Zest and zing

A month ago (March 28-29, 2019), Suzuki Philippines, Inc. invited us to drive the all-new third-generation Suzuki Swift from their Suzuki Auto Kalookan dealership to Bagac, Bataan, spend the night at the Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar resort, and then drive back to Metro Manila the next day. 

During the drive, we observed that the “… Suzuki Swift has grown bigger, longer and wider than its predecessors because it has evolved according to the demands of the market. The traditional Swift loyalists or its ‘cult followers’ as they are sometimes called, have also evolved. Where they used to look for the sporty, go-kart-like feel of the Swift, they now want a little more comfort. Where they used to want the snug and cozy interior, they want a little more space. Where they want zest and zing with the motor, they want a little more fuel economy.”

  Suzuki Swift 1.2 GLX CVT
• Central locking 
• Power windows 
• Power mirrors 
• Automatic climate control  
• LED running lights/fog light cruise control 
• Steering wheel-mounted remote controls for the infotainment system hands-free phone connectivity.
We were quite enamored with Suzuki’s all-new sub-compact hatchback during our drive to Bataan but like the Swift, our tastes and lifestyle has also evolved. We wanted to see if we can comfortably fit our growing family into its cozy interior, evaluate its sporty performance in today’s grueling urban setting, and just see if it really does what its motto “Swift Uplifts You” promises to do. Thankfully, SPH sent us one of their 2019 Suzuki Swift GLX media test units equipped with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and finished in an attractive finish of Pearl Ablaze Red.

We had the Swift for a week and drove it exclusively around our crowded metropolis. We drove it to watch two movie block screenings of the Avengers Endgame, to attend a couple of meetings in the business district, to attend an autocross near Manila Bay, to hear mass, and more importantly, to take our son to school. Our   teenage son liked the Swift’s interior space, sporty performance and quick acceleration. He was surprised to learn that a small thrifty 1.2-liter engine can rev up so much fun like how our old muscle car, with its gas-guzzling 5.7-liter V8, did.

Handsome facade hides a small but potent powerplant under the hood.

We spoke lengthily in the car how the new generation of small-displacement engines, with precise manufacturing tolerances made possible by an assembly line of robots and computerized equipment, can now rev higher and churn out more power per volume than what they can do two or three decades ago. The Swift’s 1,197cc multiport-injected 4-cylinder 16-valve K12M produces just 61 horsepower at 6,000 rpm but, with 113 Newton-meters of torque that peaks at 4,200 rpm and only around 920 kilograms of weight to lug around, it accelerates strongly enough to fool anyone that it has a larger engine under the hood. It darts strongly to 60 kilometers per hour, which may soon be the legal speed limit if the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has their way, but we weren’t able to explore its top speed capabilities simply because there was no road to do so, especially not in Metro Manila traffic. Despite our lead-footed banzai runs, our Swift returned an average of 10.7 kilometers per liter around town. Tempering our right foot netted us a best fuel mileage of 12.3 kilometers per liter.

The Suzuki Swift has always been about quick go-kart-like handling and our 2019 GLX CVT test unit does not stray far from its original purpose. The longer wheelbase, wider track, recalibrated front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension, performance-tuned progressive coil springs, and electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering all work together to make direction changes almost intuitive and immediate. We breezed through quick turns, sharp corners and zigzags as if the Swift was on rails and we felt that it could win an autocross or a gymkhana competition straight from the showroom. We felt a little body roll and attribute it to the softer suspension settings to provide the car with a little more rebound when driven on undulated surfaces. However, the suspension still feels a little stiff and the ride feels a bit harsh, especially for 50-something occupants who have back problems.

LED rear combination lamps help night time driving safety.

Like a go-kart, the Swift stops quickly aided by front ventilated discs and rear solid discs assisted by an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake distribution (EBD). All the steering, braking and power outputs are transmitted to the road through the grippy contact patches of its Bridgestone Ecopia EP-150 185/55R16 tires mounted on 16-inch multi-spoke alloy wheels. The low-profile 55-series tire walls are quite stiff to resist too much deflection and help the handling, but it also contributes to the harsh ride since the side walls absorb just a small amount of road shock. It’s a difficult task to balance handling and comfort to fit within a sub-compact hatchback’s budget and we commend the Suzuki engineers for the happy compromise with the Swift’s overall ride.

We’d like to explore our Swift’s handling and agility but the city traffic won’t give us space.

Perhaps, part of the happy compromise between handling and comfort was aided in part by the roomier and more comfortable interior. Aside from the recalibrated suspension, we felt that the ride became a lot smoother and better than the previous Swift because of the new generation’s improved noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) insulation system, and more comfortable seats. The front seats are ergonomically shaped with ample side bolster to hold the occupants in place during quick maneuvers, such as dodging public utility vehicles (PUVs) that suddenly stop in the middle of the road to pick up passengers. The 60/40 split rear seats are likewise better cushioned and offer more legroom while the seat backs can be folded to accommodate around 918 liters of luggage.

Space saver spare tire and tools are found under the carpeted panel behind the back seats.

For a sub-compact hatchback costing P899,000, our Swift GLX CVT comes well-equipped. The driver faces a steering wheel with remote controls for the infotainment system, cruise control and the hands-free mobile phone connectivity. The instruments are highly legible and very informative. The fabric seats do not retain heat like leather seats and are a God-send when you leave the car parked under the hot summer sun. The electronic air-conditioning or climate control system blows cold air every time despite the miniscule compressor that runs the system. The 8-inch multimedia touch screen infotainment system plays AM/FM radio and MP3 thru USB and Bluetooth connectivity, can run navigation programs, function like a tablet, and display the rear view camera when the car is backing up. There are loads of safety features to protect the occupants as well as loads of convenience features to pamper them.

Like what we concluded with our Manila-Bataan-Manila drive, we are happy that the Swift has evolved with the times. We wrote that it is “… a bigger, better, and much improved version of its former self. Yet, it remains its traditional self – a lovable, cute and instantly recognizable 5-door compact hatchback. Its legions of fans will immediately know it’s a Swift even if they’re blindfolded. And we’re pretty sure they’ll love how it evolved into something that’ll uplift their driving experience. They wouldn’t want it any other way.” After driving the 2019 Suzuki Swift GLX CVT within our crowded metropolis, we can conclude that the Swift has indeed matured in the just the right places to please its loyal customers who have a matured a little, but retained its iconic handling and spunk to attract a younger target audience. While it has grown bigger, longer and wider, it still maintains its sporty character and offers go-kart thrills, especially  for adults with teenage kids, who may grow up to become Swift loyalists in the future. Does the all-new Swift live up to its motto “Swift Uplifts You”?

You bet it does.

Topics: Suzuki Philippines Inc. , Suzuki Swift
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