Suzuki Swift: There's numbers found in safety

By David Linklater

Suzuki Swift. Photo / Supplied
Suzuki Swift. Photo / Supplied

Could Suzuki have played it any more safe with the all-new Swift? Not a single body panel is carried over, yet you'd be hard pressed to pick the new model from the old at a glance.

You get the sense that Suzuki NZ has also done the bare minimum in terms of specification to keep Swift competitive. The single engine offered is a 70kW/133Nm 1.4-litre petrol that's a little less powerful than the old but also a little more thrifty.

Combined economy has improved from 6.7 to 6.2 litres per 100km in the automatic model tested here - impressive when you consider that the shiny new Swift sticks with a four-speed gearbox. Ford's rival Fiesta has a six-speeder and even the garden-centre special Honda Jazz boasts a five-speed unit.

Safety is as well-covered as you'd expect in the segment's newest supermini: all Swift models get stability control and seven airbags (including one for the driver's knee).

But the car is not so strong on comfort and convenience items. True, our range-topping Swift Limited only costs $24,990, but all that the Limited adds to the mid-range GLX are alloy wheels and foglights. I like the standard USB connector for your iPod but where's the Bluetooth connectivity and climate-control air conditioning that you get on the Swift in Japan?

Despite these detail disappointments, the new Swift is still a likeable car and a fun drive. The 1.4-litre engine has verve and while the four-speed transmission strangles it on the open road, around town it's smooth and more consistent than the robotised dual-clutch gearbox fitted to the Fiesta.

The electric power steering is more progressive than the old car's, there's plenty of grip and the new model has extra 25 per cent roll-stiffness. Suzuki has a knack of making small cars that you don't have to drive fast to enjoy and the new Swift is no exception.

But it's still a car for those who see virtue in compactness. Swift remains one of the smallest cars in the segment - less than 4m long. Despite the extra safety kit it's only 25kg heavier than the old model. It's still a supermini with a tight rear seat and tiny boot. The latter is hardly big enough for a week's grocery shop at first glance, although there's a false floor in there. Leave it in place and the cargo area lines up with the folded rear seats for easy loading, as well as giving you an out-of-sight cubby underneath. Remove it and you get a deeper boot - but it's still modest.

I could continue to complain about the conservative course Suzuki has taken with Swift and point to other models that are more technologically advanced and better equipped.

But the fact is that the cute-looking Swift was once again the top-selling passenger car in New Zealand last month, pushing the ever-popular Toyota Corolla into second place.

How does that old saying go now? There's numbers in safety.

Bottom line:

The all-new Swift sticks too closely to the proven formula of its predecessor to be considered a game-changer. But when you're still winning the game like Suzuki is, who really cares?

Alternatives

Ford Fiesta Zetec Powershift $27,490
Honda Jazz S auto $28,500
Hyundai i20 auto $26,990
Nissan Micra Ti $24,100
Skoda Fabia TSI $28,000

- NZ Herald

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