Suzuki's Swift is aimed at rivals such as the Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and Opel Corsa.
Compact, dynamic and cute as a button, Suzuki seems to have hit the "cuddly" nail on the head. But it also describes its Swift as "sporty"...
The first of Suzuki's range of world strategy vehicles, the Swift was launched to much acclaim in 2004. With styling showing a distinct European flavour, Swift was the "Sporty" first step in a phased world strategy.
This plan would later be expanded to include "Family" (in the form of the Splash production car and A-Star concept) and "Status" (three Kizashi concepts of a mass produced D-segment contended due for release "in the very near future") off shoots.
For now, Swift makes a brazen assault on the South African market, accompanied by the also Sporty SX4 crossover SUV (see separate article).
The Grand Vitara full-sized SUV was also created under the Sporty banner and will be offered in South Africa from September.
A global hit
Swift hasn't been too badly received either. Built in seven global plants (local units are sourced from Japan), more than 280 000 units where sold in 2007 alone.
Locally, all models are powered by the same four-cylinder 1.5-litre motor with VVT variable valve timing that generates 74 kW at 6 000 r/min and 133 Nm at 4 000 r/min.
The lively little powerplant is mated with a five-speed manual gearbox or four-speed automatic on the higher of the two trim options presented.
And while Swift may no longer be a spring chicken, it did not disappoint on the short first drive in and around Johannesburg.
While I do believe the little car could do without the energy-sapping altitude at the Reef, it was absolutely manic at cruising speeds with the speedo's needle easily clipping the 160 km/h-mark.
Suzuki claims a top speed of 175 km/h and 170 km/h for the manual and automatic versions, respectively.
Combined fuel consumption on the 43-litre tank is 6.1 l/100 km for the manual model and 6.5 for the automatic, it is claimed.
Swift may not be the quickest car off the line at altitude, but it certainly impressed with its solid build integrity and its ability to convey competence with abundant boldness.
In fact, this car seems to vehemently steer clear of the "little person syndrome" demanding respect not for its cuteness, but for its absolute composure.
Using the tried McPherson strut and torsion beam arrangement, handling is superb as the Swift felt calm and assured on the back roads encountered along the route. It also managed to convincingly soak up most of the road bumps.
But even though Swift proved itself to be a worthy little runabout, it also has a winning formula in the appearance department. The car sportiness is imbued by its hunched-down stature, while styling is athletic - the roof's trailing edge is even styled as a spoiler.
The facia is neatly arranged and, in the top-spec GLS model, the two-tone piano and matte black finish across the central hangdown is rather fetching.
Specification, based on the model, is good. There is air conditioning, front fog lamps, alloy wheels, a height adjustable driver's seat, an MP3 playing front-loader with speed sensitive volume control linked to satellite audio controls and an information display with fuel consumption, exterior temperature and time readouts.
The cabin area is littered with useful oddment cubbies although I'm sure some buyers may have appreciated a bit more boot space. However, the rear bench does tumble forward in a 60/40 split for those times when you really need some extra space.
All cars come with front airbags as standard and ABS with EBD and BA. In terms of passive safety, Swift has been evaluated by Euro NCAP where it scored four stars for adult protection and three stars a piece for child and pedestrian protection.
Swift models are sold with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan and a three-year roadside assistance package. All models also come equipped with a Netstar Sleuth tracking device that could be activated for a monthly fee.
- Swift 1.5 GL - R116 900
- Swift 1.5 GLS - R131 900
- Swift 1.5 GLS Auto - R144 900