Suzuki’s moving up in the world, and in no way is it more apparent than the recent release of several new models to the South African market. One such model is the splash – a practical take on the A-segment hatchback, co-engineered with Opel, and aimed at compact living with practical packaging.
The styling is a little, um, odd to say the least. The Splash is tall and bug-eyed, and has a slab-like rear end that makes it seem more like a bread-van than a hatch. But just as it’s not the norm, it isn’t exactly an ugly little thing either. It’s built on a shortened Suzuki Swift platform – Suzuki’s most versatile setup, and combines a shorter wheelbase with more upright packaging to make the Splash a space-wise little package. It’s roomy both in the front and the back, and the upright seating position offers comfort as well as rear legroom – something the larger Swift is dearly missing. It also has plenty headroom, and the boot is pretty spacious too, although it presents its space in a deep configuration rather than a long or wide one.
The tall, narrow footprint of the Splash proves itself most in tight, urban confinement; where it’s able to nip through small gaps and flutter around parkade columns into tight spaces with ease. The lightly weighted steering and tight turning circle aid the impressive city nature of the Splash, but simultaneously it remains calm whilst out and about in the city, and even on the open road – where the Splash encounters other problems.
Out on the open road, the tiny 1.2-litre 4-cylinder engine just seems to struggle a bit to keep the momentum going for the Splash. With outputs of 63kW and 113Nm, you’d never expect too much – but on the highway the 5-speed manual transmission needs frequent rowing in order to maintain speed. If the Splash teaches you one thing, it’s how to maintain momentum – downshifting at precisely the right moment makes all the difference in making it up the next hill at a decent rate.
Fortunately, the little engine is revvy and eager to change gears – allowing quick throttle blips for downshifts, and revving freely when you need that last little bit of grunt available. The first three gears are particularly peppy and have a little punch to them – again confirming the Splash’s happiness to remain in the city as opposed to the open road. But the gearbox, and in particular the gear shift, is where the Splash belies its co-engineering with Opel – more so than anywhere else. Although relatively trouble-free, quick shifts aren’t advised, and all changes in gear need to be carefully planned and executed as the gears sometimes require a little bit of ‘finding’. It’s decidedly different from the usual easy-shifting nature of the Suzuki in-house transmissions, and I can’t help but think an in-house ‘box mated to the Swift’s 1.4-litre engine would’ve been a better fit in the Splash. The 1.2 is frugal, consuming 5.3l/100km during my test period, but no more so than the 1.4 which is punchier and consumes about the same.
But not all inherited from the Opel partnership was bad. Suzuki managed to combine the pliancy of the Swift platform with the ride comfort that Opel has been so great at engineering in the past few years. The Splash – by no means complicated on the suspension front – plods along over bumps and abrasions on the road in a steady manner. Small camber changes and pockmarked surfaces are absorbed gleefully, whilst the soft, pliant suspension and ride height see the Splash bouncing over larger obstacles in a cheery manner. It’s not exactly the most adept handler though; with that high ride height; and there is noticeable body roll and a slight bit of floppiness in direction changes – but the Splash remains stuck on track like cling wrap to itself in a way that inspires confidence in such a small vehicle.
But there are items equally as uninspiring as there are those that give confidence in spades. One such item is the brakes – which do the job of slowing the Splash down, but feel wooden and hollow, with little progression, less bite, and even less feedback. Moments of terror were but a stab of the brake-pedal away when a taxi jumped into my lane without indicating, and the Splash oft felt as if it would come up short – although I’m pleased to say it never did, despite how it may have felt.
The Splash inspires confidence in more areas than not, though – particularly on the inside where the quality of materials is of a fairly impressive standard. Despite being manufactured in India, it sees the fitment of far better materials than those found in Maruti-origin products such as the Ertiga and Swift 1.2, the latter of which the Splash directly rivals within its own stable. The seats are supportive, the fit and finish impressive, and the controls fall to hand where you’d expect them to.
The level of kit isn’t exactly lavish though; the GL spec Splash featuring aircon, electric windows, fog lamps, an MP3 audio system, a USB port, and a multi-function steering wheel. But where it lets down is the radio which is crucially missing Bluetooth connectivity – something that is a must in the current age, even if it were equipped purely for hands-free cellphone usage. It’s a rather barren environment, dominated by hard plastics and little else, but it’s not unpleasant, and there are plenty storage bins around the cabin that made life easy when I dashed out to meetings in the Splash. Visibility was also noticeably impressive – with no blind spots to speak of, as a mere swivel of the head saw you looking out the closely located rear windscreen.
The Splash has arrived locally at an odd time – 6 years after its international debut, and at a time when Opel has recently revealed the replacement for its own Splash-twin, and as such it does feel a bit dated compared to the competition. Whilst the clever use of space and nippy city mentality of the Splash afford it an advantage over its Swift sibling, the lack of punch and power limit it as to where it can be used most effectively. As a spacious, compact city-car, it’s a great proposition and one that makes a strong case for itself amongst students and first time buyers; but for anything more than that, you’d do best to look elsewhere – towards the likes of the more expensive Hyundai Grand i10 or the Suzuki Swift 1.4, or if budget is your focus, the new Suzuki Celerio.
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63kW @ 6000RPM
113Nm @ 4500RPM
5 Speed Manual
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Front Wheel Drive
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