Suzuki Swift

Gen three maintains the mojo and gets it mostly right

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE CORPORATE amnesia.

It struck Peugeot in the 2000s (when it forgot how to make beautiful and dynamic cars) and the fear in the lead-up to the latest Swift, was that Suzuki might be next, after two generations of stylishness and sass.

It turns out we had no reason to be worried. Chief engineer Maso Kobori revealed that honing Ďfun and sportyí was his teamís aim when work commenced on the new AZ series in 2013, ahead even of the usual noble pursuits of improved efficiency, refinement, safety and driveability.

Longer and wider than before, with a lower ride height and roof line, the latest Swift sits on an all-new architecture shared with the bigger Baleno, though the suspension (struts up front, torsion beam behind) and steering are tuned for European tastes.

Aided by a circa 20 percent lighter yet stronger body (boasting triple the amount of ultra highstrength steel), the upshot is a more solid and firmer footing at speed, with better noise isolation to boot. While still quick and crisp, the helm isnít as nervous as before through faster turns, while bumps neither upset nor divert this Suzukiís trajectory like they might once have. Thatís progress.

Aside from a hint of rack rattle (admittedly while carving up through craggy corners with gusto and control), the Swift steers, handles and rides like a larger and more sophisticated car.

On paper, the introduction of a 66kW/120Nm 1.2-litre atmo four as the standard engine might seem like a backward step from the predecessorís 4kW/10Nm stronger 1.4. But a 100kg-plus weight drop combined with excellent economy and an infectious propensity to bounce off the 7000rpm cut-out means this gemís feisty can-do urge perfectly suits the chassisí dynamic integrity. Just donít spare the revs. And fine as the smooth, reactive and lag-free CVT is, the five-speed manual pairing is bliss.

Auto-only drivers donít know what theyíre missing.

But Suzuki is a gun with turbos, and the GLXís 82kW/160Nm 1.0-litre turbo triple/six-speed torque-converter auto combo (rated at 90kW/tonne) can flex some muscle, delivering spirited off-the-line vigour and energetic midrange acceleration. Sounds pretty pleasing, too.

The feeling of quality and class continues in what is palpably a roomier and quieter cabin than in any previous Swift. The attention to detail is pleasing, from the chic three-spoke wheel, racy analogue instrument dials and colourful multimedia screen to the nicely angled backrest and plentiful storage areas. But rear vision is hampered by a surprisingly fat C-pillar, and rear sensors or a reversing camera arenít offered in the GL manual.

Which brings us to the issue of value. Choosing to change gears yourself means also forgoing the camera, central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat-nav and alloys that feature in the auto-only GL Navigator for just $1000 extra, at $17,990 driveaway.

Additionally, autonomous emergency braking (as part of a $1200 safety pack that also brings lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise in the latter, or as standard in the GLX) isnít available in the manual either. Pity.

Atmo versus turbo. Manual versus auto. This truly is a tale of two Swifts. Whichever variant, the third-gen Suzi provides a stylish and stirring alternative to the best-sellers. Suzuki hasnít forgotten its mojo after all.

PLUS & MINUS

Space; slick powertrains; pacy turbo triple; refinement; handling AEB not available on 1.2 manual; no turbo manual; no digital speedo

BOOSTED SPEC 01

Along with the turbo/sixspeed powertrain, the GLX also introduces rear discs, steering reach adjustment, LED headlights, climate control, paddle shifters, AEB, lane departure warning, adaptive cruise and auto high beams.

NO BALONEY 02

The Japanese-built Swift shares the decent basic architecture from the Indian-made Baleno, as well as the 1.0-litre turbo auto powertrain, but has a stronger focus on design, dynamics and safety. The Baleno instead strives for class-redefining rear-seat and cargo space.

SWIFT RESTYLE 03

Though thematically similar to the last two Swifts, the latest has a broader shoulder line to go with the fresh proportions (10mm longer, 40mm wider and 15mm lower), a much larger hexagonal-shaped grille and 20mm-longer wheelbase.

A good Sport

The Swift Sport is set to be reinvented next year, armed with the lively 103kW/220Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo that graces some Vitara and S-Cross variants. Replacing the old 100kW/160Nm 1.6-litre atmo unit, the Swift Sportís extra grunt should give the heavier Fiesta ST (134kW/240Nm) some heat.

And, unlike the new GLXís 82kW/160Nm 1.0-litre three-pot turbo/six-speed auto combo, the next Sport is likely to score a manual gearbox. Though, Suzuki says the smaller turbo might get a manual too, if thereís enough demand from Aussie buyers.

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