Suzuki Swift ticks all the right boxes

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODMOTORING - KEVIN RITCHIE

THE SUZUKI Swift 1.6 Sport 6MT ap­pears quite omi­nous, when you first lay eyes on it – some­thing that’s not helped by the huge SUZUKI em­bla­zoned down each side and the green and white go-faster stripes that run from the bon­net all the way over the roof, across the back and down to the rear spoiler, brack­eted by a tri­an­gu­lar red com­pan­ion emerg­ing from the chas­sis.

I’ve had cars with huge stickers on them be­fore – ex­tolling their of­froad ca­pa­bil­i­ties in the same way that mid­dle-aged men comb their hair for­ward and wear “I climbed Kil­i­man­jaro” T-shirts that strain over their bel­lies – nei­ther tends to end well.

On the plus side, it does make los­ing the car in a crowded shop- ping mall park­ing lot that much harder.

The il­lu­sion of speed con­tin­ues with the low-pro­file wheels and the Mar­vel-ish green-tint shade on the matt black rims. Inside, the driver and front pas­sen­ger have con­tour­shaped seats that are firmer than most – a hint of the prom­ise in the en­gine com­part­ment be­yond.

The trim in the cabin is Spe­cial Ops black, leav­ened by red stitch­ing, with red di­als on the cen­tre con­sole and a mod-con leather-clad steer­ing wheel with in­te­grated au­dio, cruise and cell­phone con­trols. But, for once, the hype is worth it.

The 1 600 en­gine in the Swift Sprint pumps out 100kW, which is a sling­shot on a car this size. The PR blurb rab­bits on about the twin ex­hausts, but they don’t pro­vide the same manic gur­gle in neu­tral or roar like a ra­bid Jack Rus­sell when the throt­tle is pushed flat à la the ridicu­lously fun Fiat 500 with Abarth con­ver­sion.

But the Swift flies up the road none­the­less, is firm-footed into cor­ners and solid on the straights, mak­ing you ap­pre­ci­ate the rigid­ity of the seats and the lit­tle lips at the side of your back and your thighs as the ac­cel­er­a­tion pushes you into their em­brace.

In fact, it does share some­thing with the Abarth 500; it’s fun to drive, se­ri­ously fun in a more-ish kind of way, like the silly sap in the Toy­ota ad who climbs into his Fortuner in the mid­dle of a storm to get his copy of his news­pa­per.

For its price (R260 900), it ships with a full range of mod­cons: key- less en­try and exit, push-but­ton ig­ni­tion, USB-ca­pa­ble sound sys­tem (and CD drive), Blue­tooth cell­phone con­nec­tiv­ity and cruise con­trol along with the stan­dard on-board safety kit you’d ex­pect in a ve­hi­cle with this ca­pa­bil­ity.

Be warned, the USB is rudi­men­tary and you’ll have to get out the in­struc­tion man­ual to pair your cell­phone – which I didn’t be­cause I don’t do in­struc­tion man­u­als un­til it’s five past too late.

The boot is small, but if you want big­ger, the Swift does come as a sedan (which al­most de­feats the ob­ject), the seats in the back can fold flat in typ­i­cal hatch­back style, but here’s the thing: if you want a Swift – and by a Swift I’m talk­ing about a Swift Swift (sport mode) – all these added at­trac­tions are su­per­flu­ous to the main event: does the car per­form?

Does it feel safe when you boot it up? Can the lights show you when you’re go­ing faster than you ought to down one of Jo­han­nes­burg’s now typ­i­cally dark ar­te­rial roads at night?

Is there room for you to go away for the week­end? Can you take a cou­ple of friends with you?

The an­swer is yes.

For its price, the Suzuki Swift Sport ships with a full range of mod­cons: key­less en­try and exit and cruise con­trol, along with the stan­dard on-board safety kit, among oth­ers.

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