Johannesburg - In the last few months of getting to know our Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL long-term test car, we’ve experienced it in a wide variety of conditions, from city driving to the open highway and even the Kyalami Grand Prix circuit during the AutoTrader SA Car of the Year evaluation days - although technically the latter was in a different test car.
It's worth noting that the COTY adventure led to the Swift receiving the Urban Compact Award for 2019, and that could not be a more appropriate title as city commuting is where this hatchback really shines.
It’s nippy, easy to drive and, thanks to the car's paltry 875kg kerb weight, the normally aspirated 1.2-litre engine can easily keep pace with fast-paced Joburg traffic - stomp on the right pedal hard enough and it’s actually quite brisk. The Swift also has enough gusto for highway driving, although you'll need to stir the gear stick at times, and it isn’t too revvy at cruising pace.
But it’s the fuel economy that impresses most. In a mixture of highway and urban avenue commuting (which has included some heavy traffic at times) the Swift has so far consumed an average of just 5.9 litres per 100km.
It’s also arguably one of the most stylish cars in the entry-level class, but the it certainly doesn’t sacrifice function for form as the Swift is extremely well packaged. It has a very useable (268 litre) boot and there is plenty of space inside - and even those in the back get to stretch their legs.
While our GL has all the basic comfort features that one could reasonably expect at the R177 900 price, such as aircon, power windows and a conventional radio with steering-mounted controls, many of today’s buyers are big on gadgets and will want a touchscreen with CarPlay and Android Auto. Thankfully this, along with other luxury additions, is likely to be fitted to the upcoming Swift GLX model, which is expected to join the range later this year.
If you do opt for a GL, you might want to accessorise with a set of 15” or 16” alloy wheels, however. While it can certainly handle corners at decent speeds, the standard 165/80R14 rubber was found wanting a little at the limit, during our COTY evaluation tests in the wet. The car also doesn’t feel planted enough for our liking at highway speeds.
However, when all is weighed up, the Swift is fully deserving of its Urban Compact Award, thanks to its combination of affordability, practicality, performance, frugality and style.
Four months into the test and it has been nothing but smooth sailing with our bright red 1.2 GL, with no reliability woes to report at all.