Month: Jun 2021

As desirable as the name states? The refreshed Suzuki Dzire

Generally speaking, any adept member of the automotive press can take one good look at a car and make accurate determinations about the way they drive and feel before even turning the ignition on. This is evidently easy to do when most inexpensive new cars all come with more cons than pros due to compromises made to achieve their low price-tag. Therefore the prospect of getting into a diminutive budget sedan, adapted from another affordable model in the range is a grim experience to look forward to. Despite the Noddy-looking proportions and glued-on bootlid, the Suzuki Dzire is not one of those cars though. It is surprisingly pleasant to drive with all of the bells and whistles a car of this calibre needs!

Accessible new mobility for under R200 000 still exists if you can believe it, but most options are lacklustre to say the least. We will start with the Dzires price, since affordability is one of its strongest selling points and something Suzuki knows a thing or two about. The base model 1.2 GA MT will set you back a measly R182 900 while the vehicle we had on test, the 1.2 GL MT costs a smidge over R200 000. 

This price also includes a 2 year/30 000km service plan and 5 year/200 000km warranty from the manufacturer. Not that this should be much of a concern since the 2021 Dzire is based on the Swift platform and shares all mechanical components from it. The shared aesthetic features and interior details should have been a dead giveaway if you are in denial. 

The Dzire is equally equipped with the Swift’s diminutive stature, tipping the scales at a feathery 890kg. This results in light steering input for low speed corners and parking scenarios, while bends of moderate pace still feel lively and connected to the steering wheel. After all, who needs a Mercedes-Benz S-Class when you have a turning circle of 4.8 meters? This is identical to the Swift despite its extended length, by the way.

The lightweight but rigid sub-ton mass is thanks to Suzuki’s HEARTECT platform which also accounts for its fun, brisk performance and frugal economy. Suzuki claims 4.8l/100km but our tests in this nippy, city-runabout didn’t see anything below 5.5l/100km. Still mighty impressive from the 1.2l naturally aspirated motor which utilizes 16 valves with variable timing and multi point fuel injection. Peak power from the 4 cylinder engine of 61kW is achieved at 6000rpm while a maximum torque rating of 113Nm comes at 4200rpm. 

While the irrelevant 0-100km/h time of 12 seconds seems an eternity, short bursts of acceleration below 60km/h are where the Dzire takes the spotlight. Its little wheels, light weight and low down torque catapult it off the line and forward into a maze of urban routes. A habitat in which it shines most bright. It is an embodiment of slow car fast > fast car slow mantra and at times you may need to be reminded that it is still just an affordable compact sedan.

All derivatives are equipped with a 5 speed manual transmission which does surprisingly well on the highway, keeping the peppy-motor’s revs relatively low at 3000rpm while at the national speed limit. In order to achieve this, the gearbox has some long ratios between each gear. This has proven to be a pitfall as sedate urban driving can often feel as though there is a missing ratio between 1st and 3rd gear. This is apparent when turning at sharp intersections and accelerating from stationary up a hill.

Despite no touch screen infotainment system, the Dzire’s cabin is well equipped for a car of this calibre too. A clunky bluetooth radio, CD reader, USB connectivity and aux port can still provide ample audio entertainment while the second row of seats have access to an armrest, power source and air conditioning vents. This is where the fun in the rear ends though as the limited rear headroom, compliments of the sharp rear rake of the C Pillar inhibit comfortable travel for extended periods of time. The narrow and awkwardly shaped rear door-well also means that only children can comfortably get in and out of the second row of seats.

The driver is better equipped however, with a comfortable seating position which provides good visibility in all directions. The seat is not height adjustable although it is sufficient, at least for me and all 173cm of my height.

Everything else from the driver’s seat is relatively spacious and most components are sensibly laid out and in good reach except for the low lying gear lever which in first and third gear seem a stretch away. The other gripe with the Dzire, which befalls most affordable Suzuki’s is the lack of automatic locking doors which take a while to adjust to. 

While this is a mild refresh of the existing generation, this comes better equipped in terms of safety for the same price of its less equipped predecessor. You now get ESP, 2 airbags and anti-lock brakes with brake force distribution and emergency brake assistance included in all derivatives. New upholstery lines the seats while electric windows are found all round. You also get power steering, an immobiliser and alarm system and remote central locking as standard. There is also 378 litres of boot space in the deceptively small looking rear.

While general refinement and cost saving are noticeable around the car if you begin to look, the overall product remains a good one in a market plagued with cheap quality. Its diminutive size work in its favour for its overall drive and comfort, it is just a pity the rear boot seems a complete afterthought in the aesthetics department. Regardless, the Dzire and it’s Swift cousin are possibly some of the best options in the affordable compact categories.

A complete guide to the GWM P-Series range

You will struggle to find as iconic a pairing as a South African and their bakkie. It is a mode of transportation that propels businesses forward and easily handles most domestic jobs for individuals. Regardless of where you find yourself in Mzansi, these capable and practical automotive choices litter the road at a ratio greater than any other type of vehicle available in our market. New to GWM’s stables is the attractively priced and well equipped P-Series range. We spent a week in the driver’s seat of each derivative using them as they were intended. 

Our market is no stranger to Asian manufactured bakkies as we know them today, kicked off by the Toyota Hilux just over 50 years ago. As can be expected, the recipe for success has been nailed down to a tee for any outsiders looking to enter the hotly contested segment which boasts brand loyal consumers. Reliability, accessibility, configurability, suitable amenities, relative comfort (for a bakkie) and most importantly an equally attractive price point is the name of the game and the P-Series ticks most boxes.

While the segment may have originated as a pure totalitarian single cab offering back then, decades of evolution have warranted the need for more comfortable and luxurious options or configurability. The GWM P-Series range seeks to be capable of both, including the commercial single cab, the commercial double cab and the well equipped passenger double cab. 

This variety means that over the years, bakkies have become an all encompassing local subculture which includes the compact front wheel drive courier vehicles delivering Takealot bundles to their shopaholic purchaser, all the way through to the eternal Ranger vs Hilux rivalry. They will continue to be the vehicle of choice for many in the years to come and thus a lucrative frontier for any automaker if they can get the recipe right. 

As China’s largest producer of SUV’s and bakkies, GWM is not new to the world of durable totalitarian vehicles, or way of governance for that matter. Although previous attempts have never dispensed a truly formidable opposition to the likes of Ford, Isuzu or Toyota, the new P-Series range may sway some non loyalist consumers away from the other reputable brands. 

It is now for the first time in the brand’s history, equipped to compete in the league it has always been yapping at the heels of, which includes the premium bakkie segment. Their previous attempts appear nameless and mundane, struggling for an identity. 

While there has been limited success with the Steed 3 (also called Wingle in other markets), the somewhat characterless Steed 4 and Steed 5 have proved to be one of the better entry-level and affordable bakkies for the masses in the past decade.

Our test cars were the top of the range and most expensive options from each spec, with other highly configurable and more affordable choices in both 2×4 and 4×4 available too.

  • Commercial Single Cab 6MT 4×4 LT priced at R412 900
  • Commercial Double Cab 6MT 4×4 DLX priced at R432 900
  • Passenger Double Cab 8AT 4×4 LT priced at R554 900

The P-Series has taken a confident stride forward in styling, with an imposing grille and clean linework – it looks the part to compete with its intended competitors yet still looks durable enough not to be a pushover. 

The commercial single cab and the commercial double cab are styled identically employing the same headlights, mesh style front grille, taillights and rims. The passenger double cab is easily differentiated by its slat-styled front grille, LED headlights and taillights while the fender includes a chrome detail and the rim options can be two-tone specced.

Despite general improvements in aesthetics over its predecessors, the single cab P-Series still looks quite odd from a ¾ view. Partially as a result of the dark colour of the side step ending awkwardly at the front cab leaving everything between that and the rear wheel hanging visually lower. 

The smooth, vast expanse of metal surrounding the rear wheel also appears to have it equipped with trolley-sized wheels, even though they are not – this is just a massively oversized bakkie. Look at it as the Chinese version of an XL American pickup. This is a gripe that not many of its potential buyers will be particularly focused on but be sure to struggle to fit into parking bays or garage interiors from its sheer length if you ever get behind the wheel of one. 

On the plus side, the extra size loading bin is capable of hauling any number of items in, enough to make actual small commercial trucks envious – although whatever is loaded in will need to be secured since the bin is not rubberised. Fortunately it is equipped with a rudimentary looking guardrail and a cargo goods rack for safe measure.

While the details are the same between both commercial derivatives, the double cab seems more proportionally correct – although with a significantly limited loading bin, obviously. There aren’t many other cosmetic or mechanical changes between the two, save from a radial knob on the interior center console of the commercial single cab which controls the high and low range off-roading options and a few other buttons. The graphic design and user interface of the infotainment is also far more appealing than its competitors in the segment.

Speaking of the interior, all of the commercial derivatives we tested were well-equipped with comfortable synthetic leather interiors, electric drivers seats and a sensible layout. The infotainment in the P-Series mimics the overall dimensions of the vehicle, equipped with a whopping 9” touch screen which also operates the climate control. While it takes the system a while to boot up when the ignition is engaged and laggy in certain operation, the large screen and high-quality reverse camera with PDC makes navigating the mass into tight spaces a less anxious process.

The analog tachometer and speedometer are clear and simple, but lack of a deep enough recess results in sun glare which hinders their function somewhat. The commercial single cab also has a large B-pillar which by default limits side visibility when driving. The overall premium intention is let down by some wobbly buttons and easy scratch plastics, but as a whole the interiors remain pleasant and well put together places to be. 

While these were the well-equipped top of the range models from each derivative, less kitted out but more affordable options can be had from as little as R347 900 in the commercial single cab and
R377 900 in the commercial double cab form. This means that the P-Series could start littering the roads donned in courier colours or the liveries of small businesses in the near future. 

The full range of P-Series is powered by a 2.0 turbo diesel motor churning out a maximum power output of 120kW at 3600rpm while its maximum torque of 400Nm arrives between 1500-2500rpm. While on paper these figures are admirable for a 2.0-litre four cylinder motor, the single powertrain option is the Achilles heel of what has so far shaped up to be a great product. 

The turbo lag is most significant, with liftoff at full throttle in the peak torque range rendering a violent and jerky experience. There is also no torque before the motor achieves approximately 1750-1850rpm which makes quick pull aways near impossible and stalling on inclines very easy – even without a load. 

The turbo lag is further noticeable when shifting gears on the 6-speed manual gearbox as any throttle liftoff requires significant time to generate the previously lost boost. Out of the full range, the 8 speed ZF automatic gearbox on the passenger double cab mitigates this and has the most pleasant ride – although it is still not perfect. 

The sole turbo diesel option does no better in the economy department either with a claimed 9.4l/100km being significantly higher than any of its competitors with similar sized and more versatile motors. Between all derivatives, we achieved around 10.0l/100km average economy with considerably more open road driving than that of the usual urban stop-start.

While the interior of the two commercial P-Series options is seemingly identical too, the experience in the passenger double cab is elevated to the next level. With a completely redesigned centre console and gear shifter, the rest of the interior includes plush colour-coded fittings and diamond stitched leather seats and door cards matched to the exterior paintwork. It feels vastly superior and refined even though comfort levels remain exactly the same as the more affordable commercial option, save from electric heated seats. 

The passenger double cab also includes a non configurable digital display which is well integrated to the more luxurious interior. It is however difficult to toggle basic information such as average fuel economy and the lack of configurability seem like an opportunity missed for the automaker to flex their technological prowess. 

The driving experience in the whole range is as comfortable as can be for bakkies of this size, with the lack of weight above the rear axle in the commercial single cab rendered the most uncomfortable over speed bumps and road imperfections.

The seating position is higher than most other commuter vehicles on the road too, putting you above eye level of just about everything else. While it is good for visibility, this makes road and wind noise fairly prominent in the cabin with an additional hum from the sunroof on the commercial double cab when travelling anything in excess of 30km/h.

As a whole though, GWM have elevated themselves and brought the fight to the big bakkie sellers locally. They are well equipped vehicles offered at a competitive price point that should keep the other brands honest. While this is a stride forward, it still leaves out a few of the boxes in the bakkie recipe for success which we can perhaps enjoy in a mild update in the near future.

Set for success? Living with the new Suzuki Swift

The Suzuki Swift is back! Did it ever leave though? Technically speaking, the refreshed Suzuki Swift is almost identical to its pre-facelift sibling, but there are some changes and improvements from the old model that modernise it to compete with the current generation of compact hatches. We spent some time with the 2021 model to understand the liveability of these changes and see if they significantly improve the day-to-day use of the frugal city slicker. 

If you would like to read more about our day at its launch in April click here: Swift Launch

Most mid-cycle refreshes are often minor, improving amenities or updating obsolete aspects of the car which help improve or modernise the overall experience. In the fast pace of the technological age, this is crucial in retaining relevance to the consumer which can ultimately enable more sales of the product. While it may not look it, there are a host of changes on the Swift, albeit mostly beneath the surface with an increased list of standard features.

So, what do the GL and GLX derivatives of the Swift include? 

The mid-spec GL includes electrically adjustable mirrors, fog lamps and two tone colour combinations, either paired to a 5-speed MT or AMT. A standard radio with USB, CD and AUX connectivity are available for in car entertainment too. The GL, along with the GA is fitted with 14” steel rims with a full wheel cover. 

The top of the range GLX model, which we had on test, has a fair bit more kit but expectedly costs quite a bit more as a result. It employs the same selection of gearboxes in the GL but now includes 15” dual colour polished rims on all four corners (pictured above). For the extra outlay of cash you also receive keyless entry with a start/stop button, electronically operated folding side mirrors, an infotainment system familiar to the Vitara Brezza and Jimny and automatic climate control replaces normal air conditioning. The suitably sized infotainment screen also utilizes a reverse camera to help navigate in and out of tight spots. 

Both can be had in a selection of new colours, including some 2-tone options. The AMT derivatives on the GL and GLX also include Hill Start Assist while the inclusion of Electronic Stability Program (ESP) increases safety across the lineup (including the entry level GA model). The only aesthetic update to any bodywork in the new range is the inclusion of a chrome strip on the grille while all models employ rear park sensors. 

What about the driving experience stood out the most?

The test car made its way through most of the journalists in our office – all with different driving styles yet all with more spirited use of the accelerator pedal. Regardless, the fuel economy on this peppy compact did not see north of 5.8l/100km. By the end of the test period of which the car travelled over 500km, the rating displayed on the display signalled an impressive 5.5l/100km, which was dominated more by urban driving. What is even more impressive is that Suzuki claims fuel economy as low as 4.9l/100km can be achieved in the MT derivatives which would not come as a surprise after our experience of its prudent performance. 

Speaking of performance, by definition the Swift can be categorized as an econobox with the sole purpose of commuting people around, unlike the purely fun-focused Swift Sport hot hatch. However the Swift has an incredibly low dry weight of 875kg and is paired with a surprisingly responsive motor. 

Although this is the same 1.2-litre engine from before and only delivers a measly 61kW and 113Nm, the low weight makes the most of the output and truly encapsulates the definition of the model name. Its sprite acceleration and capabilities navigating tight low speed corners mean that it is a hoot to drive! 

Is the interior of the GLX suitably kitted out?

The Maruti build quality is questionable for certain details within the interior but the cabin is sensibly laid out and comfortable to be in. The 7” infotainment system on the GLX models includes both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. It is our pick of the bunch considering all other derivatives only make use of a standard radio without any navigation system and only 4 speakers as opposed to the 6 found in the GLX. It is a familiar system to other Suzuki models too but the user experience and design are visibly outdated when compared to competing brands. 

Considering the exterior dimensions of the hatch, there is also considerable head and legroom on both rows of seats. While this car is predominantly designed to tackle urban environments it is still in need of cruise control for more extended journeys on highways or open roads. 

The Swift also includes foldable rear seats with a 60/40 split if the meagre 265l boot volume is insufficient. The boot lip is higher than the boot floor so loading heavy equipment or luggage required a bit more expended effort. 

The verdict remains that the Maruti built Suzuki Swift is perhaps one of the most sensible options in the budget segment that has the backing of a reputable brand with a track record to match. The extra tech found in the top of the GLX makes it our choice.

Swift 1.2 GA MT R180 900

Swift 1.2 GL MT R199 900

Swift 1.2 GL AMT R214 900

Swift 1.2 GLX MT R218 900

Swift 1.2 GLX AMT R234 900

The Swift range includes a 5 year/200 000km promotional warranty and a 2 year/30 000km service plan.