First Drive: 2018 Suzuki Swift

First Drive: 2018 Suzuki Swift
 

Suzuki’s Swift might be considered to be somewhat of a left field offering in the segment, but my experience of the first generation locally in 2008 as well as subsequent models, such as the second generation that arrived in 2010, is of sturdy build quality, good standard equipment levels and thrifty engines.

They also offered exemplary driver enjoyment, thanks to the wheels being pushed further to each corner and the short overhangs, which made parking in tight spaces an absolute cinch.

Now the fourth generation of the model has been launched in SA but instead of bringing the European spec models, the local outfit has opted to bring the Indian-sourced variant, which is available in entry GA and mid-spec GL trim levels.

According to Charl Grobler, product planning and marketing manager at Suzuki Auto SA, the company could have considered the European specified model for our shores, but that would have meant a starting price of about R240 000, which is out of reach of most first-time buyers. As such, they have decided to bring in the Indian-sourced models, which are priced from R159 900 to R189 900, putting it squarely against the Renault Kwid AMT, Renault Sandero and Toyota Etios models.

Comprising 30% of all Suzuki sales, the Swift commands a significant share of the company’s market share with more than six-million units sold globally. The new model is set to capture a fair amount of buyers in SA.

Dimensionally, the new model is 10mm shorter and 40mm wider than its predecessor, while the front track has been widened by 40mm and the rear by 35mm. The wheelbase, meanwhile, has been stretched by 20mm to 2 450mm — placing it just 20mm shy of the larger, next segment Ciaz sedan. Boot space has increased by 58-litres to 268-litres and I managed to comfortably squeeze three overnight bags and a pair of backpacks in there without the need to fold the 60:40 split rear seats.

At the model’s launch in KwaZulu-Natal we managed to get behind the wheel of the mid-specification GL, powered by a 1.4-litre motor that does duty across the range that makes 61kW and 113Nm through a five-speed manual gearbox.

While the exterior of the model, replete with steel wheel covers to keep pricing low, is perhaps nothing to write home about, it is the vehicle’s eager disposition out on the road and the smoothness of the engine that are the highlights.

The engine, while not making a great deal of power, revs smoothly right up to 5 500rpm where the power then tapers off and the gearbox ratios and throw work well to keep the engine in the sweet spot of the rev range. It is also quite economical at a claimed 4.9l/100km.

Overall handling was neutral and quite fun, although the slightly narrow wheels means that any attempt at overzealous enthusiasm is quickly dispelled.

The model comes well equipped with dual airbags and ABS brakes (standard across the range), USB and auxiliary ports and electric windows all round. You also get a multifunction steering wheel and Bluetooth connectivity. Thanks to the new platform, the vehicle feels lighter and nimbler than the outgoing model and weighs a paltry 875kg, which is some 95kg lighter than its predecessor.

There was also the Dzire sedan for us to sample at the launch, which is essentially a booted version of the Swift, but does not bare the Swift name this time around. While its predecessor had awkward proportions, the latest model is easier on the eye and the overall silhouette is said to have an 18% improvement in aerodynamics over its predecessor.

It will appeal to most ride-hailing services in SA and should prove decent value for money with a price of R161 900 to R191 900 that also includes a two-year/30 000km service plan and five-year/200 000km warranty, the latter only being included for a limited time.

The Swift and Dzire ranges offer a great package at a keen pricing point without skimping on safety items. Yes, Renault Kwid, I am referring to you. – Lerato Matebese