New Suzukis turn back the clock
In those halcyon days of open beaches and when we all just about lived on the dunes, Eastern Cape’s beaches were famous for VW Beetle-based buggies, and the odd expensive 4x4 double cab – but, mostly, for a diminutive 4x4 Suzuki that proved perfect for sea-sand work – and the great fishing that went with it.
That was the first and only four-wheel Suzuki in SA then – among all the Suzi superbikes – and it made a good name for itself, being a tough two-person fun car that stood up well to the bump and grind of beach work – and rust.
Now we have a handy range of Suzuki compacts in SA, members of which are equally nuggety and as character-filled as were those pioneering little 4x4s.
Here, I am looking at the new Swift hatchback GL, a wannabe, young and sporty five-door, and the sedan, Dzire GL, with a rather more substantial boot, more for family affairs.
Except for the 1,2-litre drivetrain, the two in this double-header road test are very different, satisfying different motoring needs. But both are “Honest Injun” little machines – no turbos and no over-complication.
No joking either, these revamped Suzukis are, indeed, built in India and fully imported. I have to admit that I thus paid extra attention to build quality of both test cars, at the thought of this.
I need not have worried, as Suzuki keeps a close watch on quality matters at its three Indian manufacturing facilities, and these were as good as anything right out of Japan, with tight body panel cut lines and all-round solid feel. Fact is, all the Suzukis have scored very well in European standard NCAP crash test exercises. This says much for their design and build integrity.
The double overhead camshaft four-cylinder motor and five-speed manual gearbox are common to both of these cars. Output from the 1 197cc unit is 61 kW at 6,000 r/min and 113 Nm of torque at 4,200 r/min.
I felt they are nicely geared for bread- and-butter motoring at sea level, and top speed is 175 km/h and zero to 100 km/h acceleration is 12 seconds.
These are not earth-shattering performances, but it’s comforting in that fuel economy is more a priority and both registered frugal fuel usage of around the 5,3 l/100km mark under normal driving conditions. That’s mainly because the updated versions are some 75kg lighter than previously, and new engine management tweaks now come in to play. Both machines are nimble and light to drive and, thanks mainly to a tight turning circle of only 4,8 m, are highly manoeuvrable for parking.
The spruced-up Swift has a new grille shape called “polygonal” by Suzuki, and front bumper design, while the Dzire, additionally, has a new headlight cluster and rear bumper shape. No aluminium alloy wheels to be seen, but the steel, 15-inch rims do have full-size wheel covers.
The Swift is now 10 mm shorter and 40 mm wider, yet inside space has been enhanced with this hatchback in that the rear seat upright is split 60-40 for access through to the boot for fitting awkward objects, while there is oodles more rear seat legroom – additional 55 mm – in the four-door Dzire, for tall folk.
Lanky individuals will also appreciate that remarkable headroom is provided in both models. Upholstery in the Swift can be termed practical, while the Dzire’s was a smarter, black-hued cloth material.
Considering the reasonable price tags, R177,900 for the Swift GL and R178,900 for the Dzire GL, I appreciated the steering wheel controls for the audio system, tilt-adjustable steering column and the electrically adjustable side mirrors.
These items normally come in only more expensive models, as do the audio system with Blue Tooth
You can select from six different colour schemes – five of them better than the drab “Sherwood Brown” colour of our Dzire test car. Brown cars are not my favourite – pfffft. So, another car was photographed for our purposes.
This duo is backed by Suzuki’s five-year/200,000km mechanical warranty and its two-year/30,000km service plan.
Oh, and getting back to where it all started, there is a recently launched little Suzuki, now called Jimny, 4x4 that’s said to closely follow the reputable act of the 20-year-old ones.
HEART’S DESIRE: The new Suzuki Dzire is no longer a Swift clone. It’s now a stand-alone model with its own practical features, including more interior space and a big boot
COST SAVING: The performance might not be earth-shattering on the new Suzuki Swift but fuel consumption of 5.31/100km makes it frugal