Jaco van der Merwe
Over the course of the last year, the popularity of the Suzuki Swift has catapulted the Japanese carmaker to new heights on the local automotive leaderboard.
A manufacturer that once barely made it into the top 10 in terms of monthly new sales has set numerous records since 2020 to now find itself in the top 5. Only trailing Toyota, Volkswagen, Ford and Hyundai in April and May, Suzuki now truly rate among the big boys.
While the introduction of two new models, the S-Presso and Vitara Brezza, as well the Jimny’s ever-growing cult status, have all played their part in this success story, the star of the show is undoubtedly the Swift. The staggering 5 595 Swifts Suzuki sold from October 2020 to May 2021 works out to 34.6% of its total sales of 16 169 over that period.
To put the Swift’s average monthly sales of 699 for those eight months into further perspective, over the first half of 2019 there were months Suzuki’s total sales hardly reached four digits.
Nip and tuck
In April Suzuki introduced the updated Swift which is set to further enhance the budget hatchback’s popularity. We recently got to sample the new Swift in top-of-the-range GLX trim with the manual transmission and it didn’t take long for us to realise why this car has scooped awards all around the world.
But before we get to the drive itself, let’s go through the product enhancements. Up front, the grille features a more distinctive mesh pattern and is divided by a chrome strip. The top half features large Suzuki emblem and the number plate is situated below this chrome line.
No changes have taken place at the rear.
A new colour palette features three unique dual-tone options. We thought our test unit clad in Midnight Blue Pearl with a white roof looked stunning along with the new 15-inch polished alloy wheels. But you might just find yourself with a nice headache having to choose between this and the Fire Red and Arctic Pearl White, which both feature a black roof.
Safer than before
A welcome addition to the model range is Electronic Stability Control (ESP), which joins other standard safety spec like dual airbags, ABS with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, ISOFIX child seat anchor points and safety belts fitted with pre-tensioners and force limiters.
Inside, the Swift in GLX guise now benefit from a high-resolution reverse camera that displays on the touchscreen infotainment system, which also features smartphone connectivity. Other flagship-exclusive features include climate control, keyless access with start/stop button and electric folding side mirrors.
GLX still the only Swift model to have a touchscreen infotainment system.
Space inside is ample for a car only measuring 3 840 mm in length. Leg and headroom in the rear is adequate for two adults in daily city traffic, while 268-litre boot space was enough to daily swallow school cases for two primary school children.
Up front things have been kept unchanged. The Swift is powered by the trusty K12M 1.2-litre four-pot naturally aspirated petrol engine, which uses variable valve technology. It sends 61 kW of power and 112 Nm of torque to the front wheels, in our case via five-speed manual transmission.
Suzuki claims a fuel consumption of 4.9 L/100 km. We couldn’t achieve that, but felt the 5.6 L/100 km we did manage over the course of a week is going to be hard to beat for a city car in the economy stakes. That number will ensure you get well over 600 km on the 37-litre fuel tank.
We were really impressed with the drive. In a segment largely dominated by 1.0-litre derivatives, the extra engine capacity really makes a notable difference in a car weighing only 875 kg. Even with four occupants, the Swift never had to work too hard and there also wasn’t a constant need for downshifting to keep it on the boil.
The clutch and gearbox combination is buttery smooth and very easy to operate, while steering is light and direct. With a turning circle of only 9.6 m in conjunction with the added benefit of the reverse camera, maneuvering in tight spaces is ridiculously easy.
Being so light, easy to operate and very comfortable, the Swift turned out to be great fun to have as a house guest, making additional runs purely for the sake of it before the week ran out.
Even though the Swift’s interior still mainly consists of hard plastics, the finishing is of better quality than most of its rivals in the budget segment. On the whole, it is a small compromise for an otherwise very attractive package.
The built quality, the striking new look, the generous set of specifications, the engine, the driveability and the overall fun factor combine extremely well to make the Swift GLX manual a very attractive option at R218 900. The updated version will only ensure the Swift’s local stock continues to rise.
The Swift comes standard with a two year/30 000 km service plan and a five year/200 000 km warranty.