Launched in 1959, the original Mini was a breath of fresh air. Cheap, compact and cleverly packaged, the little Brit could seat four people in relative comfort while still providing a wondrous driving experience. Even today, the Mini is still considered to be one of the finest handling front-wheel drive cars of all time.
During its 41-year long production run, over five million units of the much-loved British icon were sold; a testament to its popularity and excellence. Reimagined for the 21st century, the contemporary Mini borrowed retro styling cues from the original – and was just as much fun to drive. But unlike the classic, it wore an inflated price tag. No longer a car for the masses, the modern day equivalent went after a more well-to-do clientele, with fancy embellishments and upmarket touches.
While the iconic name got a reboot, the spirit of the original Mini was never really captured. Or was it? The Suzuki Swift could be seen as a contemporary Mini – lightweight, well-priced, practical and plenty of fun to drive.
Recently facelifted, the latest-generation Swift has received a number of subtle updates. Three trim levels are available; GA, GL and the range-topping GLX. The R218,900 GLX receives new, polished 15-inch alloy wheels and dual-tone colour choice options. More important is the addition of electronic stability control, now standard across the range.
Painted in Arctic White Pearl with the contrasting black roof, our GLX test unit looked rather youthful and funky. Aside from a mesh-patterned grille with a chrome strip, the cheeky styling remains unchanged.
In the cabin, things remain largely unchanged – and that’s no bad thing. While not as avantgarde as the fashionable Ignis, the interior of the Swift is still appealing. Very intuitive, the controls are logically placed and the dials easy to read. Being the top-of-the-range model (if you exclude the turbocharged Sport), the GLX is very well-equipped. Keyless-entry with push-button start, climate control, a reverse camera, rear parking sensors and electric folding side mirrors are all standard.
A comprehensive touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto is also included. On the safety front, stability control is joined by ABS with EBD (and Brake Assist), dual front airbags and ISOFIX anchor points for child restraint systems. At this price point, don’t expect to find soft-touch, premium plastics – but a leather-trimmed steering wheel and rubberised gear lever do elevate the interior ambience. A two-year/30 000 km service plan and five-year 200 000 km warranty are both included in the price.
Despite the diminutive dimensions, the Swift is big on interior space. A height adjustable driver’s seat and a tilt/telescopic steering column makes it easy for anyone to get comfortable behind the wheel. The cloth-trimmed seats are supportive, too. Rear passenger space is commodious, with a 1.8 m adult sitting back there with ease. The boot, at 268 L, will swallow the weekly shop without breaking a sweat. Folding the 60/40 split rear bench serves up a capacious 953 L of utility space.
Prod the starter button and the 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine fires up. With 61 kW and 113 Nm of torque on tap, one would assume that the Swift isn’t the sprightliest car. It certainly lives up to its name, though, weighing just 875 kg. Courtesy of this featherweight mass, the Swift always feels alert and nimble, taking off from a set of lights like a far more powerful car. Over the test period, the Swift managed to average just 4.9 L/100 km – matching Suzuki’s fuel consumption claim.
The five-speed manual is a joy to use, with a precise gear change and short shift gate. The interaction it provides adds to the already dynamic feel of the Swift. A four-speed auto ‘box is available (at R234,900), but doesn’t have the smoothness or accuracy of the five-speed.
Despite the small 185/65 R15 tyres, the Swift exhibits remarkable roadholding and refinement. On the highway, it does a fine job of emulating a larger car, with a hushed cabin – even at higher speeds. The Suzuki feels planted through corners, providing high levels of feedback through the communicative steering. The 15-inch alloys don’t impede on ride comfort, the Swift soaking up road imperfections with ease.
Offering a suite of safety systems and a long list of standard features, the value-for-money on offer with the Swift is really difficult to ignore. What’s more, it’s rewarding to drive, too. It rolls down the road with confidence, absorbing bumps and potholes with ease. Push it through a corner, however, and it thrills with a willing engine, fabulous gearbox and dynamic handling. Add in a dollop of practicality (not to mention the superb fuel economy) and you’ve got a class leader. Like the Mini all those years ago, the Swift is a master of all trades – cheap, fun to drive (and desirable) transport that seemingly ticks all the boxes.
After 560 km, the reserve light in the @Suzuki_ZA Swift 1.2 GLX finally went on. An incredible distance, considering the small 37 L fuel tank. Trip computer says I averaged 4.9 L/100 km, matching the brand’s claim. pic.twitter.com/XjwJgLJfsA
— Jarryd Neves (@JarrydNeves) August 24, 2021
Suzuki Swift 1.2 GLX
Power: 61 kW/113 Nm
Fuel consumption: 4.9 L/100km (claimed)
Top speed: 170 km/h
Rivals: Kia Picanto, Peugeot 108
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