Tested: 2021 Suzuki Swift 1.2 GLX

The Suzuki Swift has picked up where the VW Polo and Vivo left off. There, I said it! While Volkswagen and the rest of the car world tear each other to pieces for any morsel of the premium markets, Suzuki is left smiling all the way to the budget bank…

Consider this. A Polo used to be a compact entry-level hatchback, perfect for students, retirees or anyone else with a need for no-thrills motoring. They had simple running gear, Spartan interiors, the accepted norm of safety and convenience features, while being in the financial reach of most buyers.

And before we get into a socio-economic debate about salaries and inflation, the people’s car maker clearly watched their budget beater wander upmarket and away from hordes of hungry motorists so they came up with that famous CitiGolf replacement; the Polo Vivo. That was simple, humbly spec’d and affordable.

But guess what? For reasons which I can only assume hark back to the Citi – safety and emissions – the cheap and cheerful gen 1 Vivo was ruthlessly replaced by a more modern and expensive version. Sure, it looks and drives better, but I truly miss the old Vivo with its friendly face and easily distinguishable shape.

And before I donate a fourth paragraph to VW in what’s supposed to be a Suzuki review, here comes the clincher: the cheapest Vivo costs R225,000. The cheapest Swift? R181,000. And don’t you think for one second that you’ll get a box of air with four wheels for that price, oh no, the little Suzuki has a mean packaging punch.

That entry-level model, the 1.2 GA, has ABS brakes, traction control and brake assist. The Vivo only has ABS. While the Swift has no radio, it does come out of the box with rear parking sensors; an option on the VW. Both have aircon, remote central locking and front power windows but the Suzi trumps the Veedub again with rear powered glass and a small service plan.

See what I mean? Small car, small price, big spec. Go up to the mid-spec Swift GL model at 200k and it’s tickets for the Vivo. Whichever model you pick, from either brand, there’s a huge saving but superior features to be had with the Japanese competitor. Ah, but what about size and dimensions, you may ask?

The Vivo is a tad longer, which may account for its slightly larger boot and tank volume. It’s lower and thinner though, so don’t expect to find more elbow- or head-room in there. Ground clearance is roughly the same around 145mm but the Swift has another ace up its sleeve when it comes to weight: 875 vs at least 1,060kg.

That’s also a clue as to the performance of these naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol hatchbacks. The Suzuki’s 1.2L motor kicks out a healthy 61kW versus the Volkswagen 1.4L’s more leisurely 55kW. The VW has more torque though: 130Nm vs 113Nm, which probably means you can shift up earlier in the Vivo.

I’d love to confirm its ride and drive but VWSA’s press fleet declined to provide us with a Vivo. Oh well.

0-100km/h should take around 12 seconds in the Swift 1.2 and, umm, no idea in the Volkswagen. They don’t publish performance stats. Luckily we do, and our best acceleration time in our metallic maroon Swift 1.2 GLX Manual press vehicle yielded just 11.22 seconds. Reversing the process took 3.03 seconds and 41.21 metres.

It’s worth noting that these values were achieved at sea level and that a Swift 1.2 will lose a substantial amount of its eager character when the altitude and/or payload increase; ditto for a Vivo, to be fair. But that often means you get to drive it hard, a thoroughly rewarding experience, just to keep up with or pass traffic.

Another noteworthy inclusion I have to make is that Suzukis not only encourage you to give them the beans from time to time, they also tend to be quite frugal with the contents of their fuel tanks. Its maker claims 4.9L/100km for the Swift 1.2 and while you’ll see more in thrashy town use, that figure is absolutely achievable on the open road.

As for the interior, it’s all standard stuff inside the Swift: agreeable cloth patterns on the comfy seats, decent panel gaps and finishes on hard but qualitative plastic panels, a dash of silver here and a spot of pleather there to liven things up a bit. The sound system is easy to use and, for this price point, relatively punchy.

All major driving controls are very light to operate, erring on the side of too light for the steering and clutch. I stalled our GLX press car once or twice but hasten to add that an extra dab of throttle will solve any launch troubles; plus the new owner of such a vehicle will quickly get used to its biting point.

In summary, and as an apology for dragging the poor Vivo into all of this, I merely wanted to point out what exceptionally good value a Suzuki Swift 1.2 GLX – any Suzuki Swift – represents when you compare it to the more popular hatchbacks out there. If you are even slightly curious (or short on cash) do yourself a massive favour and test-drive one today!

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