A hot-hatch special issue would be incomplete without a tuned Maruti Suzuki Swift, no?

There, I said it. The Maruti Suzuki Swift is arguably one of the most popular tuner cars in the country. And a few enterprising enthusiasts go beyond just extracting more power from the engine. They swap the motor for a bigger one. And not stop at that. So here’s what is claimed to be India’s quickest accelerating Maruti Suzuki Swift. It runs the (old) Baleno’s 1.6-litre petrol engine, with a turbocharger slapped on! The 1.6-litre petrol engine was quite potent itself, but Achintya Mehrotra, who heads AM Racing in New Delhi, wanted more.

He has raced in the Volkswagen Polo Cup in the past besides representing the nation in the Asian Gymkhana championship. The Swift on these pages has been one of his prized possessions for a while and over the years, he has ensured the car has only gotten quicker. Interestingly, this isn’t his first personal build though – it was a WagonR that was also one of the quickest WagonRs in the country! And this Swift isn’t any different. The basic build was done at FRK Racing in Bangalore, a popular tuning house and that’s where the stock engine was swapped for the 1.6-litre G16B motor and the turbocharger added.

He has named it the ‘Turbo Kat’ and the decals, body panels and wheels all scream tuner car. Unlike a lot of ricers, the ones on this Swift belong to Achintya’s sponsors and brands he works with. The car runs a HPI megamax conical air filter, axleback exhaust muffler with custom stainless steel manifold and piping from Silence House, Delhi, besides slotted rotors and sports brake pads from Dixcel. He switches between the 17-inch Enkei PF01 alloys here and 15-inch Enkeis that are used for autocross events.

The car sits on Cusco Sport R inverted monotube coilover suspension with height, damping and preload adjustment. There’s multiple chassis braces, an FIA-spec roll cage, Sparco sprint seats and an HPI four-point harness. More importantly, the car is running straight-cut gears with modified ratios along with a Race Dynamics RD 1401 ECU tuned by FRK and HKS Superfire racing spark plugs. Everything that comes in the way of performance has been thrown out, including passenger seats. That said the car is still a daily driver. Achintya says it’s the easy availability and affordability of bolt-on performance parts for the Swift that makes it so popular. He also mentions fitting the bigger 1.6-litre engine was not a challenge.

Crank the motor and the exhaust settles to a rumble that gets angrier on blipping the throttle. I’ve driven fast cars and then some, but the joy of driving a small tuner car never fades. Off the line, Achintya’s Swift feels quick but not startlingly quick. As soon as the turbo spooled up though, I could feel my grip on the steering wheel tighten and my eyes widen in astonishment. The engine builds revs in a frenzy I wasn’t expecting and I found myself hitting the rev limiter initially. Gear changes are lightning quick and slot in very precisely, adding to the joy. The car crossed the 100kmph in no time and Achintya proudly tells me his car does 0-100kmph in just 7.2 seconds! That’s just a second slower than the 0-100kmph time for the Mini Cooper John Cooper Works! Achintya says he has butchered the egos of several German performance car owners with his Swift in Autocross events and I do have reason to believe. In-gear acceleration is mind-bogglingly quick and once the turbo spools up, there’s a massive wave of torque all the way to the redline. Cross 3,500rpm and it’s easy to feel yourself being pushed into the seatback and each upshift is accompanied by the sweet-sounding whistle from the blow-off valve.

And each time that happened, I broke into a smile. The weekend after I drove it Achintya took the car to the BND Race Wars Autocross held in the premises of the Buddh International Circuit. He topped the timesheets in the ‘Modified INAC1 Unrestricted’ category, besides which this very Swift was the fourth fastest overall, only trailing a tuned Porsche 718 Cayman, tuned Audi S6 and a Mini Cooper S! I guess that’s enough proof of what his Swift is capable of. More importantly, it is a great example of the potential the Swift holds as a hot hatch. The Maruti Suzuki Swift is in fact loved the world over and is a huge favourite with tuners.

It is one of India’s favourite hatchbacks for its space, comfort and reliability but for tuners it’s the perfect playground given the easy availability of performance parts. More importantly, you don’t need to burn a large hole in your wallet to tune Japanese cars like the Swift. Of course, there’s a joy to be had in saving up to buy performance parts, spending hours and weekends searching for gofaster parts on the internet, fitting them and boosting performance. This Swift is also a brilliant example of what turbocharging can do to a small hatchback – make it quick enough to shame sportscars that are way more expensive to buy and modify. That’s the thing about tuner cars and hot hatches in particular. They may be small, but can sure be explosive!

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