Back to the future

It is quite a bold move for a manufacturer to launch a new car that looks almost exactly like the old car, but Suzuki’s interpretation of ‘back to the future’ involves just that – no changes to the looks that have helped notch up more than 2-million sales worldwide, but lots of change under the skin.

While the looks stays the same, the new car is both longer and wider with new light clusters front and rear and, for the base GL model on test 15-inch steel rims and low-profile 175/65 R15 tyres.

The completely new interior has a fresh, contemporary design  and standard features include an attractive three-spoke steering wheel with height adjustment and variable-ratio electric power steering, as well as a multi-function computer that displays outside temperature, fuel consumption (instantaneous and average) and driving range.

This is bolstered by power windows front and rear, electrically adjustable mirrors, remote central locking for all doors and the tailgate, and a manual air-conditioning system with integrated pollen filter.

The Swift GL is pre-wired with a rear-mounted roof antenna and six-speaker system (four main speakers plus two tweeters), thus facilitating the simple dealer fitment of an optional MP3-compatible CD receiver.

The height-adjustable driver’s seat is a nice touch but we would have liked similar movement on the steering (height and reach), while the rear seat boasts a 60/40-split single-folding mechanism for loading bulky items. This takes the standard luggage capacity of 210 litres to 533 litres.

Suzuki's new Swift

Dual front air bags are standard on the entry-level Swift GL, along with two ISOFIX child seat anchorage points, accompanied by three tether points for optimal child safety. On the active safety front, it boasts anti-lock brakes as standard, complemented by Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and the Brake Assist function to ensure optimal stopping performance in all conditions.

It is all-change under the bonnet for the Swift with the fitment of a 1,4-litre powerplant featuring an alloy cylinder head, electronic throttle control and a direct drive valve train with variable valve timing – and is lighter than the previous 1,5-litre engine.

Maximum power is 70 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque is 130 Nm at 4 000 r/min and, while some critics will point to the miniscule drop in power and torque over the previous 1,5-litre engine, the bigger picture shows improvements in fuel consumption (5,5 l/100 km versus 6,2 l/100 km) and reductions in exhaust emissions (132 g/km from 147 g/km).

Hairpin turns with short straights are made for cars like the Swift. The chassis/suspension are in their element on tight bends and bumpy roads. The ride is firm but not harsh and it sits flat and composed under acceleration or brakes. The light and low weight means it holds its line in turns and responds to throttle or brake if the driver overcooks it.

Uphill runs expose the engine’s lack of torque but the 1,4-litre will happily rev at the top of the tacho and the mid-range is strong, so working the manual can result in reasonably quick runs.

Special attention was given to the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension, which is stiffer than the previous model.

The Swift is chasing sales off the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 and first impressions are the extra interior sophistication will earn it more fans. Suzuki Swift is a critical car for Suzuki and has been the key driver in the Japanese company’s global sales surge.

Suffice to say, the all-new Suzuki Swift delivers significant ‘bang-for-your-bucks’ – a critical attribute in the fleet compact car segment where every cent counts.

Courtesy: Fleet magazine

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Colin Windell

Colin Windell is an apprentice retiree, petrolhead, rock music addict, lover of fine food and has been writing about cars for more than 40 years.

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