ROAD TEST: Suzuki Swift Sport
There have been many research results and thumb-suck studies proclaiming that certain car colours are safer than others.
White cars, for instance, are considered quite safe because even the half-blind half-wits that don't look properly before turning into an intersection are more likely to see you coming, whereas said fools might not be able to distinguish between a silver car and, say, the blue sky and trees in the background.
On that note, I'm pleased to introduce you to the safest car ever created - the new Suzuki Swift Sport painted in Champion Yellow.
It's yellow. Very, very yellow. Yellow enough to give you a headache if you look at it for too long. While spending a week with a Sport in this hue, I also discovered that it has the ability to save electricity - because it glows in the dark, you don't actually need to have any outside security lights draining juice from Eskom's rickety old coal plants. So it's green too.
Of course Suzuki doesn't point any of this out in its propaganda kit, which instead raves on about how sporty it is. Which doesn't surprise me, given how much fun I had in the previous model. The fact that I didn't even have to scratch around for my old road test to jolt the memory is a testament to that.
The old one, which came here for a brief stint in 2010, had a choppy ride and was woefully undergeared, yet it never failed to put a smile on my dial. It was light, loud, revvy and gave the impression of being somewhat fast, even if it wasn't really. It was like a pocket rocket from the old school.
GROWN UP, SOMEWHAT
I took just one spin in the 2012 Swift Sport to ascertain that the new one has matured in every way possible. It now has a six-speed gearbox; it's also quieter and rides more comfortably. The things that I tolerated because it was a fun car have now dissipated into a vortex of Japanese engineering. The Swift Sport has grown up, then.
But is it still fun?
Yes and no. Subjectively speaking, it just doesn't feel as dramatic or as quite as involving. But this maturity almost belies the big gains that have taken place on the performance and handling fronts.
For starters, the power to weight ratio has been improved by slimming the car's overall weight by 30kg and by injecting a little more fizz into the engine bay.
It's still powered by a 1.6-litre engine, but now with 100kW available at 6900rpm (so it still likes to rev) and 160Nm from 4400rpm. That's 8kW and 12Nm more than before and the peak torque is now delivered 400rpm lower in the rev range. It's also more economical - by 13 percent, according to Suzuki - which means a claimed combined figure of 6.5 l/100km.
IT’S A SPRINTER
But you're probably more interested in its sprinting times, in which case Suzuki claims an 8.7 second 0-100km/h run at the coast. At our test facility at Gauteng altitude, it managed 9.5 seconds, which is still really decent for a car that doesn't cost much more than R200 000.
This is not a hot hatch by any stretch of the imagination, but the Suzuki does carve itself a little niche by being somewhat warmer than the other 1.6-litre hatchbacks in its price class.
It's a car made for those who love driving and nowhere is this more apparent than in the chassis engineering.
Not only does the Sport sit 10mm lower than its predecessor, but it also has a bespoke rear suspension design and stiffer springs (with Monroe shock absorbers) at all four corners. Engineers were also careful not to compromise the ride quality and the result is a reasonably comfortable ride paired with grin-inducing point-and-squirt road holding. The steering is another strong point and the system keeps you feeling well connected to the road.
While the interior quality and practicality are probably not at the top of the list for potential buyers, it's worth noting that great strides have been made here too. The cabin's design and tactile quality are not quite in VW's league, but a good effort nonetheless. And while they haven't decorated it to look like a sports car inside, there are numerous sporty touches that elevate it above the common garden hatch.
You won't be missing much luxury kit either, with climate control, keyless entry and start as well as a six-speaker CD/USB sound system being part of the package.
By virtue of it having matured in so many ways, the new Swift Sport is a lot easier to live with than the old one, but it hasn't lost too much of its charm. You'll still feel a connection with this car.
Its body kit and 'single frame' honeycomb grille also make it look the sporting part, although its 16-inch rims do look a little lost in the arches.
What's more, it's available in a range of colours other than glowing yellow, just in case you don't want to be seen by other road users or if saving electricity is not high on your agenda.
Suzuki Swift Sport - R213 900