When a car company has a car that becomes an icon, any update or redesign has the company at risk of stuffing that up. Suzuki is such a company; the Swift has etched itself into history and for the model update released in 2017, the exterior redesign has raised a few eyebrows. However, it’s what’s under the skin that counts and A Wheel Thing finds, after well over 1200 kilometres of driving, including a forty eight hour trip to the heart of astronomy in Australia, that the Suzuki Swift GL Navigator, at least, should be welcomed with open arms.The range opens with the GL, then the GL Navigator. The next steps are the GL Navigator with Safety Pack and the top of the range GLX Turbo. AWT briefly sampled the GLX Turbo and found its main attraction is the lusty turbocharged three cylinder engine. A downside is the overly hard ride. There was also a lot more road noise than expected.
The GL Navigator comes with a CVT and 1.25 litre DualJet four. Peak power is just 66 kilowatts at 6000 revs, with peak torque of 120 Nm coming in at 4400. The auto has a Sports mode which proved to be an ideal addition on the longer country straight roads.The 2017 Swift is as compact a small car as you can get; overall length is just 3840 mm, with height topping out at 1495 mm. Breadth is a total of 1735 mm including mirrors and in the back there’s just 242 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up. Wheels are 16 inch alloys, with 185/55 Ecopia rubber. In between the front and rear is a wheelbase of 2450 mm, meaning overhang is minimal. Crammed inside is a fueltank, some would say a fuel thimble, of 37 litres. Suzuki Australia’s website only quotes consumption for the six speed manual as found in the GL, however AWT finished on 5.7L/100 with a best of 5.5L/100 km seen. Bear in mind this was with two adults, two children between seven and eleven, and with a couple of good sized overnight bags.
The Big Drive.
A last minute change of circumstances had A Wheel Thing free for the weekend. In need of a destination, Australia’s dark sky capital, Coonabarabran, was selected, with a visit to Siding Spring, Australia’s home of astronomy, scheduled. The route? West to Lithgow, then north to Mudgee, Dunedoo and a more direct route north from there rather than the tourist drive to Gilgandra. What became immediately noticeable about the Swift was how well sorted the CVT is. Compared to the average CVT in the Ignis, this car had almost immediate response, if lacking in outright acceleration.Sports mode is selected via a toggle switch on the transmission lever and works when the revs are above 3000. On long stretches, this aided immensely in overtaking slower and bigger vehicles such as caravanners or B-Doubles. Because of the relative lack of oomph, careful planning is required. Having the easy to read satnav on board (hence the GL Navigator name) provided plenty of forewarning of the straights needed. The CVT itself is well and truly one of the best of its kind available, with quicker response to the throttle and a distinct lack of lag compared to the CVT in sister car, Ignis.By no means is it a neck snapper, however. Even with one aboard, acceleration is…leisurely. It takes time to do almost everything from a standing start, however once the three and three zeroes on the tacho are reached the little engine that can becomes a different beast. Even without the electronic kick given by Sports mode, it’s zippy, peppy, and reacts even more to the right foot. Between Lithgow and Dunedoo, on the flatter and straight roads, this shows the ability of the 1.2L.What was a standout was the ride quality. For such a small car, it told the roads to “suck it up, buttercup”. It was only on the joins between tarmac and the concrete for bridge surfaces where the suspension would crash to the bump stops, otherwise it simply bounced through the travel once and settled back to flat and taut. On undulating roads it was unflustered, coposed, and again would setlle to a flat ride as soon as it could. Even on a rutted and ripped gravel road (yes, a gravel road) it was relatively chop free and surprisingly noise free.The razor sharp steering rack backs up the chassis perfectly. It reacts to the softest touch and is ratioed so at speed it won’t go beserk, it’ll move gently, but will also tighten up quickly at slow speeds for easy car parking and manouvreability.It’s the long drive that shows what a well sorted chassis can do but that’d come to naught if the interior of the car also doesn’t play ball. The cloth covered seats were near nigh spot on, with support where needed, and resulted in stepping out of the pocket car with no sense of weariness. Bearing in mind, too, that the Swift was driven in a cold environment and the seats aren’t heated. Speaking of heating, the interior of the Swift GL Navigator features old school style dials and slide for fresh/recirculate. It warms up the interior quickly but did seem to not push air through to the feet efficiently enough when that mode was dialled up. This is vital when you exit a hotel room to see ice, not frost, on a Swift roof.Around “Coona”, as it’s called locally, the Swift works well as a city car….well, a town car. Coonabarabran has a population of under 4000, and takes just a few minutes to travel through. There’s life in the place yet, however signs of decay, such as a collapsing car wash, are tell tale signs of a town teetering on the edge.Want scenery? It’s this, and Siding Spring Observatory, overlooking the volcanic remains that form the Warrambungles Range, that bring people to the region. The climb up to the observatory is a four kilometre hike on some fairly steep and narrow roads, with the added attraction of passing some planetary markers. By using the observatory as the centre of the solar system, you’re able to gauge just how far apart planets are once you pass the asteroid belt and how close they are inside. The CVT is so well sorted that it never struggles to haul the car and four aboard upwards.A tour of the venue is a must, as it climaxes with a visit to the uppermost point of the mountain the observatory complex (there’s over fifty separate telescopes) sits upon and gives a breathtaking vista in a full 360 degrees, including the picturesque Warrumbungles themselves. On the way down the transmission exhibits yet another welcome quirk; there’s a selectable Low gear that helps brake the Swift without always aiming for the stop pedal. The brakes themselves, disc up front and drum rear in all but the GLX, are a mixed bag. There’s too much initial pressure required to get bite but once they do they’re measured, positive, confident in the retardation. You can judge to an nth the amount of pressure required to haul up the Swift time and time again.The exterior design of the Swift has also changed and, for A Wheel Thing, it’s not a change that sits well. Taking a few moments to look at it at various stops highlight the now blunter front end, the somewhat out of place headlight design, the protuberant tail light cluster aka Baleno, and the now embedded in the C pillar door handle. From A Wheel Thing’s point of view, it’s no longer the sleek and attractively well rounded machine it was, it’s now looking visually heavier and not as aerodynamically attractive.Inside is a different story. It’s comfortable, as stated, plus has a real look of being updated and modern. There’s the familiar four quarter touchscreen (with no DAB available at this level) with the typically clean interface Suzuki has endowed its screens with of recent times. Ergonomically, it’s a treat with everything cleanly laid out, easy to use and read with the added virtue of the main air vents being as basic yet efficient as they get. Where the Swift falls down, and sadly its not alone with this, is the lack of truly useable sunshades. They’re too short, lacking extending inserts, and not deep enough, as when moved to block sunlight throught the windows, simply don’t come down far enough to be of any real use.
What was useful was the overall driveability of the Swift Navigator. The aforementioned climb up to the Siding Spring Observatory, complete with breathtaking views but few opportunities to stop in true safety, tested the ability of the little hatch for both driving and handling. Tick the box for “Pass with Flying Colours”. Pootle around town? Too easy. Stretch the legs on the highway? Natch.The voyage home (to pinch a Star Trek title) was via the barely hanging on hamlet of Binnaway (yes, true name), with a stop at the site of the Black Stump, then east to Merriwa, before heading south east for lunch in Denman. All through here, with varying road surfaces, bends, straights, dips and hollows, hill climbs and descents, the Swift simply blinked and carried on. The final part of the return trip was via the sublime Putty Road, complete with turns and curves that work so well for lovers of the two wheeled transport variety. Even though ostensibly not a sport chassis, the Swift acted as if it had one, with the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam coil sprung rear providing tenacious grip. Again, there’s plenty of point & squirt driveability when the revs were around 3000 rpm. Being one of the more user friendly CVTs revs were between 1700 to 2000 when in cruise mode, easily flicking up to 4500 when needed and so responsive even the lightest pressure on the accelerator would see corresponding movement on the tacho.One thing that really stood out over the two days or so was the sheer amount of dead kangaroos and foxes roadside. One red devil had a luck escape, dashing out in front with barely inches between he and the front wheels as we passed but the visual carnage suggests that far too many were just that little bit too slow. With the size of some of the grey bodies, it was cause to be thankful for the six airbags on board, as no variants have a driver’s kneebag.
At the End Of The Drive.
A Wheel Thing has to admit to reservations about the capability of the Swift to deal with such a drive prior to departure. Now, the Swift can be highly recommended as a long distance tourer for a family of four for a couple of days away. Luggage space curtails anything longer but would be ideal for a couple as the rear seats folded offer up the extra space needed for more luggage.
What one will get for the well spent money ( Pricing is sharp: the GL will kick off at $15990, the Navigators will be $17990 and $18990, and the top of the range GLX is $22990) is a car that’s thoroughly capable of a long drive to the country, a car with the goods needed to provide a wonderful drive experience and the economy required to not break the bank whilst away. Here’s the link for more info: 2017 Suzuki Swift Range information
A huge thanks to Suzuki Cars Australia.