FI­ESTA AND SWIFT HEAD TO HEAD

Stirling Times - - Driveway -

VALUE ★★★

A rel­a­tive bar­gain when in­tro­duced five years ago but the price hit $31,000 drive-away af­ter gain­ing built-in nav­i­ga­tion, rear view cam­era and il­lu­mi­nated sill cov­ers. Stan­dard fare al­ready in­cluded Re­caro racing seats, push but­ton start, pud­dle lamps un­der the auto-fold­ing mir­rors and auto-up power win­dows. War­ranty is three years/100,000km, ser­vice in­ter­vals 12 months/ 15,000km. Ser­vic­ing over three years is $1030. DE­SIGN ★★★

Its bold snout and sleek bodykit are a clue to its sport­ing in­tent. The in­te­rior fit and fin­ish are a mix of high qual­ity (soft dash­board ma­te­rial, large metal­lic vol­ume dial) and low rent (flimsy air­con di­als, cheap plas­tics every­where below el­bow height). There’s a space-saver spare; the Swift Sport only has an in­fla­tion kit.

EN­GINE ★★★★

The 1.6-litre turbo (134kW/240Nm) has plenty of oomph for a car just shy of 1200kg. Short gear­ing also helps. First gear runs out at 50km/h and sec­ond is done by 90km/h, which hurts 0-100km/h times but makes it su­per-re­spon­sive be­tween gear changes. It can run reg­u­lar un­leaded but prefers pre­mium. SAFETY ★★★

Seven airbags, rear view cam­era, rear park­ing sen­sors and auto emer­gency 000 di­alling if airbags are de­ployed in a crash. In 2013 it earned a five-star score based on 2009 crash tests but it wouldn’t get five stars to­day as it lacks some cur­rent tech­nolo­gies. DRIV­ING ★★★★

The Re­caro seats hold you tight in cor­ners and the en­gine and gear­ing are matched for in­stant re­sponse. The steer­ing is more di­rect and bet­ter weighted than the Suzuki’s. The brakes have a sharp and pre­cise feel but the sus­pen­sion is a touch too busy at low speeds. En­thu­si­asts love it, those af­ter lux­ury not so much.

SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT $27,500 DRIVE-AWAY 19.5 POINTS

VALUE ★★★★

Suzuki is yet to pub­lish a drive-away price on­line; deal­ers quote $27,500-$29,500 drive-away. Over time it will get closer to the lower price. Stan­dard fare: builtin nav­i­ga­tion, Ap­ple CarPlay/An­droid Auto, rear-view cam­era, push but­ton start, radar cruise con­trol and more. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are six months/ 10,000km and rou­tine main­te­nance isn't cheap ($1438 over three years). War­ranty is three years/100,000km. DE­SIGN ★★★

A bold nose, bright colours, twin ex­hausts and sharp-look­ing al­loys im­prove an al­ready good-look­ing de­sign. Four-door body is handy, too. The seats are sporty and faux car­bon­fi­bre on the bumpers looks the busi­ness. The in­stru­ment screen has ev­ery­thing ex­cept the one thing it needs: a dig­i­tal speed dis­play.

EN­GINE ★★★★

The 1.4-litre turbo four is only marginally out­gunned in this com­pany (103kW/ 230Nm). Suzuki has copied Ford’s for­mula of short gear ra­tios. On the plus side, it feels ready to pounce in any gear. In the 0-100km/h con­test, it clocks 7.6 secs ver­sus 7.5 for the Fi­esta.

SAFETY ★★★★

Im­pres­sive stan­dard equip­ment in­cludes six airbags, AEB, lane wan­der warn­ing, radar cruise con­trol, and rear cam­era. Fives­tars for crash safety. DRIV­ING ★★★★

An ab­so­lute hoot: re­spon­sive, in­stan­ta­neous ac­cel­er­a­tion. Sharp brake pedal feel. Sur­pris­ingly sup­ple sus­pen­sion over bumps. Im­pres­sive brak­ing: it pulls up from 100km/h in a shorter dis­tance than the Ford. The steer­ing lacks the fi­nesse of the Ford but this is the clos­est Ja­pan has been to out­ma­noeu­vring a pint­size Euro hot hatch.

Ver­dict: The Fi­esta ST is the bet­ter driver's car over­all but the Swift Sport is eas­ier to live with day-to­day, just as much fun to drive, is cheaper and loaded with more tech­nol­ogy.

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