ROAD TEST: Suzuki Swift DZire 1.2 GL
Johannesburg - If you're looking for automotive love around the lower rungs of the price ladder then you'll soon learn that compromise is king.
As I said after spending time with the latest Renault Sandero models recently, a car that's both big and modern is a rarity in entry level circles, but like the new French contender, Suzuki's recently-launched 1.2-litre Swift models do tick those two aforementioned boxes.
In fact the Swift hatchback could add a strong sense of style to its brag sheet.
Yet as good as it is to look at, the Swift hatch has a relatively small boot that's not keen on swallowing any more than 210 litres.
Now, at the risk of sounding like one of those modern match-makers, I could perhaps steer you and your baggage in the direction of the Swift DZire sedan. Admittedly its profile didn't get much attention on the dating sites, but then what would one expect from a car with a stage name like DZire and a rather funny looking rear end?
But before you knock it off your 'list', consider that this booted Suzuki does have a bigger boot that will happily put up with 300 litres worth of baggage - although its sedan rivals will admittedly swallow even more.
SHORT, STUBBY BOOT
So why does it have such a short and stubby boot? Well, this sedan version of the Swift was designed in India, where it's also built alongside the 1.2-litre hatch models, and the most obvious explanation is that it's trying to fall within India's lower tax bracket for cars measuring less than four metres in length - the DZire squeezing in at 3995mm.
There's another drawback of this sedan's specific focus on another region - it comes with a horrible light beige interior colour scheme. Not only does the seat trim look old fashioned enough to fall in love with a doily set, but it's going to get horribly dirty in no time - particularly if this serves as a family car. Seat covers are a must.
On the upside, the DZire is roomy enough on the inside and offers reasonably ample rear legroom and enough width for three occupants at a squeeze.
It's got most of the basic features too and even if you go for the base model you get an aircon, two front airbags and ABS brakes. Opt for the GL that we tested and you gain a CD/MP3 audio system linked to steering controls, electric windows and central locking. The only notable convenience that's missing in action is Bluetooth connectivity.
EASY TO LIVE WITH
Driving the DZire is an easy and painless experience for the most part, thanks to its smooth-operating controls, cushy suspension set-up and a 1.2-litre petrol engine that offers reasonable low-down torque.
The 63kW engine is sprightly enough in town, but it does feel a bit sluggish on the open road at altitude. This despite the fact that the car is something of a lightweight, tipping the scales at just 990kg.
As you'd expect from a modern front-driver, it feels safe and predictable through corners, but I did notice quite a bit more bodyroll than in the larger-engined hatch models that are built in Japan.
If you can live with the strange looks, the Swift DZire is a modern and practical - and even somewhat distinctive - option in a market where there aren't really too many sedan choices.
But if I was doing the seeking in this price range, I'd get rid of some of my baggage and ask the 1.2-litre Swift hatch on a test drive.
Suzuki Swift DZire 1.2 GL
Engine: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Gearbox: Five-speed manual
Power: 63kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 113Nm @ 4500rpm
0-100km/h (claimed): 12.6 seconds
Top speed (claimed): 160km/h
Consumption (claimed): 6.3 litres per 100km
Price: R138 900
Warranty: Three-year/100 000km
Service plan: Two-year/30 000km
Chevrolet Aveo sedan 1.6L (77kW/145Nm) - R143 500
Honda Brio Amaze 1.2 Trend (65kW/109Nm) - R137 500
Toyota Etios 1.5 Xs sedan (66kW/132Nm) - R143 000
VW Polo Vivo 1.4 sedan (55kW/132Nm) - R144 900