Suzuki Swift 1,2 GL

Suzuki’s most pop­u­lar global model ar­rives to fur­ther bol­ster this brand’s al­ready im­pres­sive line-up The Swift GL tested here reg­is­tered just 872 kg

Car (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

If there’s a dis­cern­able spring in the step of Suzuki Auto South Africa em­ploy­ees at the mo­ment, it’s be­cause the cards ap­pear to be fall­ing neatly into place for this pop­u­lar Ja­panese brand. While mod­els like the cheer­ful Cele­rio and quirky Ig­nis con­tinue to wel­come an in­creas­ing num­ber of bud­get-conscious South African buy­ers into the warm em­brace of the mul­ti­ple award-win­ning Suzuki sta­ble, 2018 is shap­ing to be the year this mar­que plays two mas­sive trump cards. Not only is the In­ter­net cur­rently abuzz with news of the re­turn­ing Jimny, but Suzuki’s local prod­uct port­fo­lio has also been bol­stered by the ar­rival of an all-new ver­sion of the brand’s best­selling model to date: the Swift.

In 2008, the Swift name­plate in­tro­duced many South Africans to the thrifty charm of the then­re­turn­ing Suzuki brand. Over the fol­low­ing decade (and through two model gen­er­a­tions), it has ce­mented its place as a well-

Like its fore­bear, the new Swift goes big on value for money Ryan Bubear

Re­tains the like­able light­weight charm of its pre­de­ces­sor but per­ceived qual­ity has taken a dip Gareth Dean

Cheap, cheer­ful and as en­ter­tain­ing as ever to drive Ian Mclaren

specced, fru­gal and en­ter­tain­ing al­ter­na­tive to the estab­lish­ment, whether as an en­try-level of­fer­ing in its first ten­ure, or as a slightly more grown-up prospect with the launch of the (global) third-gen­er­a­tion here in 2011.

Shar­ing the same HEARTECT plat­form as the Baleno and the Ig­nis, the fourth-gen­er­a­tion Swift sac­ri­fices some of the dis­tinct neat­ness that was a hall­mark of its fore­bear’s design in search of in­creased in­te­rior space and im­proved pack­ag­ing. Although the new car is slightly shorter than the model it re­places – and de­spite the in­clu­sion of a dark­ened C-pil­lar and a hid­den rear door-han­dle ex­e­cu­tion – a waist­line that’s 40 mm wider than that of its pre­de­ces­sor does make it seem a tad more bloated. To­gether with suit­ably ad­justed track widths (40 mm in front and 35 mm at the rear), Suzuki has also man­aged to stretch the Swift’s wheel­base by 20 mm compared with be­fore.

Yet the most sig­nif­i­cant ad­van- tage af­forded by this new plat­form is mass man­age­ment. As noted with other mod­ern Suzuki hatches we’ve re­cently tested, model for model the new Swift has shed roughly 100 kg. Where the more com­pact 1,4 GLS tested in June 2011 tipped our scales at 1 010 kg, the new top-of-therange GL ver­sion (in­clud­ing op­tional al­loy wheels) tested here reg­is­tered just 872 kg.

Where the afore­men­tioned GLS model as­sessed seven years ago saw off a Volk­swa­gen Polo and Toy­ota Yaris, the new Swift re­turns to its roots by tar­get­ing the more bud­get-friendly seg­ment of the local small­hatch­back mar­ket. It’s within this seg­ment that the hard plas­tics and rel­a­tively ba­sic switchgear found in the new Swift feel both more ac­cept­able and rock solid by com­par­i­son. While Suzuki cer­tainly has ac­cess to mod­ern touch­screen in­fo­tain­ment sys­tems in other mar­kets, the pres­ence here of a neatly in­te­grated and in­tu­itive au­dio sys­tem

in­cor­po­rat­ing mod­ern func­tion­al­ity like Blue­tooth and a USB port, feels ad­e­quate in this cheer­fully back-to-ba­sics pack­age.

While the cloth-cov­ered seat­ing is among the most com­fort­able we’ve ex­pe­ri­enced in this seg­ment, the in­clu­sion of ei­ther reach ad­just­ment on the steer­ing col­umn (to com­ple­ment rake move­ment) or height ad­just­ment on the driver’s seat would have been wel­comed. That said, de­spite all the Swift’s seats now placed lower for im­proved com­fort (in­clud­ing head­room), all-round vis­i­bil­ity out of the cabin re­mains ex­cel­lent. In terms of pack­ag­ing, a more sig­nif­i­cant gain over the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion has been 72 litres in lug­gage ca­pac­ity.

A fur­ther con­ces­sion to­wards economies of scale has seen Suzuki Auto South Africa forego the in­tro­duc­tion of the tur­bocharged 1,0-litre Boost­er­jet en­gine op­tion of­fered in other Swift mar­kets in favour of the con­tin­u­a­tion of service for the brand’s ven­er­a­ble nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 1,2-litre Dual­jet (K12M) en­gine. De­spite a mod­est 61 kw and 113 N.m of torque, when mated with an im­pres­sively pre­cise and eas­ily work­able five-speed man­ual trans­mis­sion (an au­to­mat­ed­man­ual ver­sion is also avail­able in GL spec), it’s an en­gine that thrives in the new Swift’s wel­ter­weight frame. Free revving and buzzy, this driv­e­train com­bi­na­tion feels par­tic­u­larly sprightly round town and – de­spite what the out­puts sug­gest – grants this Suzuki a play­ful pseudo-hothatch per­sona. Even with­out a taller sixth gear ra­tio, the 1 197 cm3 en­gine is still able to set­tle into a cruise while cov­er­ing longer dis­tances. A fur­ther feather in this driv­e­train’s cap is a reg­is­tered CAR fuel-route fig­ure of just 5,1 L/100 km.

While the com­bi­na­tion of a light­weight vari­able-ra­tio electric power-steer­ing setup and an im­pos­si­bly tight 9,6-me­tre turn­ing cir­cle make the Swift easy to ma­noeu­vre round the tight con­fines of a city cen­tre, the some­what vague na­ture of this tiller ac­tion can prove tire­some on the open road. This is no­tably around its straight-ahead point and in strong cross­winds, where the Swift’s low mass do it no favours.

Even on op­tional 15-inch al­loy wheels, the Swift’s suspension setup of­fers an im­pres­sively fluid ride qual­ity that should eas­ily cope with most road im­per­fec­tions, while still boast­ing re­spectable lev­els of bal­ance and body con­trol which, at worst, sees the 1,2 GL de­fault to man­age­able un-

der­steer should the bound­aries be pushed.

Feel­ing suit­ably light on its feet, the new Suzuki is not only able to change di­rec­tion with ad­mirable ef­fi­ciency, but also shed speed with rel­a­tive ease. With ABS (with EBD and BA) fit­ted through­out the three-model range, we were able to achieve a re­spectable av­er­age emer­gency brak­ing time of 3,1 sec­onds. Also in­cluded through­out are dual front airbags and Isofix child-seat-an­chor­age points at the rear.

TEST SUM­MARY

Com­pact and char­ac­ter­ful are what Suzuki does best and the ar­rival of the all-new Swift cer­tainly em­pha­sises this fact. From the Cele­rio to the Ig­nis and the un­der­rated seven-seat Er­tiga, no one can ac­cuse Suzuki of not cov­er­ing all of its bases when it comes to of­fer­ing South Africa’s af­ford­able mo­tor­ing both with a touch of charm and, cru­cially, a proven rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity and value for money. A quick glance at this test’s ac­com­pa­ny­ing spec­i­fi­ca­tions sheet re­veals one of the cheap­est bas­kets of re­place­ment parts prices we’ve ever en­coun­tered.

While the larger Baleno is the Suzuki now tasked with tak­ing on the likes of the Polo, new Ford Fiesta and Yaris, the neat pack­ag­ing and con­sid­ered stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion of the new Swift range looks set to help it stamp its author­ity on the cheap and cheer­ful sub-r200 000 brigade.

clock­wise from right Ba­sic in its op­er­a­tion, the GL’S stan­dard in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem does of­fer fairly com­pre­hen­sive func­tion­al­ity, in­clud­ing USB and aux-in ports neatly sited be­low the fa­cia where a plugged-in smart­phone is within reach; clear and con­cise in­stru­men­ta­tion.

from top Fresh design in­cludes a blacked-out C-pil­lar and hid­den door han­dles; test unit fit­ted with op­tional chrome sills and al­loys.

clock­wise from top Steer­ing col­umn is ad­justable only for rake; lower seat­ing po­si­tion all-round frees up head­room; boot is 72 litres larger than be­fore, although the drop to the boot floor is high.

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