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.