As many of you who follow my online shenanigans will know, I'm rather pro-Suzuki. So much so that I'm often asked if I work at the company. Alas, I'm just a lowly freelancer, but I have the opportunity to try out new cars from time to time (there would be more if a bunch PRs actually answered any e-mails) and this gives me a change to be able to compare plenty cars available out there. While many I know love the bigger cars, I've alway been a fan of the smaller ones for some odd reason, and this is a category where Suzuki excels. I don't think the company has ever made a bad small car, even the weirdly shaped Splash was pretty good. The company's '"bread & butter" model since 2005 is the Swift, a top seller for the brand in many markets, accounting for 30% of all sales in SA and racking up more than 6 million sales worldwide. When an all-new model was on the cards it had to be every bit as good as the outgoing model, or better. Thankfully the latter it is.
The automaker has the insane ability to make each new model lighter than before, and this means they can use smaller capacity engines and still have the cars feel quite nippy and manoeuvrable on the roads. For the new Swift, Suzuki has widened (40mm) and shortened (10mm ) the little hatchback as well as both the front and rear track and the overall wheelbase have been increased. Up front the track 40mm wider and the sees a 35mm increase - as a result the wheelbase has been stretched by 20mm too. So the car looks a little lower and more squat on the road, which is no bad thing, especially when you look at the effects on cabin space. Front passengers have 10mm more wiggle room in the shoulder width department and rear pPassengers now have 23mm more head room. Seating is also lower which not only creates space, but also adjusts the car's centre of gravity. The Swift has never had a boot you could describe as spacious, but this new generation sees space increase to 268 litres, a pretty hefty 58 litres more, and the 60/40 split with a foldable rear bench ( GL-spec) sees space increase a lot more.
Inside the all-new Swift things look good, a clear improvement from the outgoing model. This is a budget car, but the materials have managed to not look too cheap, and while there are plastics all around, they're pretty good and the tactile feel is ok. The gauge cluster looks more along the lines of what you see in the Baleno model with a handy driver information screen in between the speed and tacho. The dash layout is similar but the entertainment section of the dash is angles a little more to the driver now making things easier to see and use. My one bug bear with the Suzukis we get in SA is the infotainment system because the colour TFT screens as see in international markets are not an option in SA, and with the pricing and practicality of the car also aimed at younger tech-savvy buyers, this can make or break a sale sadly. That said, what is in play works as it should but connecting to Bluetooth (GL trim) can be a higher grade affair. I often get calls from new Suzuki owners asking for help to set it up, no word of lie. You also get a sporty D-shaped steering wheel (with infotainment controls on the GL trim) that feels good in hand. The seats have also been redesigned and are now firmer and more comfortable. All trim levels of the all-new Swift feature air conditioning, front and rear electric windows, power steering and remote central locking. GL-trim gets a better audio system with the aforementioned Bluetooth-connectivity, a USB socket and electronically adjustable wing mirrors. There's also a fair amount of storage space scattered around the cabin.
With a lightweight body and chassis, the engine could some in a little smaller and have the same effect on making the Swift move along, and even though the lump is normally aspirated, it actually does surprisingly well on the road. It certainly feels better than the numbers suggest. The all-new Suzuki Swift gets an all-new engine, and as with the rest of the car, it's also nice and light thanks to its all-aluminium construction. At a smidgen under 1200cc, the little engine is rated at 61kW with 113Nm, but I think the secret to the punchy feel is the high 11:1 compression ratio. It also helps with efficiency, something Suzuki is particularly good at, with a small 37-litre fuel tank in play, the new Swift is able to cover a massive 750km - the thing is rated to sip just 4.9-litre/100km on the combined cycle. Let me just put that into perspective quick; every single launch I've attended would have a car with a certain claimed consumption figure and with the way the journos wring the life out of the cars, the claims are seldom seen. On this launch the new Swift I drove returned 5.1-litres/100km. ON A LAUNCH! That's mighty impressive. It helps that the car is fitted with a nice, close ratio 5-speed manual transmission on the GA and GL models, although that AMT is also an option on the GL (I've still never managed to try this transmission). Overseas markets get a small capacity diesel lump, which no one here will miss I'm sure.
The all-new Suzuki Swift is a great drive, the men in white coats have worked some sort of magic into the build process because while everything is lightweight, the car feels pretty solid. Even with that small engine, you'll often find yourself ahead of the traffic if you drive like me, it's responsive and doesn't battle to rev up, even with a full compliment of passengers and a kitbag or two in the boot. The steering is direct and there's good feedback from the 14" wheels, and the brakes are sharp and tight, but it does take a lot to get the ABS to kick in, which is good. The transmission is smooth and the level notches into place almost as if it's pulled there, which I like a lot and makes me really need to sample the upcoming Swift Sport - that's gonna be a cracker! As for the test of the interior bits, the heater and aircon work fast and also don't sap power from anywhere, well if they do it doesn't feel like it. The seats are comfortable and visibility is good all-round, all in all it's a decent place to be.
Added to the all-new Suzuki Swift is an all-new Suzuki Dzire. The small sedan is no longer just a Swift with a boot, it's a range all on it's own now with some key styling differences to differentiate it, along with the boot. Engine and transmission spec is the same though. These will be great in fleets and for things like Uber; affordable, light on everything and ample space. Of course, to be a top-seller in a brand, a car needs to have a price point that appeals to the market out there, and Suzuki are pretty damn good and putting bargains together. The base Swift, the GA model, starts off at just R159 900, but if you call now, you'll get the higher-spec GL trim at a launch special of R169 900 (usually R175 900). When compared to other cars in this price bracket, the new Swift is a no-brainer. Sure you can get yourself a Datsun GO or a Renault Kwid for similar pricing, but there's a clear difference between a well-spec'd small car with great safety features and an amazing track record, and a death trap disguised as a funky car.
The all-new Suzuki Swift (and Dzire) can only do well for the brand, not only in SA, but globally. I'll be keeping an eye on sales figures but I have no doubt things will improve over the previous generation's sales figures, I'll put money on it. All that's left now is to get that Swift Sport on to our shores...
1.2i GA MT SW14 R159 900
1.2i GL MT SW15 R175 900 - LAUNCH SPECIAL R169 900
1.2i GL AMT SW16 R189,900 Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty
Retail price includes a 2 yr / 30 000km service plan
1.2 GA MT SD6 R161 900
1.2 GL MT SD7 R177 900
1.2 GL AMT SD8 R191 900
Price includes 5yr / 200 000km promotional warranty for as long as Suzuki SA feels like running the promotion, seriously. That's pretty damn cool of them. Retail price includes a 2-year / 30 000km service plan.