Suzuki Swift 2005 review
So good, actually, that we have rushed it into our review program more than two weeks ahead of its official on-sale date in Victoria.
The price is still to be confirmed, but from a likely $15,990 it's already looking one of the unexpected stars of the year.
Say what? Well, the new Swift is far and away better than any car we've driven with a Suzuki badge.
It makes the boxy baby Wagon R+ look like just what it was: a joke.
And it also makes the Liana look as stale as last year's laptop.
The Swift is curvy and good-looking, well built and enjoyable to drive. Whisper it, but there is even a hint of Volkswagen Golf about the look and feel of the cabin.
It's not perfect. The pedals are cramped and it has lacklustre tyres, but that's about it for real complaints.
The Swift is more than good enough to attack the pace-setting Toyota Echo and Hyundai Getz in the compact class, and a slightly higher price is offset by a five-door hatchback body.
Suzuki has already been stunned by the success of the Swift, which has sold at nearly double the company's predicted rate in Japan for the first few months of the car's life.
It proves Suzuki was serious when it said it was concentrating on Europe, not Japan, when developing the car.
It really needs to break the mould as a maker of tinny and tiny baby cars.
It also sets a high standard for the next Japanese newcomer, the Daihatsu Sirion, which has been a massive under-achiever here.
"We learned many lessons while developing the new Swift; lessons that we'll remember and use with all future Suzuki vehicles," Swift project leader Eiji Mochizuki says.
"The challenges were huge. But the rewards have been just as great. We spent months in Europe, working day and night."
The result is a car that is significantly larger inside than any previous Suzuki. It has a 1.5-litre engine that benefits from variable-valve timing and a chassis that is genuinely well sorted for all roads.
The body shape is one of the trendiest around. It has a smart curve up over the nose and all four corners are wrapped tightly around the wheels.
We're still not sure of the model line-up, specification and prices, but there will be two Swifts for Australia – the basic car and the S, also called the Z-Series in Queensland. The basic model is from $15,990, the up-scale vehicle from $17,990. Four-speed automatic puts $2000 on to the showroom sticker.
Suzuki Australia won't even preview the Swift to the Australian press for another two weeks, but is prepared for a showroom rush and admits prices will be in line with Queensland, where the Swift hit the road on January 1.
Equipment in the basic car will run from twin airbags and anti-skid brakes to power steering, electric windows, central locking and airconditioning. The more expensive car also gets head-protection airbags, alloy wheels and front foglamps.
ON THE ROAD
We were won over in the first few minutes with the Swift. And that was despite carrying some nasty emotional baggage from previous Suzuki cars, including being laughed at by other drivers while in the Wagon R+.
The car looks good, the quality is impressive and the Swift is quiet and enjoyable to drive.
Our test car, a Z-Series in Queensland, which should be identical to the Swift S, was still tight in the engine and the gearbox had a slightly baulky shift, but those would likely smooth out over time. We also found foot-space tight on the driver's side, particularly for resting the left leg. The boot is only just big enough for the job, and the tyres gripped well below the limit of the chassis.
But that was it. Nothing big and a few problems that would clear up with more kilometres.
We enjoyed our kilometres in seats that are extremely comfortable and supportive, particularly for the class. And the car is truly nice to drive. The suspension is commendably cushy, noise levels are low and handling is safe and predictable, though the tyres do slip a bit on damp roads at relatively low speeds.
The cabin is well designed, the equipment is good for the price and even the back seat is reasonable for adults.
The engine is keen, though lacking a bit in torque, and the fuel economy of 7.3 litres/100km is good. The gear ratios help move it along and there is none of the breathless feel that comes in some 1.5-litre motors.
Lined up against its rivals, the Swift is more costly than the three-door price leaders in the compact class, but compensates with its equipment and quality.
We also prefer the feel of the car, and that's everything from the seat fabrics to the steering, over rivals such as the Hyundai Getz and the ageing Echo. We've tried to give the Swift a leg-up by comparing it with five-door price rivals, instead of lining it up against three-door price players. It could even face up well against baby-car pacesetters Mazda2 and Honda Jazz.
It has everything needed for success in Australia. Now it's back to Suzuki for the official price, so we can do final comparisons.
A terrific little car that should do great business, and get people looking beyond the Toyota Echo and Hyundai Getz.