The Suzuki Swift is the reason for Swift Speed’s existence, owing to the car’s great handling, high-revving engines, simple styling and all-round fun package; not to mention the added value of reliability, safety and economy. The Swift has won the hearts of thousands of South Africans (18,200 to be precise) and is the source of my love for the brand. For the past 8 years Swift Speed has grown with the Suzuki brand and welcomed new models such as the Baleno and Ignis to the family.
A few months ago, I was invited to join a team of South African journalists to test drive the all-new Suzuki Swift in India. This was my first international test drive and it opened my eyes to a new way of understanding and investigating a product from a journalist’s perspective.
On the first leg of our trip, we learnt a lot about Suzuki’s position in India as well as the do’s and don’ts of driving in New Delhi; such as don’t panic, do hoot at everything and trust the organised chaos. Naturally, our lack of expertise in this sort of environment made us all a bit apprehensive of our upcoming test drive and we were relieved to find ourselves in the quieter town of Pune, just two hours outside of Mumbai.
Although the shape has changed somewhat, it’s still unmistakably Swift, in fact, the rear angular taillights hint more to the first generation than the second. The Swift now has a sharper, more angular nose with an aggressive front grille, noticeable flowing lines and edges, the same floating roof with blacked-out A and B pillars as seen in the past two generations but now with an added door handle integrated by the window which is surprisingly user-friendly. I acquainted myself with a striking Prime Lucent Orange Swift complete with LED daytime running lights and projector headlights, diamond-cut 15” mag wheels, rear park distance control, and keyless entry with push-button start.
Continuing this aggressive look, the Swift is 10mm shorter than its predecessor but 40mm wider, giving it a greater on-road stance with the illusion of it being a larger vehicle. The wheelbase has been extended by 20mm, which not only has improved the handling but has now increased luggage space to an additional 58L. This is great news for the consumer as the Swift was notorious for a small boot that steered potential customers away to a competitor product.
I take a seat inside and I’m greeted with a familiar, yet completely redesigned sporty interior. Expect circular vents, rounded dials and knobs, a protruding instrument cluster, a flat-bottom leather-clad steering wheel with a circular emblem focus, and a driver orientated cockpit design, all reminiscent of the previous generation Audi TT. Silver accents are visible on the dash, gear lever, steering wheel and doors, giving the Swift a premium feel worthy of a B-segment hatchback despite the hard plastics.
This model was further furnished with folding mirrors, auto climate control, multifunction-steering controls, headlight levelling, and the main attraction, of course, being the great sounding 7” touchscreen radio complete with USB, Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and navigation seen elsewhere in the Suzuki range but not yet available for the South African market. The previous generation Swift 1.2, although adequate, lacked decent bolstering in the seats and this generation has certainly made up for it, you feel supported and comfortable through the bends and simply driving around town.
But how does she drive?
Besides all the new kit and fancy looks, the highlight of this vehicle is the drive; this car feels at home on the open road. The Swift has a famed reputation for its handling which I felt was slightly lost on the previous 1.2 model with its rough drive and excessive body roll. Maruti Suzuki seems to have overcome these shortcomings and their new Swift offering drives beautifully; cornering is sharper, nimble and more precise, the ride is firmer and yet comfortable and less jittery, the cabin is also quieter with less road noise. Out on some serious twisties with 180–degree off-camber hairpin bends, I must confess I ran out of talent by slamming on brakes while turning, a rookie mistake. The little Swift took control of the situation and made up for my lapse in judgement with minimal understeer thus making this car undoubtedly idiot proof.
Although the new model will see the same K12M naturally aspirated motor with 61kW and 113Nm as seen in the outgoing model, the weight of the car has been reduced by 80kg, thanks to Suzuki’s new-generation platform called HEARTECT. This gives the Swift an extremely lightweight body with an improved rigidity that delivers enhanced performance and improved acceleration. As a result, this car is nippier, more responsive, and eager to go with the added benefit of producing frugal fuel consumption figures of approx. 4.3l/100km. The gearbox too, is smoother and quieter, giving the Swift a more enjoyable drive overall.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
As a Swift Sport owner, I had to take a step back and evaluate this car for what it is, it is not a Swift Sport. It does not handle or perform like a Swift Sport. It is, however, a fantastic contender in a very competitive market. Expect this car to sit with the likes of the Hyundai Grand i10, Toyota Etios, VW Polo Vivo, and the Ford Figo. Yes, the looks may be a hit or miss affair for a few, but with an overall quality improvement, larger boot space, and impressive handling and feel, this car is a winner over its predecessor; the new Swift is just better!
Expect the new Swift to hit South African shores in June 2018, spec and pricing to be confirmed. What we do know is that there will be a GA and GL specification level with a 5-speed manual for both trims and Auto-Manual Transmission (AMT) for the GL. Unfortunately, no touchscreen radio or DRLs will be available yet and further sad news still, there will be no Swift 1.4 GLS replacement either, despite the release of the 1.0 Boosterjet “premium” Swift overseas. Current GLS owners should look to either the Suzuki Baleno as a replacement vehicle or the upcoming Swift Sport which should hopefully be coming to South Africa by the end of 2018.