Putting his money where his mis­sus is

As this Swift Sport re­turns, an­other ar­rives; it’s a brother’s keeper

Wheels (Australia) - - Our Garage - TONY O’KANE

FA­MIL­IAR­ITY breeds con­tempt, so they say, but like so many well-worn max­ims that phrase doesn’t ap­ply to ev­ery­thing. It cer­tainly doesn’t ap­ply to the Swift Sport I’ve been driv­ing for the past five months.

I don’t want to give it back. That’s the sum­mary of how I feel about it. Can you blame me? It’s light, chuck­able, looks cool, is a cinch to park and sips fuel. The seats are great, it loves to be driven like a hooli­gan, and even the stress and duress of a track­day wasn’t enough to make it wilt. It’s a Jack Rus­sell of a car, burst­ing with en­ergy and play­ful to the ex­treme.

But this isn’t Stockholm Syn­drome. I’m not go­ing to ig­nore its flaws. For starters the gearshift ac­tion could be more pre­cise (I just drove the new Corolla in base-model man­ual form and it has a tighter gate), and the ex­haust note could be im­proved with some rau­cous bangs and bur­bles. The new Fi­esta ST that’s com­ing our way next year sounds wicked, but sadly the Suzuki does not.

There are other nig­gles like some hard plas­tics where they should prob­a­bly be soft, but it seems mean to mark down a main­stream B-seg­ment hatch­back for be­ing built to a price. Even so, none of these is­sues were enough to di­lute my en­thu­si­asm for the Swift Sport. I’d hold onto it for­ever if I could, but sadly AQH532 is the prop­erty of Suzuki Aus­tralia and needs to be re­turned.

So I did the next best thing and per­suaded my other half to buy one.

She didn’t take much con­vinc­ing. Hav­ing the Swift Sport in my drive­way for nearly half a year made it an easy sell – it’s a known quan­tity, af­ter all, and given she’s spent many hours in the pas­sen­ger seat she’s had plenty of time to de­cide whether she likes it or not. Other fac­tors were at play too, namely the abil­ity to run a no­vated lease through her work and the fact her ex­ist­ing car de­cided to fry its ECU.

To my eter­nal dis­may my dear girl­friend is any­thing but a car en­thu­si­ast, but she nev­er­the­less wanted some­thing with a bit more at­ti­tude than the aver­age hatch­back, and that was also avail­able with an au­to­matic and priced some­where in the mid-$20k re­gion. Tak­ing those cri­te­ria into ac­count, it’s ac­tu­ally sur­pris­ingly slim pick­ings. The Clio RS200 Sport is an an­i­mal when put in Race mode, but costs north of $30K, the Mazda3 SP25 is too sober in its cur­rent gen­er­a­tion, the Hyundai i30 SR is a smidge too ex­pen­sive at $29K with an auto, the Fi­esta ST is man­ual-only and Honda rudely re­fuses to act on my sug­ges­tion that it should pro­duce a Jazz Type R.

The plan­ets were clearly in align­ment then – the Swift Sport was the sweet spot. There was just one more hur­dle – fac­ing a car dealer.

If you be­lieve the stereo­type, car sales­men are greasy-haired, fork-tongued, slick-talk­ing char­la­tans. Much like car jour­nal­ists, in fact. The truth is some­what dif­fer­ent, at least as far as Suzuki’s sales staff were con­cerned. They ig­nored me al­most en­tirely, but that’s be­cause they homed in on the fact that it was my part­ner who was buy­ing and not me. For an in­dus­try that doesn’t have the great­est rep­u­ta­tion when it comes to serv­ing women, it was en­cour­ag­ing to see. Ku­dos, Suzuki.

Af­ter a test drive and some fairly pain­less bar­gain­ing, we had an or­der in for a white au­to­matic Swift Sport. The tim­ing is per­fect: as I wave good­bye to my Pikachu-yel­low Swift, a vanilla-white ex­am­ple rolls in to take its place in the O’kane garage. Ex­cept this time, this one’s go­ing to stick around a lot longer.

IN­COM­ING! It’s exit stage right for our yel­low Swift Sport, mak­ing way for the (prop­erly) long-term tighty­whitey that re­places it

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