief drive in Moradabad – and catching up with some friends at their massive export factories – we headed towards Gurgaon, our destination for the first day of the drive. And after enduring the mess of NH 24, due to the ongoing widening of the highway, we reached Gurgaon right after nightfall. We did get stuck in a traffic jam for over two hours, but in the Swift’s comfortable cabin, and with its intuitive multimedia system, it wasn’t that much of a problem.
The love that Swift owners have for their cars is something that we witnessed the next day at a Maruti Suzuki Arena dealership. To flag us off from Gurgaon, Maruti had organised a cavalcade of current Swift owners, and it was fantastic to see how many enthusiastic owners had turned up with their families to celebrate their car’s ICOTY win. It truly shows how a successful product can become an integral part of people’s lives. The two qualities of the Swift that strike a chord with people are its design, which has always been a highlight of the car, and its driving appeal, which makes the car all the more endearing to its owners.
Tracing our heritage
Our next stop was the historical town of Jaipur. In Jaipur, we saw some of the finest glimpses of India’s rich history. And even though the city has evolved to keep up with modern times, it continues to retain its distinct identity of being a major pivot of India’s royal history. It’s evident everywhere you look in Jaipur, from the architecture of royal palaces and remarkable forts to its culture that has withstood the test of time.
And this is where I think Jaipur, and even the state of Rajasthan, share a common bond with Maruti Suzuki. In the three decades since the day when Maruti Suzuki sold their first car in India, back in 1983, the manufacturer has become an integral part of India’s automotive history. Before the entry of Maruti Suzuki into the Indian market, owning a car was the preserve of the rich and the famous, but with the launch of the 800 this changed forever. For the first time, middles class Indians could afford a car of their own – and, more importantly, one that offered reliability, efficiency and value like nothing else before it.
With such a rich history and heritage, it’s indeed heartening to see Maruti Suzuki evolve into the conglomerate that they are today – offering a vast line-up of products across segments. And just like Rajasthan has evolved to keep up with modern times, so has Maruti Suzuki to remain successful in the highly competitive Indian market. The third-generation Swift is a clear testament to this success.
Our leg of the Swift ICOTY drive was from Bareilly to Jaipur, via the industrial town of Moradabad, which is India’s hub for the manufacturing and export of handicrafts. A true ‘Make in India’ story – much like the Maruti Suzuki Swift, which has been manufactured in India right from day one and has also been exported to several countries across the world.
Our leg of the Swift ICOTY drive ended in Jaipur, a city of great heritage that has withstood the test of time. Maruti Suzuki too has become an integral part of India since the 800 first went on sale way back in 1983.
Also read - 2018 Maruti Suzuki Swift Review: First Drive