The spirited and budget-beating Suzuki Swift | Fin24

The spirited and budget-beating Suzuki Swift

Mar 12 2019 08:56
Glenda Williams

The local vehicle market might be stagnant but the Suzuki brand, which relaunched in South Africa in 2008, managed to grow sales by 37% in the last calendar year. 

The award-winning Japanese manufacturer has also twice claimed the ‘Brand of the Year’ title locally (2016/17 and 2017/18). 

Looks like Suzuki are doing a lot of things right. And the Swift is no exception.

Reigning Japanese Car of the Year and a runner-up in the World Car of the Year awards, the Suzuki Swift has had its share of success locally too. 

Besides healthy sales, the all-new Suzuki Swift – the fourth generation of the popular supermini – also triumphed in the ‘Budget Car’ category at the recent 2018/19 Consumer Awards, besting even smaller vehicle contenders. 

The Suzuki Swift competes in the hotly contested budget B-segment alongside rivals like the Ford Figo, Hyundai Grand i10, Renault Sandero, Toyota Aygo and VW Vivo.

One of three Swift models currently on offer locally, the GL that finweek tested sits between the entry-level GA and GL automatic. 

All come with a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine.

Outside view

The compact hatchback has good proportions and pleasing design lines with a neat overall look that is also gender neutral. 

Along with this supermini’s floating roof design, black grille and front fog lamps, come black A and B pillars and hidden back door handles. 

The latter add to the clean unbroken body lines and give the back half of the car a somewhat chunkier and more purposeful flair. 

Curvaceous flanks, LED tail lights and black audio antenna complete the rear view.

The 5-door compact but perfectly formed Swift is not quite as narrow as one would expect. 

While shorter by 10mm than the previous generation, it is now wider by 40mm, thus amply filling the average parking bay.

Capacious capsule

The Swift’s capsule is surprisingly spacious for a compact car. 

The interior is predominantly practical with few bells or whistles or costly trim features. 

Cloth seats and durable trim elements like hard plastic are the order of the day but are of a good fit and finish and pretty stylish to boot.

Budget this car may be, but its offerings are far from that. 

This popular supermini comes standard with front and rear electric windows, alarm and immobiliser, remote central locking, power steering and tilt adjustable steering wheel with its multi-function buttons.

The GL model tested by finweek also comes standard with MP3, USB and auxiliary ports, CD player and Bluetooth connectivity, as well as electrically adjustable door mirrors. 

Great bang for those hard-earned bucks, especially for millennials – who are the Swift’s biggest market.

It may be compact, but interior space is not in the least compromised, either in the driver-orientated cockpit or in the rear where entrance is via the integrated rear door handles. 

The rear is capable of accommodating three moderately sized adults, with legroom more than generous for a car of this size. 

The boot too has had a 58-litre increase over the former generation, endowing the Swift with a now competitive 268 litres of loading space.

Its budget status means an infotainment display that does not offer touchscreen interfacing. 

Nonetheless, after a short time of finding my way around by pushing buttons and knobs, features like smartphone pairing turned out to be a pretty quick and seamless affair. 

There is no mistaking the car’s inherent simplicity and honesty and the absence of complexity to the infotainment and switchgear. 

It’s got what you need and what it’s got is easy to understand and operate. 

Road trip

It’s a cracking little car, spirited and fun to drive, and sturdy on the road. 

Inherently unpretentious, this supermini does all it needs to do with little fanfare and oodles of enthusiasm.

Mechanically, the all-new Swift is powered by a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated engine mated to a smooth-changing, five-speed manual transmission. I’m a fan of naturally aspirated engines. 

I love the honesty of the power supply; there’s no turbo lag – you put your foot down and know what you are going to get. 

The engine noise is authentic, with there being a distinct lack of the high-pitched whine that is often evident in smaller turbocharged engines.

This generation of Swift rides on new platform architecture. 

Stiffer and now lighter by 95kg over the previous model, driving performance is more spirited. 

Ironically, while shorter in length, the wheelbase is 20mm longer, aiding in a more agile driving experience. 

Sturdy and spacious, this endearing budget beater is immensely pleasant to pilot. 

It is composed and pliant even over blemished surfaces. 

The ride is comfy, the engine peppy, which together with smooth gearing delivers a responsive drive with no flat spots. 

Equally impressive is build quality. 

No annoying squeaks or rattles in this compact runaround.

Cabin insulation is decent and while all-round visibility is mostly good, the exception is rearward visibility that is somewhat hampered by the C-pillar and integrated door handle area. This creates a bit of a blind spot.

ABS braking is sharp and it’s pretty taut on the road albeit less grippy at high speeds. 

That appears to be more a factor of tyre size, though. 

The Swift rides on 14-inch tyres, making it unreasonable to expect the grippiness that comes with fatter takkies.

On to fuel efficiency. During the test I managed an average of 5.5 litres/100km with at least half of my travels in bumper-to-bumper, stop-start traffic. 

The balance of my sorties took place on busy highways with mostly free-flowing traffic as well as short urban hops. 

While not quite the claimed 4.9-litres/100km, I need to fess up to the fact that I consciously maintained a heavy foot to test fuel economy and sought out plenty of inclines that required much gearing down. 

All told, I was pleasantly surprised by the Swift’s frugality.

The Swift is a true compact urban vehicle with a nifty turning circle of 4.8 metres and a decent ground clearance of 145mm. 

Something worth remembering, though, is that the doors do not lock automatically before driving off and need to be manually secured.

This year sees Suzuki introducing turbocharged engines into its model line-up. 

Turbocharged engines are becoming increasingly popular because of their ability to offer greater fuel efficiency and power from a smaller combustion volume.

One of the first recipients of a 1.4 Boosterjet engine will be the Suzuki Swift Sport. 

The racy engine will deliver 103kW of power and 230Nm of torque, with consumption a reasonably frugal 6.1 litres/100km.

The Swift Sport will be making its way to South Africa in June – and how that would affect price and consumer sentiment is a story yet to be played out. 

Still, I find it difficult to envisage South African motorists turning their backs on their beloved and reliable naturally aspirated Swift models any time soon.

What distinguish the Swift from its competitors are its offerings relative to its affordability. 

When it comes down to bang for buck, the Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL ticks all the boxes. 

It is an unpretentious little car yet imbued with character. 

Practical, reliable, highly competent and heaps of fun to drive, it is also affordable to purchase and economical to run. 

These traits have played a central role in the Suzuki Swift’s popularity domestically. Methinks they are likely to continue doing so. 

This article originally appeared in the 7 March edition of finweek. Buy and download the magazine here or subscribe to our newsletter here.


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