Just that lit­tle bit Swifter

New Suzuki is more of the same ... only a touch bet­ter

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Road Test - PAUL GOVER paul.gover@cars­guide.com.au

THE new Suzuki Swift has grown up. It is ex­actly what you ex­pect of a ma­jor new­comer in 2011— but with the same strengths as the out­go­ing car and enough im­prove­ments to jus­tify a change.

The styling is a let­down: more like a facelift than a true model change but the off­set is pro­vided by a start­ing sticker price that’s the same as the ba­sic Swift from 2005.

That means from $15,990 for the man­ual-only Swift GA, al­though even that car now comes with seven airbags and ESP sta­bil­ity con­trol.

The Swift con­tin­ues as a boxy five-door hatch that’s easy to drive and park, and it’s still a se­ri­ous ri­val to a range of small cars that in­cludes the bench­mark Volk­swa­gen Polo, Toy­ota’s Yaris and the age­ing Honda Jazz.

VALUE The bot­tom line is the bot­tom line for bar­gain-base­ment buy­ers and Suzuki has done well here— true, it’s been helped by the strength of the Aussie dol­lar— to hold the start­ing price down to $15,990.

Most cus­tomers are go­ing for the slightly up­scale GL from $16,690, mostly be­cause it is avail­able with Suzuki’s four­speed auto but also be­cause it gets a slightly bet­ter dash­board with a revcounter and USB sound in­put as well as ex­tra paint on the ba­sic plas­tic parts.

The Swift now comes with a 1.4-litre en­gine but there is prom­ise of more go in an up­com­ing Swift Sport.

Suzuki say the Swift gains sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence from the

mid-sized Kiza­shi, par­tic­u­larly in the dash­board de­sign and cabin qual­ity, while trum­pet­ing the suc­cess of the pre­vi­ous model, which set a Suzuki record by hit­ting two-mil­lion sales. There are three mod­els: GA, GL and GLX with the topline car go­ing to $18,990 or $20,690 as an auto.

TECH­NOL­OGY There is noth­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary in the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Swift.

The 1.4-litre en­gine is new and brings 70kW and 130Nm with av­er­age econ­omy of 5.5 litres/100km and CO emis­sions of 132 grams/km.

How­ever, the auto is still only a four-speeder.

The car has a slightly longer wheel­base to im­prove ride and add some mil­lime­tres in the cabin. Suzuki claims ev­ery­thing from im­proved brak­ing to sharper elec­tric steer­ing, as well as bet­ter ride com­fort from a tweaked tor­sion-beam rear sus­pen­sion.

The de­vel­op­ment team’s motto for the new Swift was sim­ple More Swift’,’’ said Suzuki Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager Tony Dev­ers.

‘‘

DE­SIGN

2 You could eas­ily be for­given for think­ing that some­one put the pre­vi­ous Swift into a 3D pho­to­copier and set the re­sult to 105 per cent.

So it’s a very, very, fa­mil­iar fam­ily look. The last Swift was a rev­e­la­tion when it ar­rived, and it scooped the 2005

Car of the Year award— but the new shape is pre­dictable and noth­ing spe­cial.

Even so, the dash­board is far more mod­ern and more user­friendly and the over­all space in­side is also more com­fort­able and en­joy­able.

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SAFETY Suzuki claims class-lead­ing safety thanks to seven airbags and the usual ABS-ESP combo. That im­por­tant sev­enth bag is for the driver’s knees.

The great news here for buy­ers is that all this pro­tec­tion comes on the ba­sic car, and not through an ex­tra-cost safety pack­age or ex­clu­sively on the flag­ship model.

The pre­vi­ous Swift was a five-star car and Suzuki is ex­pect­ing the same score for the new model.

DRIV­ING The new Swift is, like so many cars these days, big­ger, smoother, and bet­ter. But it is miss­ing the sur­prise-and­de­light fea­tures of the pre­vi­ous model. The cabin is a bit bet­ter— and there is a touch of Kiza­shi in the de­sign and con­trols— but it’s still not, well . . . spe­cial.

Suzuki has done some re­ally great cars in re­cent years, most no­tably with the pre­vi­ous Swift and the Kiza­shi. How­ever, this one is merely good.

If that sounds like crit­i­cism, it is. But not be­cause of any faults in the car. It’s just that Suzuki can, and should, do bet­ter and will need to do more to com­pete with its ri­vals.

The Volk­swa­gen Polo costs a fair bit more but is the new bench­mark in the class.

The Swift must also be shopped against the im­pres­sive Ford Fi­esta and even the age­ing Toy­ota Yaris.

It’s hard to make di­rect com­par­isons, with so many body styles and en­gines among the op­po­si­tion, but the Swift is right in the five-door heart­land with its 1.4-litre en­gine. It is a good drive, and has good space for the class, with good value.

It rides bet­ter than be­fore, is fairly sharp in its steer­ing re­sponse, but the en­gine is let down in the four-speed auto.

VER­DICT Nice car, nice drive, very good pric­etag. But we ex­pected more.

Same-same look: Suzuki’s stylists rolled the arm on the­newSwift

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