Road Tests

Drive Review: New Suzuki Swift 1.2 (2018) is market driven

Suzuki build great cars but marketing them as ‘cars millennials’ is a circumstance of price and buying new, rather than implying that someone who communicates through their skateboarding avatar is going to be awed by what a new Suzuki Swift can do for their virtual social reality.

So I find the whole launch strategy behind Swift a little dystopian; today they’re championing the Swift, tomorrow it’ll be the Ford Figo. There’s a lot of choice and all the brands are selling motoring independence. We had that in the 80s in the form of print and TV ads – it’s not suddenly a new phenomenon. If anything, in most cosmopolitan markets owning a car is far too much pressure for millennials – they want Uber and ride sharing. No commitments of their time and money for longer than two hours.

Insta-lies; saying you’re in Mozambique when actually it was a work conference and you never saw the beach.  Or drinking cocktails when you’re drinking beer because it costs less. Saying the Swift is for millennials when there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – the first two prayers from any devout millennial. No turbocharged engine, the only camera is the one on your phone (which is in your lap), no personalisation and straightforward colours. It’s no mover of paradigms.

Tightly engineered, uncorrupted driving cars. The new one is built in India ‘by Japanese people’ but if you know anything about factories, you’d know that cars are built by robots to whatever cost factor you put in front of them. On new Swift, that stock is deliberately diminished – Swift is not taking on Polo or Fiesta (for now), instead aiming lower down the price where buyers can be more forgiving.

This has some implications on the engine we get because like in India, SA government is blasé about Euro ratings. Engines rejected by Europe get rerouted to markets that’ll take them and the rest of the package arrives with similar detuned parity with comparatively deep-fried carbon emissions.

Due to this, the new Swift – much bigger in boot, legroom and less in weight – tries to mask those antiquated areas. Nothing in the interior or drivetrain raises the benchmark, even though Suzuki globally has all the inventory to build a really modern Swift that’s closer to R200 000.

And while I can’t escape the notion that deep down this Swift is the work of a marketer rather than an engineer, I must still say it’s still brilliant, to drive, even though it’s hardly touching the ceiling of its estimated potential. Honest, eager, still a TopGear favourite but the margin has slipped. Andrew Leopold


  • R175 900
  • 1197cc, 4cyl petrol, FWD, 61kW, 113Nm
  • 4.9l/100km, 116g/km CO2
  • 0-100km/h in 12.0secs, 170km/h
  • 875kg
  • Verdict: A better version but due to local factors this is not Suzuki Swift at its peak
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