Suzuki re-entered the South African car market late in 2008 with two models, the Swift and the SX4, with not many people being too familiar with the marque. Sure, I knew products like the Vitara SUV, but cars? I was quite surprised that they too wanted a slice of our motoring pie. I was even more surprised when I started spotting their cars on our roads in increasing numbers.
The Swift has been averaging about 188 units a month in sales (132 in its first month, up to 249 units two months later), with the SX4 doing about 145 units a month over the same time (98 units in its first month, more than double that in its second month). Now, both vehicles are finalists in the SA 2009 Car of the Year (COTY) contest.
SUZUKI SWIFT 1.5 GLS
The Swift is an adorable little run-around. Its design is fresh and funky without being too extroverted, with large headlights dominating the front and sweeping taillights at the back.
There are a few interesting crease lines thrown in for good measure (on the bonnet and on the side) and, other than reminding one of a MINI in profile, it is a very handsome small car.
The interior is also impressive. Yes, the plastics are of the hard and hollow variety, but it’s neat and there’s absolutely no fault with build quality. The seats are very comfortable, and space is equally impressive for a car this size. The dashboard and fascia design is excellent, with everything positioned perfectly.
What I really enjoyed though was the Swift’s handling. It’s a nippy little car that inspires a lot of confidence under any condition. Its squat stance provides loads of stability, and there’s sufficient feedback to the driver (although I did encounter slight oversteer occasionally).
Compared to the Honda Jazz and Ford Fiesta, the Swift feels a tad aged and unrefined. It’s a great little car on which I’d spend my own money, but in the context of COTY, it unfortunately loses out.
PRICE: R138 900
MARKET COMPETITORS: Honda Jazz 1.5 EX and Ford Fiesta 1.6 Trend
SUZUKI SX4 2.0
Suzuki’s SX4 is a more traditional hatchback with lovely crossover trimmings that makes it look like a little bundu-basher. The exterior design is again a very cohesive package, with the front being very attractive.
I found the rear to be overly dull, with the partly clear taillights making it look cheaper than it is. However, the plastic mouldings and roof rails, together with the bigger wheels, gives the SX4 a very purposeful stance that definitely draws attention.
The SX4 also scores points with its interior. The basic layout resembles that of the Swift (which is a good thing), but with more detail to the middle console and more attractive and supportive seats. There’s also more interior space, and you can actually fit a suitcase into the boot, which would have been a challenge with the Swift.
The SX4’s handling didn’t feel quite as sharp as that of the Swift, probably due to the fatter tires and higher stance. There’s slight body roll under hard cornering, but less oversteer. SX4 is delightful in urban driving circumstances, and remarkably comfortable on the long haul.
The SX4 doesn’t really have many direct competitors and is priced very well for what’s on offer, with good specs and build quality combining to make it the darkest horse in the competition. While I would be delighted if it took the crown, I’d also be pleasantly surprised.
PRICE: R178 900
MARKET COMPETITORS: Volkswagen CrossPolo and Fiat’s Panda 4X4