Johannesburg - Last month we said goodbye to our Suzuki Ignis 1.2 GLX long-term test car. We’ll spare you all those ‘sad farewell’ cliches, but for the record we did at least come outside to wave to Ignatius as it drove off into the sunset, and we do hope that it’s happy wherever it is now and that its new owner is taking good care of it.

Ok, so we did become a little attached to it over the six-month test period, but there was some consolation in that Suzuki did swop it for a Swift 1.2 GL, which we’ll be getting to know better over the coming months.

The swop over actually got us thinking and debating a bit - which is the better car?

There are some spec discrepancies that could sway your decision if you’re looking for a higher-spec package or hoping to skimp and save.

The Ignis, for instance, is not available in the rather basic GA spec level and the Swift currently doesn’t offer a high-spec GLX grade (although that, we’re told, is coming soon), but in mid-spec 1.2 GL guise, the two are actually similarly priced, the Swift retailing at R177 900 and the Ignis at R176 900, and the specs are more or less comparable too, although the Swift has a slight edge with standard Bluetooth and audio controls on the steering wheel.

But when it comes down to it, my colleagues prefer the Ignis due to its funky styling inside and out and the fact that it’s available with more spec in GLX guise, and while I see their point, I am starting to lean towards the Swift as my preferred choice. I’ve always had a soft spot for sportier hatchbacks and the Swift is just prettier and more hunkered down and yes, it really needs a good set of mags to fill those wheel arches but that’s an easy fix on the aftermarket.

Although we’re still waiting for our Swift’s engine to loosen up, performance should be comparable to the Ignis, as both are powered by the same 1.2-litre normally aspirated petrol engine with outputs of 61kW and 113Nm, and both weigh next to nothing, the Swift tipping the scales at 875kg and the Ignis at 850kg.

They’re also built on the same new-generation platform, called Heartect in Suzuki speak, so packaging is brilliant and there is ample interior space and stretch-out rear legroom in both cases, with a little extra headroom in the tallboy Ignis.

The Swift has the more useable boot however. Although the claimed luggage volumes are similar (Swift - 268 litres and Ignis - 260) the Swift has a larger floor area, which is better suited to suitcases and other bulkier items.

When it comes to the look and feel of the cabin, however, the Ignis strides ahead with its funky styling and contrasting colours, while the materials also have a more premium feel. The Swift is for the most part a dark grey affair, but there are some sporty touches, most notably those deep-set instrument cowls in the driver’s direct view.

In my opinion, the Swift is also a bit more fun to drive.

In both cases I miss the taut feel of the hydraulic steering of yesteryear, but among the electric power steering systems in the modern hatchbacks, I feel the Swift’s is the lesser of two evils. It has a bit more feel and self-centres to a greater degree (the Ignis hardly self-centres at all, which can make it a bit laborious when whizzing through traffic).

The advantage of electric power steering, however, besides the increased efficiency, is a lighter feel in parking lots and that’s what most buyers will ultimately appreciate. I’m just a bit old school I guess.

The Swift ticks many rational boxes too. Not only is it practical, as touched upon earlier, but it rides comfortably, is easy to drive and extremely economical - our car currently averaging just above 6l/100km, much of that in heavy traffic.

Any niggles though? Although the Swift has two airbags and ABS braking, the car’s Global NCAP crash-test performance was a mixed bag, with an adult rating of two stars being awarded.

Also, there are one or two minor ergonomic bugbears if we have to nitpick. The car does not auto-lock on pull-off nor does it unlock when you pull the inside handle, meaning you have to hit the lock button twice on every journey; and the steering has no reach adjustment, although that hasn’t prevented us from getting comfy behind the wheel.

All considered though, the Swift impresses as a package. It’s affordable, stylish, practical and economical - four big wins in this day and age.

IOL Motoring