Small in size but big on per­for­mance

Kapiti Observer - - OUT & ABOUT -

The big news sur­round­ing the ar­rival of Suzuki’s lat­est Swift is that for the first time, one model is tur­bocharged. And that speaks vol­umes about the ef­fi­ciency of new-age three cylin­der en­gines, says

The other day we climbed into an RS ver­sion of the new Suzuki Swift, started it and lis­tened to the quiet thrum of its Boost­erJet three-cylin­der en­gine.

We moved the car’s six-speed au­to­matic into Drive and moved off. Once we’d toured out of the city and on to coun­try roads, we snicked the trans­mis­sion down into anM­mode and be­gan to work the gears man­u­ally via pad­dles on the steer­ing wheel.

The thrum got louder, but not in­tru­sively so. As the rev counter nee­dle moved up to­wards the red line be­fore each gear change, the lit­tle tur­bocharged 1-litre triple sang cheer­fully as we treated our­selves to an en­thu­si­as­tic drive in this very nice new hatch­back.

Take note of those words, folks. Triple. One litre. Tur­bocharged. It’s some­thing we’re see­ing more and more of - car com­pa­nies in­stalling small and ef­fi­cient tur­bocharged three cylin­der en­gines into their ve­hi­cles in the in­ter­ests of su­pe­rior fuel econ­omy and lower ex­haust emis­sions, but not at the ex­pense of per­for­mance.

This new Suzuki Swift RS is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of this trend. It’s what can best be de­scribed as a warm ad­di­tion to the Swift lineup - the lesser mod­els are pow­ered by a nor­mally-as­pi­rated 1.2-litre DualJet mul­ti­point fuel in­jected en­gine that de­vel­ops 66 kilo­watts of power and 120 New­ton me­tres of torque; the RS’ di­rect-in­jected and tur­bocharged Boost­erJet en­gine de­vel­ops 82kW of power and 160Nm of torque, with the torque avail­able from just 1500rpm right through to 4000rpm.

At the top of the Swift lineup there’s the hot model, the Sport - but at present that con­tin­ues to be the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion hatch, which is pow­ered by a nor­mallyaspi­rated 1.6-litre DOHC that de­vel­ops 100kW and 160Nm.

The Sport is go­ing to be re­placed by a new-gen­er­a­tion model next year, and while Suzuki New Zealand isn’t say­ing any­thing, word is that it will be pow­ered by a same 1.4-litre tur­bocharged Boost­erJet en­gine that cur­rently pow­ers the Suzuki Vi­tara Turbo.

That en­gine of­fers 103kW and 220Nm, so it will make for great driv­ing in a lit­tle hatch weigh­ing in at less than 1000kg.

The three-cylin­der en­gine in the RS is es­sen­tially the Vi­tara’s four cylin­der unit with one cylin­der re­moved. What the Suzuki en­gi­neers have then done is pur­pose­fully un­bal­anced the crank­shaft fly­wheel to get rid of any in­her­ent three-cylin­der im­bal­ance, and the end re­sult is a power unit that op­er­ates smoothly. The tra­di­tional three­cylin­der thrum is still there, but it is among the qui­etest I’ve ex­pe­ri­enced.

On the road, that new en­gine con­trib­utes to the feel­ing that this Swift RS is a larger car. At the ur­ban speeds it is flex­i­ble and easy to drive, and at the higher open road speeds the lit­tle triple al­lows it­self to be revved out dur­ing more en­thu­si­as­tic driv­ing.

It rides and han­dles well, too. It’s built on a new highly rigid plat­form that is called Hear­t­ect which fea­tures 41 per cent high ten­sile steel, and although the new Swift is slightly smaller than the old, the wheel­base has been length­ened by 20mm and the car sits lower, which means han­dling ca­pa­bil­ity is ex­cel­lent.

Talk­ing of di­men­sions, the slightly smaller bodyshell size doesn’t trans­late to less in­te­rior room - there’s more. Cabin width is es­pe­cially good, with the front seats com­fort­able and with good bol­ster­ing.

At the RS level the Swift gets such safety fea­tures as dual sen­sor brake sup­port, lane de­par­ture and sway warn­ing, and adap­tive cruise con­trol. The car also has LED pro­jec­tor head­lights, and a spe­cial fea­ture (re­mem­ber, this car costs $25,990) is high beam as­sist, which au­to­mat­i­cally moves the lights be­tween high beam and dip when­ever an­other car is ap­proach­ing.

The Suzuki Swift is the most pop­u­lar car among New Zealand’s pri­vate buy­ers, achiev­ing close to 20,000 pri­vate sales dur­ing the past 12 years, way ahead of the 14,000 sales achieved by sec­ond­placed Toy­ota Corolla and the 13,000 sales by third-placed Toy­ota Hilux ute.

When a brand-new fourth­gen­er­a­tion Swift was launched in 2005 - it was the brand’s first world car - its Euro­pean-in­spired lines and sporty char­ac­ter im­me­di­ately struck a chord with New Zealand’s pri­vate buy­ers - par­tic­u­larly women - and sales took off.

They haven’t abated since. For the past decade the Swift has eas­ily been the most pop­u­lar Suzuki in New Zealand with a to­tal of close to 33,000 sales, its pop­u­lar­ity con­tribut­ing strongly to a sit­u­a­tion where Suzuki com­mands a mas­sive 32 per cent share of the light ve­hi­cle seg­ment.

That pop­u­lar­ity is sure to con­tinue, if the qual­ity of this new Swift RS is any in­di­ca­tion. Not only does it re­tain the in­ter­na­tional looks that have helped make the Swift so very pop­u­lar since 2005, but the tur­bocharged triple en­gine helps make it a solid per­former as well.

It’s clearly one of the out­stand­ing new ve­hi­cle launches of the year so far.

The new Suzuki Swift RS, fea­tur­ing a body de­sign that is the same but dif­fer­ent and more mod­ern.

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