Suzi’s star to steer by
Forgo creature comforts and set a course for one of the best drives in the light-car class
SUZUKI has always forged its own path in the automotive industry. Now it has smoothed the way to Swift ownership with the cheapest satnav-equipped light car in the business.
The Swift GL Navigator should be on the list of anyone looking for a small vehicle with plenty of personality and a core ethic of driving pleasure.
Engineering over elegance is the motto of the latest Swift. As such, the $17,490 GL Navigator is a match for the Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 on performance and driving.
It is fitted with a 1.4-litre engine (70kW/130Nm) matched to a five-speed manual gearbox and that’s on a par with many entry level cars in this segment.
Satnav apart, standard gear runs from steering wheelmounted audio switches and cruise control to Bluetooth with audio streaming.
People increasingly prefer their creature comforts to cornering prowess, which is why the Swift is fighting with the Kia Rio and Volkswagen Polo for sixth place in the light car segment, rather than sitting near the top of the pack.
Opt for the Swift Sport and there are 17-inch alloys and 1.6litre engine (100kW/160Nm) fitted to a six-speed manual. It can’t match the value equation of the GL but at $24,490 is about $5000 cheaper than a VW Polo GTI. But then there’s the Fiesta ST at $25,990 …
The big feature in the GL and GLX Navigator models is the 6.1inch touchscreen with Garmin satnav. The graphics aren’t hires but are clear to read and the satnav itself is one of the simpler versions to learn without resorting to the driver’s manual.
A surfeit of soft-touch plastics and conservative exterior styling handicaps the Thaibuilt car at first glance. That in turn deters some buyers from taking it for a spin to see just how well it drives.
Panel fit is top-notch inside and out and the seats are well bolstered. Boot space is just 210L, which will take a couple’s groceries but struggles with a family of four. Conversely, the Swift doesn’t struggle to accommodate four adults.
No issues here. An ANCAP rating of 35.55/37 betters the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo and puts the Swift into prime contention for first-car buyers.
A driver’s knee bag pushes the air cushion count to seven and the car’s light weight means the rear drum brakes aren’t noticed.
If driving a light car means more than getting from point A to B, the Swift is a smart choice; the Swift Sport a sensational one.
Both are reminiscent of early hot hatches that relied on a communicative chassis and a high-revving engine rather than a turbo powerplant to maintain momentum.
The 1.4 and 1.6 engines prefer high revs and, while that intrudes on cabin ambience, it adds a visceral engagement level few cars can match.
Throw it into a corner and the grip is as good as it gets, while drivers are rewarded for correct gear selection by a rorty exhaust note and a decent surge of power on exit.
It is only climbing hills with a full complement that the engine feels underdone on the base model. Steering feedback is near best afield and the suspension is firm without degenerating into harshness.
Simply put, the GL is the best of breed for drivers as an entry-level vehicle. The upspec Swift Sport is almost as good in isolation but in terms of price and performance then runs into the Fiesta ST. Ford’s hot mini-hatch has reset the bar and the range-topping Suzuki needs either a touch more grunt or a touch less price.
It’s what’s on the inside that counts with the Swift GL Navigator — from the cabin fitout to the mechanicals.
It might not be as cosseting as the opposition but it is among the best driving cars in this class.