FROM THE CAREFULLY arranged chocolates and mini doughnuts in the hotel room to the very selection of the hotel - W Goa - a fabulous modern property perched atop a hill overlooking the expanse of the Arabian Sea, to the humongous spread that was laid out for the dinner, it was an experience in indulgence. Given how much of the seafood I piled on to my plate followed by generous helpings of haleem, some might even have called it gluttony. But indulgence it certainly was, and that is precisely the point that Maruti Suzuki was trying to emphasise - the new Dzire is the stepping stone to indulgence. But wasn’t the Dzire always about appealing to the head over the heart? Not too long ago, its appeal was encapsulated in the now iconic ‘kitna deti hai’ line, but true to Nobel winning Dylan’s words, “the times, they are a changin’.”

The first sign of indulgence in the new Dzire is in its proportions. Its length remains the same and overall height has actually reduced without compromising on head room, but the Dzire is now wider than before. It also sits lower than before at 163mm compared to the earlier 170mm ground clearance. The wheelbase has also increased, moving the wheels further to the corners. As a result of all these changes, the car’s stance is lower slung than before and there is a mild illusion of this being a longer Dzire. Put together, it gives the new Dzire some added presence on the road (well, heads did turn) and also makes it look a bit more premium than it has ever been. That’s as far as the proportions go. I’ll leave you to be your own judge where the external styling is concerned, because design and style are rather subjective to begin with. That said, the sculpting on the new car adds a bit of muscle to things.

In fact, there are times when you see fleeting glimpses of the Baleno in the new Dzire. After all, just like old times, the new Dzire is based on the new Swift - the one that was showcased in Geneva not too long ago. And the new Swift shares the Heartec platform with the Baleno. That also means that the Dzire has shed kilos. A full 85 kilos is what C V Raman, head of engineering at Maruti Suzuki told us, and before you ask, the weight reduction does make a difference. But we’ll get to that in a minute. First, the cabin...

The interiors are of course roomier, thanks to the increased wheelbase and the improved shoulder room and this does make the cabin a better place to be in. However, what really makes a difference is the use of dual tones along with chrome and faux wood garnishes. Although I am no fan of either chrome or faux wood, here they have been used tastefully and don’t seem overtly blingy. Maruti Suzuki has retained that touchscreen infotainment that we have become very familiar with. I think it is perfect, except that I’d probably have retained a rotary knob for the volume control. For everything else, I can only spare a thumb pointing skyward. I also liked the feel of the flat-bottomed steering wheel, even though the use of faux wood there, is totally out of place.

Strapped in, inside the petrol manual variant of the car (there were four variants that we drove), I could barely hear the engine. The tried and tested 1.2-litre K Series four-cylinder unit is super smooth with nary a vibration at idle and is mated to a five-speed manual. Again, nothing new there. Yet, in this Dzire it feels punchier and pulls more strongly, courtesy the weight that the car has lost. It revs cleanly to around 5000rpm and the going is quite sprightly. The gearbox is short throw and fairly precise, which means quick manual shifts are very possible, further adding to the joy of driving it. It’s bloody efficient too. We started our drive on a full tank with a range of just under 500km but after a full day’s driving up and down the roads of north Goa - we must have piled on more than 120km on the digital odo, we had consumed only a single bar of fuel!

Of course the diesel has an even greater range and you’ll travel further on every litre. That has always been a forte of the Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre Multijet unit that has now been doing duty successfully for close to a decade. Like in the petrol, the engine feels even punchier now and the dollops of torque that you get with the diesel will have you darting out of turns. We did. The Auto Gear Shift (AGS), which is the automated manual transmission, is available with both diesel and petrol variants. In both cases, the AGS robs the car of some driving pleasure in exchange for convenience. Even when you switch to manual mode there is still a difference between the AGS and the conventional manual. This difference is even more pronounced in the diesel variants.

Show her a turn and she will oblige with that characteristic understeer that all front-wheel drive cars display when cornering at speeds. The new Dzire is a decent enough handler and would have even been enjoyable but what mars the experience somewhat is the slightly vague, especially at dead centre, steering. As a result there is a mildly floaty character about the Dzire at triple-digit speeds or a tightening radius fast sweeper that is somewhat unsettling. Where the car excels though is in the ride quality department. At low to medium speeds, it irons out everything. Potholes, undulations, speed breakers or ruts... nothing will break your spine. At the bottom of the Dzire pyramid’s pricing chart is the figure `5.45 lakh for the bare basic petrol manual. But that’s the one for the oddball and the commercial transport operator. No, the one you really want will set you back by `8.41 lakh, ex-showroom and that’s the one that will appeal to your desire for indulgence. As for the rest of the range, they will continue to plead their cases before the head and less the heart.