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Suzuki spices up Swift line-up with hotter four

Performance push: The Swift Sport develops 92kW from its 1.6-litre engine.

Suzuki hopes to recapture some of the strengths of its famed GTi

25 Sep 2006

THE arrival of the Suzuki Swift Sport and new small SX4 crossover are expected to contribute significantly to lifting Suzuki Australia sales volumes over the next few years.

The company is confident the newcomers, plus a range of other new models, will help push sales to an expected 30,000 a year by 2010, double its 2006 forecast of 15,000 vehicles.

Last year the head of overseas marketing for Suzuki, Mr Hirotaka Ono, said he wanted Suzuki Australia volumes to hit 30,000 a year by 2010.

The five-door Swift Sport – essentially a spiritual successor to the famed GTi –is the latest Suzuki arrival. It is on sale now priced at $23,990.

The company’s fortunes have risen recently on the back of the stylish Swift hatch, which has helped lift sales more than 100 per cent over 2004, when it sold 3888 vehicles in total.

Last year Suzuki Australia sold 10,598 vehicles and so far this year it has sold 10,438 cars and four-wheel drives with the Swift making up about two-thirds of local volumes.

The company’s Australian general manager David LeMottee, said despite the sales growth, the Australian distributor was still constrained by supply for the Swift.

"It’s something we’re working on," he said.

All models destined for Australia are built in Japan, where the company is building a new plant to lift global production.

The new Swift Sport, which goes on sale from September 30, is expected to add 1000 units a year.

The five-door Sport has a more powerful 1.6-litre VVT engine mated to a close-ratio five-speed manual gearbox and is priced from $23,990.

It offers 92kW at 6800rpm, compared to the Swift GTi’s 1.5-litre, which developed 75kW at 6000rpm.

The Sport comes with twin exhausts, 16-inch alloys, dual front, side and curtain airbags, four-speaker in-dash CD stereo system with MP3 capabilities, steering wheel audio controls, air conditioning, electric mirrors/windows, rear spoiler, power steering, remote keyless entry and ABS.

Sporty touches inside include a three-spoke leather steering wheel, silver garnished shift knob, stainless steel pedals, illuminated ring around the speedometer and sports seats.

The Swift’s MacPherson strut front and torsion-beam coil-spring rear suspension gains a firmer sports setting with Monroe shock absorbers that have increased compression and rebound dampening forces.

Early next year, the company will launch a new small SX4 crossover vehicle, which is designed to fit between the Swift and Grand Vitara with pricing between $22,000 and $25,000.

It is also expected to be offered in both front-wheel drive or three-mode all-wheel drive.

In Europe, Suzuki also offers the car with a Fiat-sourced six-speed 88kW 1.9-litre turbo-diesel, the same engine fitted to the Holden Astra and Fiat Punto.

However, Mr LeMottee has ruled out a diesel version for Australia.

"It’s not available outside Europe at the moment," he said.

GoAuto understands the SX4 could be fitted with the biggest petrol engine available, a 106kW, 2.0-litre petrol four-cylinder engine mated to a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.

However, Mr LeMottee said engine and transmission choices were yet to be confirmed, along with specification levels.

The SX4 architecture is also being tipped to be adopted for a new small sedan to replace the lacklustre $19,990 1.8-litre Liana towards the end of 2007.

Prototypes of the sedan, which closely follow the styling cues of the SX4, have already been photographed undergoing testing in the United States.

Mr LeMottee also said that the Splash concept car, being unveiled at the Paris motor show this week was "just a concept" and yet to be confirmed for production.

30 center imageHowever, Suzuki Japan is keen to offer a sub-Swift baby car with a price point around $13,000, which if it goes on sale here puts it in Proton Savvy and Holden Barina territory.

The front-wheel drive light hatch is expected to be based on the Splash concept that’s due to make its debut at the Paris motor show this week. It could be on sale here by 2008-2009.

The Splash shares its architecture with the Swift but features a new 1.2-litre engine mated to a four-speed automatic transmission.

The Splash is 3780mm long and sits on a wheelbase of 2360mm. It is 1780mm wide and 1650mm high, making it slightly longer, wider and higher than a Proton Savvy but sitting on a slightly shorter wheelbase.

Apart from its light and small car assault, Suzuki is also tipped to introduce a D-segment sedan and wagon in 2009 to battle the mid-size offerings from Mazda and Honda.

The mid-size entrant will share a GM-Daewoo platform, using a GM-sourced V6. In Korea GM-Daewoo already sells the car as the Tosca.

The same vehicle, to be known as the Epica, will be launched here next month as Holden's Vectra replacement.

To overcome its supply issues Suzuki Japan is building a new $US520 million plant which will take its global capacity from the current 2.2 million cars a year to about 3 million by 2009.

The new plant, at Shizouka in Japan will come on stream in 2008.

Mr Le Mottee said that once the factory was fully ramped up the supply of Swift models for Australia would be freed up.

The company currently sells between 850 and 900 Swifts a month but has ambitions to push this to more than 1200 a month.

Apart from the Swift, the Grand Vitara is also performing strongly with 2056 sold so far this year, up from 779 for the same period last year.

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