The most economical vehicle we’ve ever tested is the Suzuki Dzire.
Let’s not waste any time getting to the crux of this review – in the six years I’ve been reviewing vehicles for Torquing Cars, driving hundreds in the process of all shapes and sizes, the Suzuki Dzire is the most fuel efficient vehicle I’ve ever driven! Until now, breaking the 5l/100km mark had been something I thought possible, but hadn’t been able to do. I’d recorded 5l/100km in the Ford Fiesta EcoBoost and the previous generation Swift 1.4, but at 4.6l/100km, the new Suzuki Dzire beats both of those by nearly 10%. When it comes to budget buys in a country where the price of fuel is fast approaching R20/litre, figures like that are something to be taken seriously.
What’s more is that the 4.6l/100km figure was recorded without too much babying either; recorded over more than 1500km incorporating long distance freeway driving paired with short and medium distance stints throughout some of the steepest hilly terrains Kwa-Zulu Natal has to offer. The figures would’ve been lower too, had I not encountered severe blustering headwinds whilst driving from Durban to Johannesburg, the kind that felt as though I was piloting the Dzire through custard rather than thin air.
If you’re not familiar with the Dzire nameplate, it formerly sat side by side with the ‘Swift’ badge on the previous generation Swift sedan. With the new generation Swift hatch, Suzuki decided it would be best to leave the Swift as a hatch only and thus established the Dzire nameplate for the Indian-sourced sedan derivative.
The previous Dzire wasn’t much to look at if I’m honest. The addition of the boot was an afterthought, designed as a boxy appendage for maximum storage space in a relatively small area. The new generation Dzire has remedied the styling troubles somewhat, though if I were you I’d avoid the particular shade of ‘pensioner beige’ adorned on this particular test unit. It does little to disguise what is still a rather ungainly derriere, but one that houses 378-litres of storage capacity – 110-litres more than the Swift hatch. But the Dzire still has one fault relating to its boot in that, like the last generation, the rear bench of the Dzire doesn’t fold; so what you see is what you get, unlike the hatch that can swell its storage capacity to 953-litres in a crunch.
Aside from the visual differences, the Suzuki Dzire is mechanically identical to its Swift sibling. It rides on the same HEARTECT lightweight platform, making it a featherweight 890kg – just 15kg more than the hatch. It also makes use of the same 1.2-liter naturally aspirated 4-cylinder petrol engine as the Swift, driving the front wheels through a 5-speed manual gearbox. The low displacement engine generates 61kW @ 6000rpm and 113Nm of torque @ 4200rpm – both figures occurring higher up in the rev-range, indicative of a familiar trait across the bulk of Suzuki’s engine line-up. The Dzire likes to be revved; that’s how it generates the bulk of its power, and surprisingly it’s not to the detriment of fuel economy either, as Suzuki’s are seemingly capable of running on nothing but thin air and good vibes.
In a modern antidote to the low-revving turbocharged engines that have become the norm, the Dzire revs out joyfully and responsively. There’s no such thing as too high in the Dzire, as it rewards reaching that upper echelon of the tachometer with eagerness. Despite the rather lowly outputs, the Suzuki Dzire’s performance punches way above its weight, with the new 1.2 offering performance comparable to the previous generation Swift 1.4. It’s yet another benefit to the reduced weight of the Dzire on the new platform, and it enables the Dzire to run with more powerful vehicles despite the deficit in displacement.
The reduced weight has other benefits too. Body control is just another party trick in the Suzuki Dzire’s bag, with little able to upset the Dzire out on the open road. Ground clearance helps – 145mm of the stuff – as does Suzuki’s dedication towards honing even the simplest of suspension setups to the finest degree. The Dzire rides all surfaces with a suppleness not seen in any of its segment peers. It soaks up both large bumps and secondary ripples, maintaining steady contact with the road surface and ensuring minimal vibration throughout the cabin.
It corners deftly too, at any speed and on any surface. At low speeds, the steering is light and agile and the turning circle is tight enough to edge in at 9.6 meters in diameter. However, at speed, the steering retains its directness and eagerness to change direction, whilst remaining incredibly stable. Even in the blustering winds of Van Reenen’s Pass, where the lightweight Suzuki Dzire could easily have been dragged off course, the combination of a well-grounded suspension setup and feelsome steering inspired confidence in an otherwise nerve-wracking situation.
Mechanically, the Suzuki Dzire proves itself to be a more than capable driving companion, and with low fuel economy and a reputation for high reliability and safety standards, it leaves little doubt as to its competence as a budget compact.
But in a day and age where some of the cheapest of budget-beaters feature a touchscreen infotainment system (vehicles like Renault’s Kwid), the Suzuki Dzire lags behind in interior luxuries. All the basics are taken care of, the GL specification on test equipped with electronically adjustable mirrors, satellite steering wheel controls for the radio system, Bluetooth telephony and media streaming, electric windows, and manual air conditioning. But the lack of a touchscreen infotainment system may be perceived as a downside by many technophiles, despite the fact that everything inside works flawlessly and allows Suzuki to focus on ensuring the mechanical aspects of the Suzuki Dzire are sound.
At the end of the day, buyers need to decide what they’d rather have – touch screen gimmicks at the expense of solid build quality, or a combination of mechanical reliability and high levels of safety. There’s still hope for the Suzuki though, as the introduction of the new Jimny brings with it the local introduction of OEM touchscreen infotainment systems – with any luck, this will filter down to a higher spec Dzire in the near future.
Of course, a critical aspect for any budget-buyer is safety. In a day and age where Datsun still offers a vehicle that NCAP deemed unsafe for sale to the public, Suzuki has equipped the Dzire with a fair bit of standard safety kit. Side impact beams, 3-point seatbelts all-around, ISOFIX child anchors in the rear bench, ABS with EBD, and dual front airbags are standard across all specification levels – no shortcuts taken at the expense of safety. Again, I ask, would you rather have a touchscreen infotainment system or a vehicle to keep you and your loved ones safe in the event of an accident?
The Suzuki Dzire makes compromises in several areas, namely interior sophistication – but it’s solidly built, comes with all the basic safety amenities, and is mechanically sound and a highly accomplished piece of driving equipment. Price is crucial in this segment though, and at R177 900 for the GL Manual specification on test, the Suzuki Dzire is smack bang in the middle of rivals like the Ford Figo sedan, Renault Sandero hatch, and Toyota Etios sedan. But it offers compelling dynamics the others can’t match, and achievable fuel economy the others couldn’t dream of. What it lacks in interior gimmicks, it more than compensates for elsewhere. The Suzuki Swift may provide more versatility at a lower price, but if you’re hell-bent on a budget sedan, the Dzire deserves to be at the top of your list.