Suzuki Trifecta: 3 models that prove why they are selling like hot cakes
Johannesburg - June’s National Association of Automobile Manufacturers (Naamsa) new car sales figures show that Suzuki Auto SA has leapt up the South African sales charts. The business sold 1 433 units, with all but one unit sold through the dealer network. Suzuki, in fact, stood 7th overall in the sales rankings last month, giving it a 4.49% share of the total vehicle market and a 7.17% share of the passenger vehicle market.
I hadn’t experienced a new Suzuki in a while so I thought it would be a good idea to find out why South Africans are flocking to dealerships to buy these cars. I had a particular approach, however, as there are three cars I wanted to experience with three particular types of buyers in mind. I lined up a Suzuki S-Presso as a first-time car buyer, a Suzuki Swift Sport as a first-time hot-hatch buyer and a Suzuki Jimny as a first-time adventure vehicle buyer.
A car for the first time buyer
The recently introduced Suzuki S-Presso has perhaps the most polarising styling I’ve ever come across. On the outside, it’s boxy and chunky but on the inside, it’s round and curvy. Of course, styling is a subjective thing, and it does look interesting from some angles, but I won’t rate it highly as a good-looking car if you’re after something that’s going to attract attention in a good way. Nevertheless, beyond the quirky styling, the car felt solidly engineered. Doors and the boot lid open and close with a decent thud and feel too. You can tell that while this is a budget car, Suzuki did not skimp on engineering or quality.
The S-Presso’s drive is perhaps one of the best in the segment, as it doesn’t wobble about on uneven tarmac and it offers a genuinely comfortable ride for a compact car. The naturally-aspirated 1.0-litre three-cylinder 12-valve petrol engine in the car also feels stronger than its 50kW and 90Nm official rating might suggest. In fact, it feels as if it’s the peppiest and most responsive to drive in the A-segment. The five-speed manual gearbox fitted to our test 1.0GL+ was a joy to use, thanks to its light and accurate throw. The clutch is easy to modulate. Light, but not too light, and it bites where you expect it to, which really helps when pulling away on inclines.
As a car for the first-time new car buyer, this S-Presso is an easy choice. It comes with more than enough standard features to keep you connected and safe and secure. I particularly enjoyed using the large touchscreen audio system, which supported Android Auto. Not once did I have to touch or look at my phone when in the car. From making and receiving calls to controlling the playlist of songs on my phone, I just used voice commands. Incoming Whatsapp messages are also read out to you in the car while you’re driving so you don’t have to look at your phone’s screen at all. If you want to respond to a message, you simply speak and let voice control do the rest. Most entry-level cars are coming with decent audio systems these days, but I enjoyed using the S-Presso’s unit. It just needs better speakers if you really enjoy listening to music.
Suzuki claims that the car will sip 4.9l/100km but I managed around 6l/100km, mostly because the engine is such fun to rev out and enjoy. I could do with a rev counter, though.
In terms of specification, particularly for the price you pay, this Suzuki S-Presso really struck me as a great choice for a first-time car buyer. You might have been saving for a while, or you might have just secured that first job and you want a new, reliable car. Whatever the case may be, if you’re looking for your first new car that is tough to beat as far as value for money goes, you won’t go wrong with an S-Presso.
I can understand why it’s such a popular car and why Suzuki is selling so many of them. Pay attention to the quirky layout of things in the interior, such as the electric window switch placement, and the narrow cupholders. But also pay attention to its overall balance and comfort on the road and its easy-going nature.
All S-Presso models come with a 2-year/30 000km Service Plan and a 5-Year/200 000km Warranty. Service intervals are every 15 000km and Suzuki says the S-Presso’s parts and services are priced to ensure you won’t mind servicing at the dealership even once your warranty period has expired.
Our 1.0-litre GL+ sells for R144 900 and at that price, there are not many new cars out there that will put a smile on your face every time you drive it. It’s quirky, it’s well built and it’s just right for the times. If you are in the market for your first car, don’t overlook this value proposition that is the Suzuki S-Presso.
A car for the hot hatch fanatic
I am probably one of the biggest fans of hot hatches out there. I love them in all sizes, with all sorts of badges and from many eras. My favourite ones are compact, usually turbocharged and with enough poke to frighten cars in larger segments. This is exactly the kind of car that is the Suzuki Swift Sport.
I drove the Swift Sport with a manual gearbox last year and came away impressed at how grown up it felt. Sure, I missed the dizzying revs of the non-turbo models that had come before it, but that heft of torque that’s available from fairly low in the rev range makes up for engagement in a new way.
So, the automatic Swift then. It’s priced, like the S-Presso above, very keenly. In fact, I had to do a double-take of the latest pricing to ensure it wasn’t a misprint. In fact, if you hunt around you can probably pick up a new, manual Swift Sport for around R300 000, which must be the performance bargain of 2020.
Our latest automatic transmission test car was surprisingly fun to drive and handled as dynamically as the manual model. It was only let down, in my opinion, with a bit of a lazy shift action. I was expecting it to have a little more kick in the gut on upshifts and a slightly faster downshift. There’s nothing wrong with the car in Drive mode when cruising around town or on the highway, but it just lacked that sharp feel that was there in the manual car. I love how the Swift Sport has a slightly larger feel to it, though, almost as if it’s larger than it’s compact, B-segment, dimensions suggest.
There’s no denying that hot hatches are becoming ludicrously expensive these days, with Renault Trophys and Honda Type Rs and Audi S cars touching or breaking R800 000 in terms of asking price. This is why the Suzuki Swift Sport really captivated me in terms of what it brings to the party for the price. It won’t set your pants or the tarmac on fire but it will do what you want it to do when you’re going quickly. There’s a confidence-inspiring character to the car that will really make you enjoy driving even more, and whether you’re a novice sporty-driver or an experienced one there are lots of dynamic charms to explore here in terms of having fun within reasonable speeds.
Power-wise you get the same turbocharged 103kW of urge from the 1.4-litre four-cylinder that’s used in the Vitara turbo and with 230Nm on tap, there’s enough poke for easy overtaking and sprints. It will struggle from a dig due to the torque converter gearbox, but once you’re rolling and in boost, it’s such a smooth delivery of performance. Suzuki claims that it will sip 6.1l/100km in a combined cycle, but that’s optimistic if you plan on using the performance potential on offer here. Expect 9 to 10/l100km.
With the same 5-year/200 000km warranty that you’d get in a normal Swift, and with a 4-year/60 000km Service Plan on offer, it’s also good to know that there’s at least half a decade’s worth of peace of mind motoring in the car should you experience any niggles.
Go drive an Abarth or a Clio RS before you decide, and compare the spec sheets closely to see the value you’re getting here. If you want something fun, compact and with pedigree, this Swift Sport is the car for you right now.
A car for the adventurer
We’ve finally come to my favourite car of my three-car Suzuki pile-up this week, the venerable Jimny compact 4x4. It’s a four-decade journey for the Jimny, starting life as a purely utilitarian appliance. Over the years, gaining traction as a competent city car that can actually climb, it became the go-to choice for young professionals and adventurous spirits. I spent a few days with one in the Mpumalanga region when it was launched in South Africa and it proved itself in some of the toughest logging terrains that region had to offer. Whether it was deep and sticky mud or epic inclines and descents, the Jimny just gobbled its way through challenges without batting an eyelid.
I was blown away by the Jimny’s performance off-road and even on road at the launch so I took the latest automatic transmission for an extended test drive to see if it had been refined even further.
For the 2020 model year, the Jimny hasn’t changed much from a look and feel perspective inside and out, but you can tell that there’s been some refinement to the on-road ride comfort and the gearing on the automatic. The test car’s 1.5-litre (75kW) naturally-aspirated four-cylinder engine didn’t sound as buzzy on the highways around Johannesburg and when making haste in city traffic. Even when travelling at 120km/h, the engine wasn’t screaming for another gear. It’s not quiet in the Jimny, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as unrefined as its predecessor or the first batch of new Jimnys that we drove at launch.
Suzuki put me in the range-topping model, the GLX AllGrip. It’s packed with features; all the usual stuff you’d expect in a new car, and then some, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay support and LED headlights. The headlights, for me, were a joy, particularly on the dark roads and off the beaten track. You don’t expect such good headlights at this price point in the market anymore and it’s refreshing to see that Suzuki did not skimp on specification when building a model to suit our market. Between the GA and the GLX, it can be argued that the more expensive model is for showboating, but don’t be fooled into thinking that either one of them is toy-like on incapable off-road.
Space-wise, it’s not the most practical thing in the world, with near to no boot space with the rear seats up but as a two-seater, it’s fantastic at swallowing adventure gear, scuba equipment, mountain bikes; you know, adventurer sort of things.
One of the weird things that I didn’t experience with the car, though, is the reflections in the glass due to the vertical nature of the design. During sunrise and sunset, the glare from the side windows can become distracting when driving depending on your direction of travel. Nothing a pair of sunglasses won’t fix. Overall though, it felt like it was built like a G-Class, solid and with weight to it although it’s still a featherweight by Land Cruiser wagon standards.
The point is, you can spend a whole lot of money right now on a vehicle that’s built to climb mountains or you can buy a Suzuki Jimny. It’s fun, light on fuel, aimed at a particular niche and it makes no difference whether you go off-roading or not because it’s got a city car charm to it and it’s easy to live with day-to-day.
It comes with the 5-year/200 000km warranty that you get with all Suzukis automobiles in South Africa and if you go for a GLX you even get a 4-year/60 000km service plan. I’d buy one in a heartbeat if it came with two more doors and ISOFIX anchors for the baby seat.
At the end of this rather lengthy feature, you should note that I am not the biggest Suzuki fan but my recent experience with the brand’s products has changed my mind about what it has to offer.
There are no pretenses here. The dealers are straightforward with their interactions and the cars are priced well considering they are fully imported. I popped into a local Suzuki dealer to “complain” about my Swift Sport test car’s lumpy ride at the start of the test period, and with no hesitation, they pulled the car into the workshop and immediately checked the basics. The tyre pressures were out, which I knew, because I had deflated a tyre, and they picked this up immediately. It’s just a reassuring experience that ties in the with the rise of the brand in terms of sales and popularity.
I believe that as Suzuki’s products are upgraded and refined and diversified even further, they might even challenge for a top-five spot in SA’s car market. If you’re in the market for a new car, I’d certainly recommend one of the cars I experienced last month, alternatively, if you need something bigger, go kick the Vitara’s tyres this weekend.