My mates at Suzuki came up with a cool way for us journos to have a closer look at their cars. Instead of having a car to review for a week, they decided to make it three cars over a week, all from the same range – Swift. The Suzuki Swift range includes models for every budget - entry, mid and of course, top of the range.
My week of Swiftststs kicked off with the Dzire, which is slightly different to the others because it’s had a boot added making it a small sedan. It’s the 2nd most affordable in the range starting at R136 900 (there is a 1.2 Swift Hatchback available for a grand less) but I drove the 1.2 GL, which costs just R150 400. Having this model on test let me see just how handy the extra boot 90-litres of boot space is (300-litres in total). I used the car on my daily errands, which included heading to Pretoria for a photoshoot on some or other car I can’t recall right now. I was able to comfortably load in the camera bag, the bag with all my extras, three tripods and my strobe flashes.
There are three derivates of the Dzire, all powered by a 1.2-litre 4-pot motor making 63kW and 115Nm of torque. Two of them are 5-speed manual and one has a 4-speed auto ‘box. It’s punchy enough top get you around town at (or even above) the national speed limits. Of course this model isn’t about speed, it’s about getting you comfortably from A-B without breaking the bank. I come from a performance car background that can translate into a heavier right foot than most, but I still had the Dzire returning fuel consumption figures of a ridiculously low 4.2-litres/100km, a full litre below what Suzuki claims.
As said, I had the GL version, and this one costs more than the GA thanks to having Bluetooth, an MP3 audio CD tuner, central locking electric windows, fog lamps, power steering, keyless entry and a multi-function steering wheel making the price difference worth it. ABS, EBD and dual airbags are standard across the range. It’s a good car, and at the price it’s well worth the money. Having a 2-year/30 000km service plan and a 100 000km/36-month warranty is an added bonus.
The next Swift on my list was the 1.4 GLS in the more popular hatchback shape. At R201 900 is sits almost in the middle of the hatchback range. I was going to be passing the Suzuki SA head office and so I offered to stop in to swap cars instead of having it done at my house. It must have been no more than 100m from the parking spot back to the street and in that distance the difference between the GLS and the Dzire was immediately noticeable. The interior seemed to have a more solid fit and finish and while the materials used may be the same, they just looked better. Leaving the office park there are a few speed bumps, and after driving over them I could feel more differences – the GLS has a stiffer suspension setup and again felt more solid than the Dzire.
Don’t get me wrong, the Dzire isn’t bad, but the GLS is that much better. I headed back to Randburg side on the highway and got to feel what the 1.4 engine has to offer. The power difference isn’t that much, the 1.4 produces 70kW and 130Nm but again, the difference can clearly be felt. Peak power is at 6000rpm and that just means revs. I love revvy N/A motors and this little 1.4 is a real screamer. Keeping the RPM above 5000 is an easy task and the way the car goes and feels could easily fool you into believing there’s more power on tap than there actually is. 5.5-litres/100km is the consumption claim but on this test car it was using an average of 4.9-litres/100km – and I was keeping the revs high at least 90% of the time. Impressive.
The smaller boot will barely fit in a set of golf clubs, but that’s fine with me because I don’t own a set of golf clubs. My camera equipment packed in ok except things had to be stacked on top of one another this time. More often than not I travel alone so if more space is needed the back seats can be folded down to offer up 533-litres of usable space – that’s quite a lot in a small hatchback. Even with a small overall size, three of your mates will fit comfortably in the GLS, as long as you’re not mates with the starting lineup of a basketball team of course.
The standard features on the Suzuki Swift GLS are good too; you get a decent amount of kit for your money. Over and above what the Dzire offers, the GLS has a high-level brake light, cruise control, keyless entry and keyless go. The sound system is better too, I’m not sure if it’s because the components used are better or if it’s because the GLS has better insulation in the doors and dashboard.
The Suzuki Swift GLS surprised me, I expected it to be a good little car because that’s what Suzuki do, they make good little cars, but it was better in every respect and that’s always a good thing. It has the same 100 000km/36-month warranty but the service plan is increased to a 3-year/60 000km one. The next car on the list for me to test was the Suzuki Swift Sport, a car that I’ve always wanted to drive but have never had the chance. Well I’ve had the chance but something always came up to interfere...
The SSS is the top rung of the Swift ladder, it’s the beefier, meatier performance model and it aimed at driving enthusiasts, not people simply wanting to get to a destination. It’s priced at R241 900, a good R40 000 over the manual GLS, but what does that extra money get you? Quite a lot actually…
The Suzuki Swift Sport that’s in the press fleet has been given some visual loving in the form of some tastefully applied vinyl stickers in Suzuki racing colours (as seen on their GSXR superbikes) – and it looks great. Over the weekend that I was scheduled to drive the SSS (this is what fans of the car call it), Suzuki SA had a huge event on and I didn’t feel right having their branded car all to myself when it would be of better use on display at their event so I told them to rather keep it and let me have it at a later stage. Once again the car gods didn’t want me in the SSS. Two more weeks of waiting was the result, but as the saying goes some things are worth the wait.
It has all the same features as the GLS - Air con, MP3 audio CD tuner, Bluetooth, central locking, electric windows, fog lamps, a high-level brake light, cruise control, ABS, brake assist, EBD, keyless entire & go and a multi-function steering wheel. Airbag count is up from 2 to 6 though. There’s power steering too, but it’s been given different ratios, it’s a lot more precise with great feedback. The steering wheel is leather-bound with red stitching, which is something you’d expect in a model labeled as Sport. To go with this theme there’s also a black leather gear gaiter with red stitching, a brushed aluminium gear knob, dark clocks with brushed aluminium bezels and also brushed aluminium sports pedals with grippy rubber strips. That same brushed ally is found on the three spokes of the steering wheel and is splashed around key spots on the dash and doors. It really is a good-looking interior that’s been put together very well. It’s nice and solid and will last a lifetime. The seats are great, they’re in a breathable black cloth and they have the word Sport embroidered in them in red. The side bolsters have been raised to keep you firmly planted when chucking the car around bends – which is something you tend to do in the SSS. A lot.
Exterior differences are easily noticable, the SSS rolls on 16-inch alloys that look good, although I suspect many owners will change to 17s as the rolling circumference is the same but tyres are much more affordable - well that's what I'd do to keep costs down because if I owned one of these little things I'd be on the track at every available opportunity and tyres would become a bi-monthly expense. The headlights are projector-style and have a dark backing as opposed to the silver backing found on the lesser models so they stand out a little more, no matter what body colour is chosen (choices include Ablaze Red Pearl, Boost Blue Metallic Pearl, Champion Yellow, Premium Silver Metallic, Snow White Pearl and super Black Pearl). The fog light surrounds are a lot more in your face, more sport-inspired if you will - they're finished off in a dark silver in colour. That silver is carried through to the centre of the bumper behind the number plate holder too, but it's easy to overlook thanks to the size of local number plates. Still up front, the bumper is a little different and the lower section incorporates a small lip spoiler. Side skirts are more pronounced when looking at the side profile which gives the illusion of a lower car, although it is still lower than the GLS due to the sports-tuned suspension. From the rear it's much easier to identify the Sport thanks to the dark silver diffuser in the lower, centre section of the rear bumper that is also a surround for the twin exit exhaust system. At the top of the tailgate there's now a spoiler that's just the right size to be tasteful while looking cool.
The engine in the SSS has 200cc more than the GLS and so comes in at 1600cc while the power has increased to an even 100kW with 160Nm. With today’s range of turbocharged hatchbacks those numbers aren’t that high, but with a car tipping the scales at a smidgen over a ton, it gives the SSS some great performance. The numbers say it hits 100km/h in 8-7-seconds and tops out at 195km/h but it honestly feels quicker. Suzuki has managed to make brilliant use of that 100kW with a short ratio, short throw 6-speed gearbox. It’s notchy, but in a good way. Slotting the lever into the required spot feels good, it almost sucks the lever into place. If you miss a gear in the SSS you’re quite the chop…
Peak power is at 6900rpm, which means you have to revs the tits off the SSS to get it to perform at it’s best – and for a fan of high-revving normally aspirated cars that equates to an absolute blast behind the wheel. The suspension is nice and firm, but not uncomfortably so. This means when you push the car it loads up great and is responsive with almost perfect feedback yet on roads with corrugations and uneven surfaces it won’t mash your kidneys. I pushed the car hard, and the traction control only kicks in very late, it’s far from intrusive, although if you still want more control you can switch it off. This allows for a bit of lift-off oversteer and lets the rear of the car slide around a bit. This is a move that needs a bit of caution though, the wheelbase is short and if the rear steps out a little too much it will snap away from you. This is ok on a track, but not something to be experienced on public roads. The SSS comes alive after 4500rpm and really shines above 6000rpm – keeping the revs up there is easy thanks to the short ratios, the revs don’t drop by much between shifts and so the SSS stays on song. Straight line stuff is good, but it’s on the bends and the tight corners that you’ll start to get a smile cramp. Suzuki claim the SSS uses just 6.5-litres/100km and it does just that, even less actually, but if you do keep driving the car like you stole it, it averages out at around 7.1-litres/100km – which is still pretty damn good.
I make no bones about being a Suzuki fan, in fact I often get asked if I work for Suzuki, which I don’t of course. I just like the fact that they make good, honest cars at a good price. The Suzuki Swift Sport is now a firm favourite of mine alongside the Jimny. I mean yeah, sure, there are hot hatches that make more power and have better stats, but they come at a premium and in many cases aren’t nearly as fun to drive. Normally aspirated cars centered on performance are sadly a dying breed, and that alone makes the Swift Sport something quite special. It's like with the Toyota 86 and the new Mazda MX5 being touted as "driver's cars" as an excuse for lower power. Well the SSS can take up the front-wheel drive mantle as a driver's car - but don’t take my word for it, test drive one for yourself. It may not be a turbocharged hot hatch but it definitely subscribes to the original recipe for what makes a hot hatch, well, a hot hatch. This is the perfect car for the budding boy racer or the track day enthusiast who wants nothing more than to have fun and improve his or her driving skills without breaking the bank.
Well done Suzuki, well done.