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First drive: Suzuki holds Swift prices at 2005 levels

Safer Swift: Latest Suzuki light car comes standard with seven airbags and ESC for under $16,000.

Revamped Suzuki light car costs the same as six years ago but is far better equipped


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3 Feb 2011

SUZUKI has lowered the entry-level price of its global best-seller in Australia by $300 despite a sizeable increase in standard features.

Kicking off from $15,990 – the same as the outgoing EZ-series Swift cost in February 2005 – the all-new AZ Swift will come standard with seven airbags (including a driver’s knee saver) and electronic stability control (ESC), making the whole range a five-star ANCAP crash-test performer.

Also included across the range are anti-lock brakes (ABS) with EBD electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA), along with air-conditioning, power windows, electric mirrors, remote central locking and a four-speaker radio/CD/MP3 player with a USB port.

New Australia-wide nomenclature is also being adopted, with the GA, GL and GLX model walk-up introduced to replace the ‘Swift’, S and Sport varieties – although the EZ model has had these in Queensland for years due to the Sunshine State having a different distributor.

But to get the body-coloured door-handles and side mirrors, tachometer and leather-bound steering wheel that were standard in the previous EZ Swift ($16,290), buyers must fork out $700 extra over the new GA base model for the 2011 Swift GL ($16,690).

Going GL nets about $1500 worth of extra gear, according to Suzuki, including an extra two audio speakers and steering wheel-mounted audio controls.

There’s a $1700 premium for the carryover four-speed automatic gearbox, available only in $18,390 GL or $20,690 GLX guises. The previous EZ Swift auto started at $17,990.

Nevertheless, Suzuki expects about 60 per cent of buyers to choose the self-shifter over the standard five-speed manual gearbox, with the GL and GLX each accounting for about 40 per cent of all sales.

The latter, which equates to the old Swift S by the way, adds 16-inch alloy wheels (replacing the 15-inch steel items on lesser versions), rear wheel disc brakes, telescopic steering wheel adjustment, keyless entry/start, climate-control air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and front foglights.

There is no Swift Sport equivalent for now, although Suzuki Australia boss Tony Devers did reveal there is something exciting under development.

Finally, there are a host of new-to-Swift options buyers can choose from, including satellite-navigation, a sports body-kit and body striping.

Suzuki hopes to increase Swift sales to the tune of 2000 units (or a conservative 10 per cent), to bring its tally in the booming light-car market segment to about 13,500 for 2011.

‘White Collar’ couples aged between 25 and 54 years old are the main target audience, followed by young females aged between 20 and 29. Some 58 per cent of all Swift purchasers are female – up from about 75 per cent just three years ago.

“It shifted from girly to more blokey and macho,” Mr Devers said. "Helping that along was a stronger male bias towards the flagship Sport, as well as the series’ considerable motorsport success."Last year the EZ Swift was the fifth best selling mainstream light car in Australia behind the Hyundai Getz, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2 and Holden Barina, although Suzuki points out that – combined with its smaller and cheaper, sub-B Alto baby from India – it is number one for private sales in the segment.

The AZ Swift is the fourth-generation Suzuki to wear the moniker since the series commenced in 1983, and is slightly larger than the car it replaces.

Japanese designers based in Italy and Germany competed for the design internally, with the former group’s conservative, evolutionary approach winning the vote, with “evolution of outstanding style” becoming the mantra.

Yet, while every exterior panel is new, the car overall boasts 15 per cent better torsional rigidity with a significant rise in high-strength steels. Nevertheless, a concerted weight-saving program has limited kerb weight increases to 25kg despite rises in all key size dimensions and more standard safety and equipment levels.

Furthermore, the underpinnings have been significantly overhauled (MacPherson strut suspension up front and a torsion beam rear end and electrically powered rack-and-pinion steering) or completely changed (drivetrain).

Gone is the old M15A 74kW/133Nm 1.5-litre four-cylinder twin-cam 16-valve four-cylinder petrol engine, replaced by a slightly smaller, lighter, cleaner and less powerful K14B 1.4-litre unit with variable valve timing.

Outputs are now 70kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4000rpm, for class-leading fuel consumption of 5.5 litres per 100km (versus 6.3 before) and CO2 emissions of 132 grams per kilometre (previously 152) in five-speed manual guise.

A four-speed automatic carries over.

Suzuki claims new electronic throttle control helps offset the performance gap by sharpening response across the rev range while top and bottom end performance is helped by a higher compression ratio (10:1 vs 9.5:1) and a longer stroke.

With the pursuit of improved refinement, the Swift’s drivetrain is said to be some three decibels quieter at 120km/h than before.

Suzuki said the increased body stiffness has allowed it to soften the suspension slightly without affecting handling.

Despite minor weight-saving measures, the stiffer body and increased specification increases kerb weight by 25kg to between 1025kg and 1065kg, depending on options.

Overall length increases by 90mm, while width is up by 5mm, height increases 10mm and wheelbase expands by 40mm to 2430mm, improving rear seat accommodation.

The Swift offers a space-saver spare wheel beneath a double-deck boot floor, which combines with 60/40-split folding rear seats to offer an almost-flat load space. Cargo space varies from 200 litres (reaching the window line only) to 900 litres.

Australians will not have access to the 1.2-litre petrol, 1.3-litre diesel or all-wheel drive Swift models available abroad, but a GTI successor to the old 1.6-litre Swift Sport is on the horizon.

2011 Suzuki Swiftpricing:
GL (a)$18,390
GLX (a)$20,690

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