by Brad Leach - 28/01/10
For good reasons, Suzuki's handsome Swift compact car was the light car segment's fourth bestseller in 2009 - ahead of the Holden Barina, Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra.
It's just so smartly packaged across the range of variants and delivers outstanding value.
Add to that the high standard engineering and manufacturing qualities that are the hallmark of the Suzuki brand, plus the Swift's great driving dynamics and you get the picture - the Swift is good.
And on a corporate level, with Volkswagen and Suzuki buying into each other, the development of future generations of Swifts will be fascinating to watch.
Suzuki actually outsold Kia in Australia last year - a tremendous result buoyed by the high profile launch of the budget-priced Alto. But it is without doubt the ongoing popularity of the Swift and the Grand Vitara which underpin the success of Suzuki in Australia and globally.
The Swift continues to be a favorite with the Car Showroom team and we recently put the value-packed 'S' model through our test regime. Loaded with some extra kit and price-cut for 2010 to $17,590 (manual version as tested)… in many ways the 'S' is the standout variant in the Swift lineup.
Significantly, amongst the extras included in the 'S' specifications are six airbags (fronts, sides and curtains). 'S' models also gain alloy wheels and fog lights to round out a very comprehensive small car package.
Power comes from Suzuki's wicked 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 74kW of power and a handy 133Nm of torque.
While the racy Swift Sport garners a 1.6-litre powerplant, the 1.5litre also loves to rev (like all Suzuki engines), propels the 'S' to 100km/h in just 10.2 seconds and requires only 17.2 seconds to cover the standing 400 meters. FYI that's a tad faster than the best-selling Toyota Yaris and quite a bit more rapid than the Hyundai Getz, our number two best-seller and the Mazda2 and the Ford Fiesta.
We tested the Swift 'S' with the five-speed manual transmission - the auto option is a four-speed.
Combined cycle fuel consumption for the Swift 'S' manual is 6.3l/100kms.
Compared to the Yaris, the Swift is conventional in its interior - the dashboard has the usual three instruments in a binnacle ahead of the driver and information is displayed conventionally without the Toyota's LED bar graphs. It all works and in our minds, the front seat comfort and driving position is one of the Swift's strengths.
Like others in the segment, the Swift does not provide massive rear seat space and we reckon the Suzuki is a bit lacking in 'odds-n-ends' storage compartments compared to some in the segment.
But it's all nicely finished in quality materials and the tactile elements like the steering wheel, switches, door handles etc deliver a pleasing feel that is not apparent in some rivals.
The Car Showroom Juniors' booster and child seats fitted easily in the rear and thanks to the wide-opening rear doors, getting them in and buckled-up did not result in muscle strain or chiropractor expenses.
The audio is a single CD in-dash system.
We reckon the Swift still looks good despite the arrival of newer designs from some rivals. It's contemporary with being polarizing, quirky without being offensive and practical without being bland.
The front is highlighted by the large, modern wrap-over headlights and - in the case of the 'S' model - the low front fog lights. The side is dominated by the modern high roof look (provides extra interior space) while the rear is a conventional hatchback design that is thankfully very clean and uncluttered.
You'll need to fold the rear seat to accommodate large loads but the boot was sufficiently spacious to accommodate a large pre-holiday shopping haul for the Car Showroom family. A large baby stroller will need to have its wheels removed and/or be stored sideways.
It's a well-worn expression that is nevertheless perfect for the Swift 'S' - this is a car that mums will appreciate during the week and dads will enjoy for a quick fang on the weekend.
That zippy 1.5-litre engine delivers good response and a nice exhaust note as it revs through the gears. And we found the ratios for the five-speeder were nicely spaced for brisk response over our mountain roads test route.
The chassis was well balanced with predictable understeer at the limits. However we did find the front suspension on the test car was a tad harsh over Melbourne's tram and train crossings - but no different to rivals in this segment.
Around town the Swift was maneuverable and easy to park.
The Swift has been around for a while now and compared to some segment rivals its interior is lacking in convenient storage cubicles and adults may find the rear seat lacks the support evident in some others.
Competent and smartly packaged, the Swift delivers on driving dynamics and price. For those who want a bit more than the standard Swift ($16,290) but not the downright street racer that is the $23,990 Swift Sport, the 'S' model - at $17,590 - represents tremendous buying.
As we said, it is for good reasons that the Suzuki Swift enjoys its popularity with Australian small car buyers.
Toyota's Yaris YRS five-door requires some extra coin but is Toyota doing what it does best - everything just works so well. Same for the Mazda2 which is a great looker. The Hyundai Getz in the 1.6-litre models is handily priced and offers a great interior. Ford's Fiesta finished last year as the sixth best-selling car in the segment but deserves to do better - it's a brilliant small car.
Extra kit makes sense; value; nice drive
Rear seat lacks support; interior practicality not up with the best
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