Long-term test: 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX

In our increasingly complicated and bewildering modern lifestyles, I find more and more favour in simple things. Easy stuff. There’s a wonderful wholesomeness to a device that only does what it’s supposed to, and thank Heavens we still get automobiles of such a type: like this Suzuki Swift. 

Suzuki has never been on the forefront of tech-laden glamour machines; and long may it be so. This is also evident in their global presence and sales records, because they tend to ignore fast-paced first-world chaos in favour of developing markets which are hungry for affordable, well-built, well-spec’d automobiles.

The South African (and Namibian) sales statistics can easily back this up. With sensible cars at great prices, Suzuki Auto Southern Africa has no problems with moving metal; sometimes even saying a cheeky “howsit” to the top sales positions. If I had to open a new car dealer / franchise right now, Suzuki would be my first choice.

Just a few moments behind the wheel of this top-spec Swift GLX will confirm why, as will any of the cheerful dealers or PR staff I’ve met over the years. Suzuki products are priced right, they’re easy to drive and simple to maintain, while their specification levels are generously thought out. And yes, I’m even including the cheapie S-Presso in this equation.

Yeah, sure, there are some low-rent textures in this Swift and it will never garner the street-cred of an aggro-looking space ship with triple-clutch hybrid drive and multi-zone mood lighting. Again, not Suzuki’s market and, again, something that may not age as gracefully as a sensibly-styled runabout with trusted tech under the bonnet.

If you crave shiny trinkets and demand turbo DCT power, please look elsewhere.

That doesn’t mean that our dark blue 2021 Swift GLX Manual long-term test car was devoid of doors and used paraffin as its primary power source; oh no. Just a few highlights of this little hatchback include keyless entry and start, full climate control, touch-screen media system, two airbags, ABS brakes with EBD, stability and traction control.

At the current retail price of about R225,000 for this model, you will struggle to find a new alternative from competing manufacturers. Did I mention the four power windows, power mirrors, multi-function (and adjustable) steering wheel, 15-inch alloys, rear park sensors and reversing camera?

Honestly, how do they keep the price so low? Especially if you factor in a small service plan and a simply unbelievable manufacturer warranty of five years or 200,000km. Two hundred thousand! How’s that for backing up what is essentially an amazing* product already?

* Your definition of amazing may be different to mine.

I will concede that looks, features and power can be a huge selling point so someone looking for turbo-power at high altitudes will be disappointed by the linear but rev-hungry power delivery of this naturally-breathing 1.2L in-line 4-cylinder petrol engine.

Its 61kW or 113Nm will also struggle with steep inclines or heavy loads, although I took great delight in choosing the next shortest gear ratio and letting the rpm-happy motor sing to its indicated 6250rpm redline. As a personal gripe, I found the rev limiter set too low – pretty much on said redline – and aurally boring as a monotonous hum.

And yes, I’ll stick my hand up to admit that one shouldn’t abuse a car that way, but will lower it in defence of the spirited and fun driving style that this lil’ Suzi encourages. Steering and pedal feel is quite light, and there’s quite a bit of lean from the semi-soft suspension or high tyre side-walls, yet this cheeky Swift is a joy to throw around corners.

Much like other Suzuki products, the occasional full swoop of its tachometer has little influence on the car’s fuel consumption. The Swift’s maker claims just 4.9L/100km but that is – as with all other vehicles – a best-case scenario. We usually averaged mid sixes from the 37L tank but reckon that 5L per 100 is absolutely possible on a steady cruise.

And, just to prove that we aren’t going to sugar-coat our entire experience with this car, the boot or cargo area is comparatively compact at just 268 litres. Throw out your rear passengers though and this can increase to almost 580L (half-split folding rear seats) or a very generous 953L; which can take a semi-disassembled mountain bicycle. 

Other numbers worth mentioning include the excellent kerb weight of just 875kg, a parking-friendly length of 3.84 metres, its turning radius of just 9.6m and a ground clearance of about 145mm. Suzuki claims 0-100km/h in 12 seconds and a top speed of 170km/h; both of which are highly plausible.

In a final effort to give you a fair review, I often noted a Suzuki-typical resistance when trying to engage reverse gear. Careless operators may even induce grinding noises… ditto for front wheel slip while pulling away. Some drivers bemoaned the high revving nature of this five-speed manual gearbox, but Suzuki did that to keep its little engine on the boil at all times.

Personally, I’m not fond of the media system, primarily because it lacks a physical volume knob. Having said that, it follows the car’s credo by being easy to fathom and simple to operate. That also goes for the digital climate control, which often got this dark-blue car’s temperature from scorching to cool with ruthless efficiency!

But more than that, and circling back to my initial point about Suzukis being so wholesome and simple, this little hatchback seamlessly slotted into the lives of three families during the Festive Season 2021. It carried spouses, kids, groceries, friends, bikes, grandparents, seaside holiday luggage and even an ailing old cat a few times.

And it did so perfectly, without putting a single wheel wrong. I know that is true of every “holiday car” we at Galimoto Media / NamWheels have been blessed with over the years, but living with this capable little Swift 1.2 GLX for a few weeks concreted my belief that it’s the best entry-level hatchback money can buy.

You’d be mad to buy anything else!

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