Motor-Mouth, Gordon Hall
Puttin’ on the Ritz in Suzuki’s Agile Splash 1.2 GL for 2015
Quirky but fun
One product, three names: It’s Ritz in India, Opel (or Vauxhall) Agila in Europe and the UK and Splash everywhere else.
It was launched in 2008 as a joint venture with Opel (GM still owned three percent of Suzuki back then) and used various engines; Opel’s 1.0-litre three-pot, its 1229 cc four-cylinder, or a Fiat 1300 diesel. The General was in co-operation agreements with both parties back then.
The following year, around the time GM sold off its remaining stake in Suzuki, Maruti engineers took advantage of a sub-1200 cc tax break by shortening the Opel four-cylinder’s stroke by 2.7 millimetres to bring it down to 1197 cc.
They also did a few other things – like shorter piston skirts and nutless connecting rods to make them lighter, resin coating and low-tension rings to reduce friction, rocker-less camshafts, a plastic intake manifold, an offset crankshaft that turns more easily, distributorless ignition, a high pressure fuel system with advanced injectors for better atomisation and a longer-lasting silent timing chain to reduce noise.
Then they trimmed operating costs by switching to higher grade oil so you can skip the traditional first lubricant change at 1 000 kilometres, long life spark plugs that only need changing at 40 000 km intervals and a revised tappet design that stretches the distance between adjustments.
What this means is a zippy little engine with decent low-rev pulling power, very adequate performance and affordable maintenance. Liveable space for four grown-ups or an occasional fifth (only two rear head restraints and a fully manual lap belt for the central passenger), good all ‘round view outward (marred slightly by wide rear pillars) and a tight, 9.4-metre turning circle for zip-in-and-out parking, make this an excellent little city car that holds its own on freeways too.
A bonus is that having been built in India, home to roads rather like ours, it has suspension that can cope and enough ground clearance (170 mm) to deal with most humps, holes and awkward driveways.
The boot loads at upper thigh level, is not too deep at 21 centimetres, and is neatly rectangular. There are no lights, lashing rings or power sockets but a pair of bag hooks provides some assistance. A fully sized spare is in the usual place under the floor board. It’s steel to match the original road wheels, but alloys are available optionally. So are reverse parking beepers, a wide range of accessories, or a rain sensor to give your wipers that modern touch.
Storage space for those seated in the back is limited to magazine pockets, but folks in front fare better. There’s a selection of open trays, an open glove compartment, a bigger one with lid, a dash-top lidded tray and narrow bins on both doors. The driver might feel a bit cheated at first because the steering wheel does elevation only and his or her chair offers just legroom and recline adjustments. No problem: Our 6’1” tester found more than a fist’s-width of air between scalp and hood lining, so most users should fit.
Other pointers to this being no common car are its tall and wedge-shaped appearance, its stylish rear end, the short lever for the five-speed manual gearbox mounted bus-style, on a tower, the big white speedometer, small and separate rev counter on top of the dash and unevenly spaced control pedals. Accelerator and brake are close together for quick switching but the clutch is offset a little further left than usual, although there’s still enough space for one’s left foot to find the floor.
Because the test car had upper-spec GL trim, it featured nice things like front fog lamps; electric windows and mirrors; a stash tray under the front passenger’s chair; the previously mentioned tachometer; rear window wiper, washer and defogger; a radio and CD player with remote buttons on the wheel; keyless entry and central locking. There are also a few extra trim items and warning lamps. Automatic transmission is available on this level only.
Even the basic GA version gives you a pair of airbags, ABS brakes, filtered manual air conditioner, childproof locks, digital clock, a trip computer and electrically assisted steering.
Although the Suzuki Splash might seem a little quirky in some ways, it’s practical, fun, does its job well and should be economical to run and maintain.
Test unit from Suzuki Auto SA press fleet.
The cheat sheet
Price: R137 400
Engine: 1197 cc, DOHC, 16-valve four-cylinder
Power: 63 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 113 Nm at 4500 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 12.3 seconds
Maximum speed: 160 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 6.0 l/100 km
Tank: 43 litres
Luggage: 236 – 462 litres
Warranty: 3 years/100 000 km; with roadside assistance
Service plan: 2 years/30 000 km; at 15 000 km intervals
Text: Gordon Hall