Monday 5 December 2016

A big cheer for a small car

Published 30/07/2011 | 05:00

SUZUKI
SWIFT5-DRSUPERMINI
RATING 83/100
SUZUKI SWIFT5-DRSUPERMINI RATING 83/100

Those who shout loudest in the car business usually get most attention -- at least in the short term. It is the nature of the beast. It works for most of them, until another lion roars even louder.

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And by golly there has been some roaring over the past few months.

However, the maker of this week's review car does not have Tarzan tonsils.

Indeed Suzuki tends to whisper.

Now and again it gets listened to, but mostly it goes about its business quietly, relying on a coterie of owners to pass on the word to others -- if they reckon it is worth it. Like every marque it has its stars and its plodders.

The previous Swift supermini was a star, picking up an Irish car-of-the- year accolade among others. This one, remarkably similar in looks and lineage, has been around for nine months or so and, now has belatedly presented us with a diesel version.

I was not greatly impressed with the 1.2-litre petrol that has been its sole powerhouse until now, despite proclamations (loud enough, mind you) that it was a vast improvement on its predecessor.

The arrival of this 1.3-litre diesel gave me the excuse, for one, to get back into the car and secondly, to see what Suzuki could do with a diesel in a modern supermini.

But first a little about the car. It is most definitely, even allowing for the evolutionary nature of its visual progress, not a conventional-looking hatch.

I suspect the Suzuki people took a long hard look at the previous one and asked why fix the looks if they ain't broken.

It remains a mix of sturdy and smart looks; the copper-coloured version I had certainly made it stand out.

It's quite roomy, larger than several rivals in terms of passenger space, but has a tiny boot (of course rear seats fold and all that so you can get in a lot more luggage and stuff).

Most of the room, derived from it being 90mm longer and having an additional 50mm on the wheelbase, appears to have gone into the cabin.

There was a consistently solid feel to this across a great variety of surfaces and road types; the sort which infuses a confidence that this will withstand many a year's comings and goings.

Certainly the seating is a big improvement and compared well with what you'd get in a larger car.

However, my shins came far too close to the plastic covering that drapes from the steering wheel down.

Because of the way I sat, the bony old lower limbs came too often into contact with that covering as I reached for the pedals.

A small, individual, criticism perhaps but one to be noted for taller drivers, or those who like to sit up close to the wheel.

Incidentally, the dash and many of the plastic coverings and fittings are of a really decent quality.

Now normally if I say I was changing gears and braking frequently I would expect you to take it as a criticism.

That usually implaies that the engine was not flexible enough in its distribution of power and needed the resuscitating impetus of lower gearing.

In this case it was merely a fellow traveller of the sort of driving I was doing and the speeds at which I was travelling and showed plenty of flexibility.

That little 1.3-litre DDiS diesel engine was well up to the demands of low-speed/high-gear driving as I lolled around less-frequented parts of the country.

By the same token it really opened up on motorway journeys, bringing a distinctly spritely feel to the drive.

If I were you I would disregard the derisory 0-100 kmh time of 12.7 secs.

Because of an 8pc reduction in fuel consumption (4.2 litres/100kms or 67.3mpg) and a 9pc cut in tailpipe emissions, this now easily falls in the €104-a-year road tax bracket.

With a 42-litre tank, Suzuki -- not me -- reckon you could get a driving range of around 1,000kms.

Possibly so, but I think you'd be taking things terribly easy. It still was easy on the juice and I reckon 55mpg to 60mpg was readily attainable even for my sort of driving.

The biggest challenge is price. As much as €17,500 for a supermini is a fair ask, regardless of its impressive credentials.

You see the difficulty is you can get into a larger family hatchback for not an awful lot more than that because there has been a right old price war going on there for some time.

I have no difficulty saying the Suzuki Swift 1.3-litre DDiS is as good a small car as there is out there at the moment.

It is a pity the privilege of owning a diesel in such a motor is relatively high in a cut-throat pricing market.

That said, this is still well worth a test drive and you might find yourself joining a faithful coterie of Suzuki followers who prefer to sing, rather than shout, its praises.

ecunningham@independent.ie

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