Road review – Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL:

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Suzuki's best seller now comes in a cheaper 1.2 model, is it as good?

Suzuki has branched out with their top-selling Swift, now offering the same Swift we all know and love, with a difference, at a reduced price.  They haven’t gone the way of the Polo Vivo and recycled an old platform, but rather they’ve ground-up engineered the Swift 1.2 to be everything the current generation Swift is, and then some.

Yes, and then some – the Swift 1.2 may feature a smaller engine, part of their latest engine family and not a decade old recycled one, but it’s been built to handle the likes of Indian and South African roads; pothole riddled tarmac where stones and debris are a frequent occurrence.  As such, the Swift 1.2 features a raised ride height (170mm – 40mm higher than the regular Swift) and steel wheels shod with 165/80 R14 tyres, both of which contribute towards an ability to take on any South African road, or lack thereof.

The 1.2-litre engine developing 63kW and 113Nm is a peppy unit.  Mated to a 5-speed manual in our test unit, the gearing was decidedly ‘small-car’, with shorter gearing from 1st until 3rd making the Swift 1.2 a sprightly little thing from pull-off, and the taller 4th and 5th gears making it a rather frugal machine.  The little 1.2 merrily fed on a diet of thin air, consuming a meagre 5.3l/100km and beating the claimed figures by 0.4l/100km.  Being low on torque and displacement, the manual gearbox does require a fair bit of work, especially when encountering inclines, where an aptly timed shift to 4th will see the Swift make it up the rise with relatively little strain.

But despite the necessity to swap cogs frequently, the Swift’s sweetly mechanical gear change makes it an entertaining affair rather than a tiresome one.  The clutch, which has a lengthy take, takes smoothly and evenly, and requires only the slightest bit of effort to depress fully.  Traffic was easily managed without too much strain as such, and changing gears was a simple affair when not hindered by the Johannesburg congestion.

The back-to-basics approach of the Swift made for an entertaining drive.  The normally aspirated engine and simple gearbox felt very simple; not in a dim-witted manner, but rather in a pure form, removing the complication and offering a setup that simply works, time after time, in a pleasingly cheery manner.  Coupled with the kind of joy only that only wringing out an engine to 5000 rpm could induce, the simple nature of the Swift was truly enjoyable.

The rest of the mechanicals follow suit.  The suspension, although raised and relatively soft, handled corners fairly adeptly.  Body-roll was well within acceptable limits, and the tight turning circle of the Swift was a pleasure when it came to making tight manoeuvres around the pot-hole slalom of Kyalami’s back roads.  The suspension rode over poor surfaces with aplomb, absorbing blemishes with a calm demeanour and relaying only the necessary feedback through to the driver through the chassis.

The interior design remains the same as the larger engined Swifts, albeit with slightly lower quality materials used.

The steering was quick and accurate, although a little on the light side, but offered ample feedback and plenty of cheerfulness.  It was a point-and-shoot affair with the Swift changing direction energetically and following steering inputs with eagerness.  Aided by a light kerb weight of a mere 960Kg, the swift was a generally eager companion, travelling light on its feet and moving about as directed with a happy nature.

Being raised to cope with compromised road surface, the Swift 1.2 also featured a slightly altered driving position, with a more upright seat.  Whilst awkward at first, the position was easy to adapt to and became one of the Swift’s most charming attributes.  Visibility was particularly premium all round, and the standard fog lights were a pleasant addition towards visibility on particularly misty nights.

Being built as a ‘budget’ version of the Swift, the 1.2 surprisingly retains a large amount of the quality seen in its more expensive siblings.  The quality of the dash materials matches the price bracket of the Swift – not particularly classy, but not as harsh and abrasive as some competitors.  Despite the reduced quality of the materials, the build quality seemed to be rather strong, with dash rattles non-existent and all buttons and dials feeling relatively solid to the touch.

The swift 1.2 was also relatively well kitted to add to the build quality.  The radio system was equipped with a decent speaker-system and USB/auxiliary inputs.  Steering wheel audio controls were also a standard feature.  Electric windows, remote central locking, and dual front airbags are also standard fare, although the addition of either Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, or both wouldn’t go amiss – but then again, for the Swift’s price of R136 900, those amenities are easy to do without.

The Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL offers a car with a new chassis, a new engine, and plenty of space, all at the price of many cars far older, far smaller and far more barren in spec.  It drives in a most cheerful manner and proves that often a back-to-basics drive is one of the best you’ll ever have.  The fact that it drives so sweetly and uses so little fuel is merely the cherry on top of an already complete package.

The Stats:

Engine Capacity:

1197cc

No. of Cylinders:

4

Max. Power:

63kW @ 62000RPM

Max. Torque:

113Nm @ 4500RPM

Gearbox:

5 Speed Manual

0-100 time:

13 seconds

Top Speed:

166km/h

Kerb Weight:

960Kg

Fuel Tank Capacity:

42 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):

5.3l/100km

Drivetrain

Front Wheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R136 900,00

~~~

Author: Roger Biermann

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