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Future models - Suzuki - Swift

Suzuki pulls a Swifty

Hurrying our way: Look out for the new five-door Suzuki Swift in Australia next February.

It's back to the future for Suzuki, with its sassy new Swift

30 Sep 2004

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in PARIS

STYLE, value and verve are the vanguards of the latest Suzuki Swift unveiled at last week’s Paris motor show.

The diminutive hatchback will replace the almost-invisible five-year old Ignis in the Australian line-up from February next year.

Australia is the first market outside of Japan to get the new Swift, beating the European on-sale date by several weeks.

However only the five-door model will materialise, and will be sourced from Japan.

Its three-door stablemate, built solely at Suzuki’s Hungary plant, is currently a Europe-only proposition.

Suzuki is aiming at the burgeoning baby segment big shots like the Toyota Echo, Mazda2, Honda Jazz and Holden Barina, but is staying silent on the Swift’s asking price for the time being.

However Australian General Manager David Le Mottee has revealed that the well-equipped entry level model should start at somewhere between the $13,490 Hyundai Getz XL and $15,990 Jazz GLi.

The base Ignis GA is currently listed at $14,990.

Both Swift models slated for Australia will drop the old fashioned GA and GL monikers that have featured on Suzukis since the original Swift surfaced locally in 1984, although exactly what they’ll be remains a mystery.

Dual front airbags, anti-lock brakes, air-conditioning, keyless entry, power windows and a CD player will be standard, with the higher spec version adding alloy wheels, an audio upgrade and four extra airbags for under $2000 extra.

Motivation comes courtesy of a new Euro-4 emissions compliant 1.5-litre twin-cam 16-vavle four-cylinder engine featuring variable-valve timing and dubbed M15A. It produces 75kW of power at a 6000rpm, while the 133Nm torque top touches 6000rpm.

This compares to the outgoing Ignis’ 60kW/106Nm 1.3-litre unit, while rivals like the Echo 1.3 and Barina 1.4 produce 63kW/122Nm and 66kW/125Nm respectively.

A still-secret hot GTI version should also arrive in the middle of 2006, sporting a saucier powerplant, retuned suspension and a beefy body kit. Previous Swift GTI iterations still have a strong following for their frisky performance and unburstability.

Transmission choices are limited to a conventional five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearboxes, both driving the front wheels.

Sadly, the upcoming all-wheel drive variant has been deemed not cost-competitive enough for Australia.

Nevertheless Suzuki promises that the Swift will be a far more rewarding drive than anything it has ever produced in this segment, despite the conventional MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear suspension.

As one company spokesman put it, this is the first Suzuki with suspension and steering that has been honed to work in dynamic unison, and not just “thrown together with the body placed on top”.

Stylistically the Swift owes nothing to the Ignis or either of its popular 1983 and 1988 predecessors, reflecting a modern European influence on the Japanese design.

Sub-35 year olds are the target audience, with television featuring heavily as part of an aggressive marketing campaign to help lure the youth Suzuki has lost over the years.

“If we can hook the younger buyers than everything will fall into place” is how Mr Le Mottee sees it. He expects to shift 5000 Swifts in 2005, ahead of 16,000 Suzukis in total by 2007. That’s double this year’s expected tally.

Much is riding on the success of the new Swift, as it will not be shared with other General Motors affiliates.

It represents independence from its giant American partner (GM has a 20.1 per cent stake in Suzuki), as well as a chance for it to develop a stronger image that will be its own.

Currently the Ignis’ alternate identities include the Holden Cruze, the Subaru Justy in Europe and even a Japan-only Mazda clone.

Previous Swifts also saw service as the original Barinas, several Subarus, Chevrolets, Pontiacs and as the core of the now-defunct US GM Geo cheapy. The Swift kicks off a hectic $US1.5 billion activity period for Suzuki that will see six all-new models released before 2008.

Its YN2-codename platform will be altered and stretched to accommodate the larger Liana replacement due in 2007, as well as at least three sport-utility vehicles (including an all-new “cross-over”, a seven-seater people mover and possibly even a four-seat convertible in the vein of the Peugeot 206 CC.

The latter would be an albeit larger spiritual replacement for the 1991 Cappuccino convertible, that achieved an enduring cult-car status during the 1990s despite never being imported to Australia.

All should strengthen Suzuki’s sales in the larger passenger car segment.

Until now it has dominated the leading 600-800cc “Kei Car” segment in Japan, and has a strong foothold in the lighter sport-utility sectors worldwide with models like the Grand Vitara and Jimny.

But in key markets like Australia, Western Europe and the USA the lacklustre performance of the Ignis and Liana reveal areas that the company can improve on.

Significantly General Motors’ experiment in the USA with Daewoos badged as Suzukis has not gone swimmingly.

Suspect quality control and reliability issues helped sway GM management to green light Suzuki’s play for product exclusivity.

The Swift name first surfaced as the SA series in 1984, begatting its Holden Barina brethren a year later before giving in to the second-generation SF family in late 1988.

That model formed Suzuki’s passenger-car stronghold throughout the following decade, but became increasingly uncompetitive as the light car brigade matured with the advent of models like the Nissan Micra and Toyota Starlet.

Suzuki Australia finally discontinued the SF in May 2000.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:

No journalists have yet officially driven the new Suzuki Swift, but GoAuto crawled all over the car at the Paris motor show.

Initial impressions are that Suzuki should be on a winner, with none of the economy-car trappings evident in the design or presentation inside or out.

A confidently handsome car, the Swift is clearly Mini influenced, although there is plenty of modern Japanese (mostly Toyota) design evident in the headlight and taillight formations.

This continues inside, with an elegantly simple and pleasantly executed dash dominated by interesting material and trim use.

The sporty instrumentation is remarkably reminiscent of the last Honda CRX Del Sol, itself inspired by motorcycle fascia design. That’s not surprising given Suzuki’s bike base.

Without the aid of a tape measure, front seat space seems generous, although out back the class-leading Jazz won’t be swiftly displaced from the top of its perch.

Aiding the Swift’s youthful appeal inside is a high belt line that adds a newfound feeling of solidity and quality in a Suzuki.

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