Small in size but big on performance
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.