Cult classic: 2018 Suzuki Swift GL hatch
By Gordon Hall
Suzuki Swift owners might be described not as a cult, perhaps, because that sounds spooky, but certainly as a devoted fan base.
Solid, practical and dependable, its build quality has always been good. It also handles well, is decently perky and economical to run and possesses a certain “something” that sets it apart. More than six million have found homes over the years, South Africans adopted 19 000 of them and they accounted for about 250 local monthly sales during 2017.
The third generation arrived here in June and, true to form, Suzuki Auto SA kept things simple. There is just one engine, two trim levels and a choice of five-speed manual or five-speed automated manual (AMT) transmissions to make up three offerings.
Entry-level GA provides the basics; two airbags, ABS brakes with EBD and EBA, two ISOFix mountings with top tethers, air conditioning, powered windows but manual mirrors, remote central locking, LED tail lamps, a folding one-piece rear seatback, electro-magnetic tailgate opener, onboard computer and “radio preparation.” That means no music centre but speakers and aerial are in place.
Choose GL specification for powered mirrors with indicator repeaters; fog lamps in front; entertainment system with repeater buttons on the tilt-adjustable steering wheel, Bluetooth, USB and auxiliary; separated head restraints; smarter instruments; 60:40-split seatback; a chair-back storage pocket; classier upholstery fabric and a luggage space cover. GL with AMT scores you an outside temperature indicator and a proper rest for the left foot.
We said nothing about height adjustment for the driver’s seat because it’s fixed. Our 6’1” tester had a full fist-width of space between head and hood lining, so he was perfectly comfortable, although you might want to try it for yourself. The minimalist theme continues with no alloys, leather, cameras, ESP or parking alarms.
What has changed? Third-gen Swift is built on a new platform called HEARTECT. It uses new high-strength materials and has fewer joints than conventional monocoque designs. The resulting smoother shape and greater rigidity helps to dissipate crash energy better to preserve cabin integrity. Suzuki also worked on front and rear suspensions, added a new cross member and variable ratio steering and made it altogether sharper and easier to drive.
Its wheelbase was extended by 20 mm for greater comfort while front and rear track measurements were widened by 40- and 35 mm respectively. The new car’s body is 10 mm shorter but 40 mm wider. Rear passengers gain 23 mm of headroom, those in front enjoy 10 mm more shoulder space and luggage volume increased by 58 litres. It weighs 95 kg less than before.
The familiar K12B motor produces 61 kW and 113 Nm to push manual versions to a maximum of 170 km/h with a sprint time of 12.0 seconds. That is suitably workmanlike, if not exciting, but it’s about more than simply numbers. It’s the “heart” that counts, with internal science working magic of its own.
Details are shrouded, but this little engine has an almost indecently wide torque band that kicks in and keeps pulling from around 1500 rpm all the way up to its peak at 4200. The payoff is that the unexpected grunt helps to keep revs down and economy up. Engine speed at 120 km/h in top gear is around 3100 rpm; about average for a naturally breathing motor this size.
A happy point is that you never need to stretch for the gear lever. It’s always there, about midway between knee and hip, even when snicking it smoothly into first, third or fifth. Then there’s the hand brake. It’s centrally placed and has a firm, progressive action. And the steering is great; turning the car easily in 9.6 metres while the suspension is moderately firm but soaks up bumps well.
Practicalities: The hatch opens down to 75 cm, the well is 24 centimetres deep and the space is neatly rectangular. There’s a single bag hook but no lights or power points, the seat catches can be reached from behind and the sections fold with a step. The spare is a spacesaver to permit more cargo volume.
Back seat headroom is fine for tall passengers, knee space is good and feet fit comfortably because the chairs don’t adjust downwards. Small awkwardnesses include just one seatback pocket, no armrest, very small bottle bins and no central courtesy light.
Those in front fare better with newly designed and more supportive seats, a lot more storage space and easy, no-nonsense controls. For its price Suzuki Swift is a thoroughly practical and enjoyable little car – its fans know something. – Test unit from Suzuki Auto SA press fleet
Price: R175 900
Engine: 1197 cc, DOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder with VVT
Power: 61 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 113 Nm at 4200 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 12.0 seconds
Maximum speed: 170 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 5.4 l/100 km
Tank: 37 litres
Luggage: 268 – 579 litres
Warranty: 5 years / 200 000 km with 3 years’ roadside assistance
Service plan: 2 years / 30 000 km