Tag: Suzuki

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.

Putting the Sport in SUV with the Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki is no stranger to the world of off-roading, having the utilitarian Jimny, their first 4WD model as the bona fide option for trail-hungry enthusiasts from as early as 1970. Towards the end of the millennium however, scores of consumers were beginning to show interest in more usable utility vehicles but without the bare-bones build quality of the traditional off-roaders at the time. Enter the docile first generation Vitara shape in 1988, which was poised to bridge that gap. It offered an elevated seating position, improved creature comforts, all wheel-drive and off road capability all packaged into compact and configurable dimensions. Most importantly, the Vitara was affordable and accessible to the masses. This makes it arguably one of the first SUV forerunners, embodying the definition of the segment before it ever existed. So, what has changed in over 30 years then? 

The car we had on test – a facelifted fourth generation 1.4 Turbo GLX AT is not a brand new release. Its underpinnings date back to 2015 but the mid cycle refresh, which debuted in 2019 has updated the iconic nameplate with updated technology and features. 

First thing is first, the Vitara has gravitated away from its roots (somewhat) and ditched the lone 4WD layout that made this model a success story in the late 1980’s. Its capabilities have now been more aligned with the typical city orientated SUV with the transversally laid out motor powering the front wheels while offering an accessible 185mm of ground clearance. Out of the seven derivatives offered, the only model with Allgrip (4WD) is the naturally aspirated 1.6 GLX mated to a 5 speed manual transmission. 

The K14C Boosterjet in-line 4 turbocharged motor found in our test car is the one to have though, 103kW and 220Nm is plenty to haul the 1160kg body around. It is even enough to self induce a dash of torque steer and enable the assistance of traction control during acceleration in certain scenarios. It is the same plucky motor that makes the Swift Sport so nimble, in case you didn’t know. Such spirited performance from the modest looking model is unexpected. So you can imagine the surprising grin of continuously putting the SUV through its paces and the drivers display yielding a handsome reward of 13.2 km/l (which equates to 7.4l/100km in normal units of measurement). Sedate driving could achieve as low as the claimed 5.8l/100km but the fun factor seems to inhibit getting anywhere near this number! 

This motor can be coupled to either a 6 speed manual transmission or the new automatic with the same number of cogs. Despite the solitary driving mode, the shifting seemed light and comfortable while more vivacious use of the throttle in overtaking situations warranted responsive and intuitive up and down shifts. The tactile paddles behind the steering wheel were suitably sized and the gearbox responded timeously to manual interaction too. Where the experience fell short was an apparent engine shudder when coming to a stop, alike to that of stalling. Overall though, the Turbo GLX in automatic guise provided a very comfortable driving experience which could also instill some hooliganism with the surprising torque delivery – reaffirming its purpose as a Sport Utility Vehicle. The Vitara is also well equipped when it comes to the safety department, with active and passive features like ABS, EBD, BAS, ESP and 7 airbags.

The interior, while aesthetically outdated and basically arranged, is well put together and is constructed with high build quality – surpassing that of certain European rivals. The vehicle on test had almost 16 000km on the clock and there were little to no rattles in the cabin on smooth urban roads. Although an abundance of plastic textures dominated the front fascia, there were equally as many pleasant soft touch points too, boding well for mild comforts. Where I found vexation was the driver’s seating position. Designed with the Japanese domestic market in mind, the narrow bolsters on the base of the seat found my slender behind constantly wriggling to try and get comfortable – to limited avail. 

Keeping true to its precursor’s legacy, the Vitara retains an elevated, upright seating position which enables abundant visibility in all directions, albeit with a diminutive rear view mirror. The rest of the interior is otherwise filled with some cool and useful tech, chief being the 7” touch display which has USB, SD card and Bluetooth functionality, standard smartphone integration also applies. An analog rev counter and speedometer dominate the dials behind the steering wheel while the driver display includes a G-Force meter and power distribution graphs – Sport Utility Vehicle remember? 

Although equipped with a small screen, the clarity on the reverse camera made visibility when backing into parking bays much easier – especially in low light environments – impressive. Our vehicle on test was also equipped with a panoramic sunroof, which made for a warm sunny welcome on cooler autumn days but limited rear headroom for adults. The configurable boot can hold up to 375l too, which is just above average in comparison to its competitors in the subcompact crossover segment. 

The range includes several derivatives including our Turbo GLX 6AT, which is pricey at the top of the spectrum coming in at R426 900. There is some good news though, the naturally aspirated 1.6 GL 5MT 2WD can be had for as little as R310 900 – but don’t expect as many amenities or as much driving fun as the Turbo GLX can offer. While evolution over a 30 year period can create a product completely indistinguishable from its precursor, there are aspects of this subcompact crossover SUV that still allude to its rich heritage. While the nameplate has adapted to keep up with the times, it retains some of its pedigree sporty, adventurous flavour to suit the new era of consumers.

The updated Suzuki Swift is all about the right feels!

Suzuki recently hosted automotive press for the national launch of their mid-cycle refresh of their best-selling Swift model. We spent the morning venturing around in the new compact hatchback along some of Gauteng’s country roads to see if this car had #alltherightfeels. 

The Swift has been one of Suzuki’s best selling vehicles since its inception 17 years ago and retains this title with their third generation iteration. After 3 years on the market, with sales commencing in 2018, the current model has undergone an extremely minor face-lift with subtle changes on the exterior and interior. What hasn’t changed is that it remains the same frugal, compact and fun value-for-money car that it was when the range was originally conceived in 2004. 

While this update may be regarded as completely minor and even unidentifiable to certain consumers, it includes some aesthetic updates which should entice the young-at-heart. This comes primarily in the form of updated exterior colours, including two-tone options on the upper-range GLX models and more bling up front with a chrome strip that divides the number plate and Suzuki logo. New 15” alloy wheels sit on all four corners of the car although the more affordable base models still feature steelies with hubcaps.

The other important updates that are included into the range are even less visible to the eye but enhance the safety and overall driving experience. The inclusion of rear parking sensors and electronic stability control (ESC) across the range add to the growing list of standard features on this affordable competitor. A useful reverse camera is also included on the GLX models while hill-start assist is standard on the automated manual transmission derivatives. 

The inner workings of the Swift remain completely unchanged, with the surprisingly punchy 1.2-litre engine from before still delivering 61kW and 113Nm. While this number is rather low by today’s standards for naturally aspirated motors, its feather weight of 950kg justifies the low displacement and figures. What this affords the driver with is a combined fuel consumption as low as 4.9l/l00km which remains one of its primary selling points (although we achieved just higher than that on our short test). 

Not once did the car feel lacking in power, nipping from robot to robot with ease yet still comfortable enough to drop a gear and overtake on highways and single lane roads. The only gripe came with the lack of a 6th gear in the manual derivatives for highway driving. While the gearbox is tremendously smooth and tactile to change in both sedate and enthusiastic driving scenarios, sitting above 3000rpm at the national highway speed limit could have been better optimized. 

Over its 17 year lifespan, the Swift has retained its iconic silhouette and compact stature. The third generation has evolved design features to create a more cohesive, sleek bodywork which includes concealed rear door handles and more compact wing mirrors. While the steep, angular rake of the A-pillar makes it easily distinguishable to the dozens of other competitors in the segment, you do get mild wind noises emanating from the feature which exacerbates exponentially the faster you begin to go. 

The inside of the Swift retains the same spacious cabin for passengers and the driver from before. While boot capacity is a great improvement from its precursor, its meagre 265-litres of volume fall short and are nowhere near class leading. While some questionable Maruti made build quality issues can be subtly found, the cabin remains a pleasant place to be. The 7” infotainment system forms the focal point of the central fascia while lower end derivatives are less equipped with modern tech. Android Auto or Apple CarPlay connectivity are easily accessible via the infotainment system and enable the latest music or podcasts to be blasted through the sound system of the GLX with relative ease. A reverse camera is neatly concealed within the back bumper but has limited height visibility because of this. 

Prior to driving, I was worried that the naturally aspirated motor would be grossly underpowered. While other markets have the more powerful 1.0 litre turbo motor on sale, Suzuki SA have justified their decision for the not bringing the more powerful variant in for its added expense which would place it just just below the R336 000 Swift Sport, undercutting the compact hot hatch and ultimately removing the affordability factor of the car. Speaking of which, the range of GA, GL and GLX models span between an affordable R180 900 for the GA all the way through to R234 900 for the well equipped GLX AMT with the standard inflationary increases from its precursor. All prices include a 5-year/100 000 km promotional warranty and 2-year/30 000 km service plan.

After a stellar year of sales in 2020 and a continually growing dealership network, it is well expected that models like the Swift and Toyota joint venture Vitara Brezza will continue to usher in this upward trend and be at the forefront of sales in 2021. 

The updated Swift in conclusion remains exactly what you would expect of it: a frugal, nippy and affordable city slicker. With the competitive budget hatchback category, few others have the impressive track record of  7.5 million global sales and counting (since inception) and it is easy to see why! 

We drive the new Suzuki Ignis

Suzuki Ignis

On launch with the new Suzuki Ignis

I would have loved to have been in the room when the briefing on the new Suzuki Ignis was created. It would have been quite the meeting when the car designs came in. It would have been a shock, but a good one, I thought as I sat on a flight from Jozi Town to the beautiful, but waterless Cape Town for the local media launch of Suzuki’s latest vehicle!

We arrived in a semi-wet Cape Town in the evening and then made our way to a studio which could only be described as a “watch this space” moment for SA television where the Ignis launch happened. Besides the culling of a few local beers from the waiter, the night ran without glitch and when the Ignis was revealed halfway through a light supper, we were greeted by a design that is nothing short of amazing and youthful, backed by one of my favorite tunes, “Hey Hey” by Dennis Ferrer danced to by some “Panstula dancers”.

So, what do you get with this new offering from our Japanese friends? For a price of R169 000 of your hard earned Madiba’s, you get a Crossover hatchback with the 1.2-litre four-pot, an engine from the Suzuki Swift, with a power output of 61 kW and 113 N.m and yes, this won’t get you a new quarter mile record, but will keep up with traffic surprisingly well, and that is aided by having a kerb weight of just 850 kilograms. This translated into some good fuel numbers too, but to be honest, pointed into some curvy roads in the Cape, that went out of the window as we wanted to see what this little offering from Suzuki could do. This little car has a design that is robust and harks back to Suzuki’s from yesteryear.

Suzuki Ignis

In the Cape air, the little Suzuki Ignis immediately blazed its way from the beautiful accommodation in Tableview towards wine county. From a convenience perspective, you immediately feel at home as all you need is your phone cable and the vehicle comes alive as you have connection with ease. Being six foot and still carrying weight from December, space is not an issue but I did fail the “sit behind you test” thanks to my awkward torso to leg ratio. The model that we had was the GLX version which is the top of range model. The motor is the same but the changes are the spec level and for the extra amount of R20 000, you get among other things, LED headlights, as well as daytime running lights, folding electric mirrors, auto aircon, you get the drift. For an entry level vehicle, the Ignis is very well specced and you find yourself lacking for very little. Chasing the Suzuki Ignis through some very windy roads, highlighted that you will not be getting a dull drive. Most cars in this segment suffer from a surprising amount of understeer dialed into the chassis for safety reasons but we found this little car to be very flat though the corners and would welcome more power to explore the chassis a bit more.

There is an auto variant of the Ignis which Suzuki does stress is not a conventional Auto with a torque convertor but rather, a manual clutch system that has it clutch operated by robotics. All I could hear here was BMW’s SMG gearbox that had you nodding all over town and almost crashing while trying to parallel park. Hopefully, this will not be the case with the Suzuki Ignis and we will get to sample this gearbox in due course. We ended up at a wine farm which was a lunch and wine tasting (read responsible) were at the backdrop of one if the oldest family run wine farms in South Africa, the Ignis was right at home. We left the venue running slightly behind schedule heading direction airport and this spirited drive through some glorious roads proved that this will be a loved little car that will be fun to drive on a daily basis.

Knowing the South African market, Suzuki needs to market this little car well as if people get to experience it, they will sell loads of these. Being a car community that is very brand conscious who tends to favour the hijack favorite Polo Vivo, people need to look at other makes and realise that there is life, and awesome cars outside Germany and this little Ignis proves that. You get Japanese reliability, cheeky and quirky design and the 2017 European World Urban Car of the year and you have a recipe for success. Open your eyes SA, you have and awesome little car right under your noses. Test-drive one and see what we are talking about!

Suzuki Baleno Driven Review

Long term test on the Suzuki Baleno in South Africa

Rewind to 1997 – Britney was fresh on the scene, George Clooney was Batman, Tony had just become Prime Minister and I had just learnt how to walk. These were all iconic events in their own right and while the world was marvelling at Mike Tyson biting off Evander Holyfield’s ear and some new book about a wizard named Harry was flying off the shelves, Volkswagen had just launched the Golf Mk. IV and the turd that was the first A-Class had just arrived, much to everyone’s dismay. “What a time to be alive” said nobody while looking at the A-Class’ obliquely mounted engine, a design so revolutionary that not a single car makes use of it some 20 years later.

One thing that was quite cool about the late 90’s, however, was how laid back the world was, relatively speaking, of course. Vehicle safety consisted of ABS for those who could afford it and motorists had only just started noticing the seatbelts in their cars, but atrocities such as the Daewoo Lanos and Hyundai Atos were also considered to be “fun and affordable” which we can all agree were complete lies. Living life on the edge was relatively simple, but being mollycoddled was a bit more difficult. Here we sit in 2017, however, and it seems as though the inverse is true – pampering and protecting has become the norm while wrangling a crocodile or playing with fireworks are just a few of the activities that are now frowned upon as they are either too dangerous or unfriendly to someone and their hamster.

I enjoy living life on the edge, which is why I switch the traction control off whenever I drive my boosty MINI in the rain – familiar, but frightening. It gives one a sense of what it would be like to share your own garden with a hungry lion. I do this, though, because it is difficult to find a car these days that exhibits what can only be described as old fashioned motoring. By this, I do not mean no seatbelts and oil leaks, but there used to be a sense that the human was integral to the operation of the vehicle, something that seems to be missing from almost everything built after 2010. I say almost, though because the Suzuki Baleno is the air-freshener in the change room that we have all been waiting for.

Launched towards the end of 2016, the Baleno is slightly larger than a Polo, but a lot cheaper than a Polo. Obviously it feels a bit cheaper too, but not bad cheaper – it’s good cheaper.

Having been handed the keys to a whole Baleno 1.4 GLX for the month of December, I wrapped the MINI up and left it in the garage, promising myself that no matter how tempted I was to take it for a spin, I’d turn to the Baleno for my thrills. A lot to live up to, then, but I was confident in the not-so-little Suzie’s abilities given the praise that the Baleno received when launched here in South Africa.

A supple ride, comfortable seats and a delightfully tactile steering wheel were a few of my favourite interior features while the silver plastic that swooshes its way along the dashboard was not. Bluetooth connectivity, a CD player, front and rear electric windows, cruise control and a trip computer all come as standard on the GLX model we had, as do the LED daytime running lights and BiXenon headlamps. So all in all, a wonderfully specced vehicle which, despite its compact dimensions, certainly has enough space for 5 as we discovered on our Christmas day jaunt to Rustenburg. The entire Whittle family, Christmas ham and all, piled into the Baleno and off we went.

Having embarked on much the same route, solo, the day before to Hartebeespoort damn, I was intrigued to see how the Baleno performed 5-up. Unsurprisingly, a sterling performance was delivered, achieving an average of 4.4 l/100km there and back. Thankfully, the 1.4-litre N/A four-cylinder petrol motor isn’t only good at sipping fuel, and has quite a bit of poke should you plant your foot and stir the gears properly. Power delivery is somewhat more akin to that of a 1.6-litre motor, despite the engine’s power figures of 68 kW and 130 N.m.

The Baleno is rather handsome and exhibits some interesting exterior design elements such as the swishy headlights with integrated DRL’s and flat bottomed taillights, but from certain angles it does look a bit…funny. A friend of mine’s mum even went so far as to describe it as being “beautiful” but her car history consists of a pistachio green Nissan Micra and an old-shape Murano so I wouldn’t listen to her. Our test unit was finished in Ray Blue metallic which does well to highlight the vehicle’s many chrome accents.

Priced from R199 900 (R229 900 for our test unit) the Baleno offers a good value for money product which won’t unnecessarily mollycoddle you, but it won’t leave you sitting at the edge of your seat either. It comfortably establishes itself in the “good old-fashioned” category, but without being old fashioned – something that few cars are able to do these days. It’s honest, it’s fun to drive, incredibly spacious and punches well above its weight, and while not even the ‘range’ reading on the trip computer allows you to live life on the edge – it reads ‘- – – ‘ once you hit 30 km of range – it was definitely able to feed me sufficient driving thrills for a whole month.

The Baleno’s challenge was simple – keep me away from the MINI for a month, and it did. Good job Suzuki.

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga

The practical choice: Suzuki Ertiga.

Truth be told, there isn’t much in terms of appeal when it comes to people carriers. Cars that are built to fit as many individuals as possible normally look like taxis, and they’re often beige in colour too. Think of the Toyota Avanza, I haven’t seen a single one of them in any other colour besides beige and not once have I seen a happy family going on holiday in one. Instead, looks of fear and dismay are the expressions of occupants in an Avanza, purely because the taxi driver is normally attempting a life-threatening stunt.

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The smaller seven seating market is not one full of competition, though. If you were looking for something along those lines and you didn’t want the taxi driver stigma of the Toyota, you could choose a Suzuki.  The Ertiga is a car that can fulfil all your needs and the test car we received also happened to be beige. If I must be honest, when the car arrived at my offices I didn’t care much for it. The timing worked out that I had a fancier sports car with much more power at my disposal. Being young, you want to maintain a particular image, and the image of a crèche owner versus that of a successful businessman didn’t appeal to me. But it was only after a day of using all the fuel in my suave sports car, did the motor journalist in me kick in, and I did what all of us do…find the vehicle with the most amount of fuel in it. My personal car never has fuel in it because as mentioned, I am but a lowly journalist. So just like that, I had to swallow my pride and drive the Uber van.

Like any modern Suzuki, the Ertiga doesn’t scream excitement when you enter. What it does do is offer an ergonomically friendly setup. A radio that works easily, an air-conditioner that doesn’t require a degree and a Bluetooth system that easy to operate. After pairing up my phone and buckling in, I was set to find passengers, something the Ertiga needs for it to make sense. Naturally, I tried to find occupants that wouldn’t judge the fact that my social status had dropped immensely from the sports car driver to the delivery man. So I fetched my mother and siblings and off we went. The Ertiga’s 1.4-litre engine is not underpowered, but nor is it spritely. It’s around the middle where it’s just enough not to annoy you. It only has 70kW after all. The ride quality is as good as my couch, you don’t really know what’s going on under you, but you don’t care because it’s comfortable. Besides who wants to race around in a people carrier besides taxi drivers?

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The two most notable aspects of the Suzuki Ertiga is the practicality of the car and the fact that it runs on smiles and laughter. No seriously, in the week we had it, the car barely used any fuel. In fact, it’s so good on fuel I decided to park the sports car and use it every day because fuel savings over power win every day in the minds of cheap journalists. It’s not just journalists who think this way, though; the average person does too. This is where you see why this car makes sense for the person looking for its attributes. Some need a seven seater for business, others because of endless procreation. Whatever your reason is, surely you’ll want the car to be fuel efficient too. In the case of the Ertiga it’s fortunate to be more visually appealing than the Avanza, but maybe not as nice looking as Honda’s new BRV. The point we’re making is this, if you need the space and a measure of reliability at a reasonable price, the Ertiga is not a bad choice, it’s a practical one. You can also have it in another colour besides brown.

Prices:

Ertiga 1.4 GA: R189 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL: R215 900

Ertiga 1.4 GL AT: R231 900

Suzuki Baleno Launch

Suzuki launched its newest model last week, the Baleno. Believe it or not, there are two previous versions of this car that I am too young to remember, so this makes it Baleno number 3.

After a small 4 hour delay in Durban airport, we arrived in PE at 11 pm; this is when I first set my eyes on the Baleno, under the orange evening lights I made out the front end of Suzuki’s new hatch, Interesting, I thought. The next day I grabbed a proper look at the new Baleno, the design is of this vehicle is what Suzuki call ” Optical Flow,” it’s different and I liked the front end design of this car, the rear end not so much. I sometimes feel Suzuki are slightly missing the mark with vehicle design, the Swift Sport has always looked great and is the best looking car Suzuki make, the new Vitara Is also a looker, but some of the other Suzuki models lack in the looks department.

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The Baleno is not replacing the Swift; rather it gives another option to customers who find the rear passenger and boot areas in the Swift not spacious enough. It’s a bigger car which can be seen visibility from the inside and out when compared to a Suzuki Swift. Intriguingly,though, it’s also 110kg lighter. The Baleno will feature the 1.4 67kw engine found in other model variants and will come as GL and GLX models, with the option of a 4-speed auto in the GLX.

The GLX features exterior changes over the GL such as HID projector headlights and daytime running lights, chrome accents all around, front fog lamps, indicator signals in the mirrors, a rear spoiler and privacy glass for the rear windows.  The GLX also features 16-inch alloy wheels and rear disc brakes, with the GL only featuring rear drums.  The main interior changes with the GLX is the 6-inch color screen, and while the instrument cluster remains the same, Suzuki has added another color display, this time only 4-inches, which shows various driving data.  Keyless go is also a feature on the GLX,  along with fully automatic aircon and rear parking sensors. Safety wise, the GLX features six airbags to the GL’s mere two.

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Suzuki has priced this car competitively with the Baleno starting at R199,990 for the GL, R229,000 for the GLX and R244,900 for the GLX Auto. The new Baleno is covered by a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000 km service plan.

I enjoyed the drive in this car, and there are some features I liked, and some that I didn’t like so much, which I will discuss in my in-depth driving review in edition 07 of the TheMotorist digital mag. If you wish, you can subscribe here: TheMotorist Digital Magazine.

 

 

Suzuki Vitara meets a Tzaneen road trip.

A different holiday with a different car:

Is it just us, or does it feel like the last three months have gone by quicker than one can say the word  “holiday”? Yes it feels like a mere few weeks ago when the Johannesburg roads were quiet, the Durban roads were congested and the Cape Town roads were riddled with “Vaalies”. Fast forward three months later and we’ve hit another holiday season, one that is even more stressful than the one that precedes it, simply because of time constraints. The Christmas holidays give us enough time and money to spend numerous Rands on plane tickets, accommodation, and car hire. Whereas the Easter holidays are only a few days, there is no salary bonus and the school holidays are much shorter.

So where does this leave one in terms of choosing the right holiday destination? Especially in an unstable economic climate? Well a few months ago, we decided to embark on an alternate weekend getaway plan, one that did not involve the coast and peak season flights. Instead, we opted on a three-hour road trip to the ever so green town of Tzaneen located in the Polokwane region. The car used for this trip? Again we didn’t opt for a luxurious German SUV or a British seven seating vehicle. We got behind the wheel of the newly launched 1.6 litre Suzuki Vitara and proceeded to loaded the boot with the following items: Five sleeping bags, four tog bags (filled with all the necessities), numerous pillows, an espresso maker and of course, a burr grinder.

And off we went:

Now you may think that the 86kW engine of the Vitara would barely cope with a fully loaded boot and five humans, one of them who has not seen a gym in months. Surprisingly on the very straight road to Polokwane, the Vitara comfortably cruised along at legal (and not so legal) speeds. With a car full of humans, the air-conditioner and seating comfort play a vital role on the joy/annoyance levels of the occupants.

In the case of the Vitara, the air-conditioning proved so effective, we had to turn it down in the dead of summer, mind you this was amidst high energy car karaoke. When the endorphins from the chocolate finally abated and drowsiness came into play, our back seat occupants slumbered away like well-fed babies whilst the co-pilot and I chatted away about life, the economy and teenage heart breaks (you know, road trip stuff). Meanwhile the frugal Vitara steadily carried on silently, not disturbing our deep conversation or our dreaming passengers.

After driving a straight road for hours, we finally entered into Polokwane, our destination was now only 70Km’s away. This is where things got interesting because on route to Tzaneen is one the most stunning roads in the country, the Magoebaskloof pass. How would our humble friend do on this twisty road? The first few corners awakened our sleeping passengers, sudden silence filled the vehicle as I tried my best to get the most out of the Vitara without causing car sickness.

How did it do?

Dynamically the Suzuki Vitara does not disappoint one bit, as a compact SUV it’s fun, responsive and playful. The small engine did require a higher gear during the mountain pass and yes I did wish for more power but the car was fully loaded with passengers and luggage. Eventually we arrived at our accommodation for the night, the real test was happening the next day, driving to a camp site which required going through ten kilometres of gravel road.

The next morning our local friends had this look of worry in their eyes. Eventually they tried to convince me to leave the Vitara at our previous nights stop over, simply because they were unsure if the “cute” little car would make it. I reminded them of the lineage of this car and its sibling the Jimny, which has embarrassed many larger SUV’s on the dirt. They agreed and told me it was at my own risk. So off we went, a Toyota Hilux, a Toyota Prado and us in our the Suzuki Vitara in tow. A few kilometres in, my friends remarked at how each time they looked in their rear view mirror, all they saw was a red little car keeping up. Some spots required careful planning, with the bigger cars taking their time.

We simply sang along to our Bluetooth streamed music and gently got over whatever obstacle was in our way, similar to how the Jimny clears most off road obstacles. The thing about these Suzuki’s is that they have size on their side and extremely capable off-road abilities. By the time we reached our camp site, our Toyota Hilux driving friend could only sing the Vitara’s praises and any car person will know how difficult it is to convince a Hilux a driver.

Home time:

A few days later, we were on our way home. Once we reached Johannesburg, only having used a tank and a half of fuel, we all looked proudly at the Vitara. Not only had we not damaged a single thing on the GL+ we drove fitted with the Rugged Package, we all had a comfortable trip to and from our destination. We didn’t spent tons of money, we didn’t travel for long hours and we had lots of fun.

In the current economic climate, many are looking at buying down to save costs. Many are also looking at cutting down on expensive holidays. Stunning areas like Tzaneen and cars like the Suzuki Vitara give us hope that it’s not all doom and gloom. For a few thousand rand one can have a great weekend away. Similarly at a starting price of R239 900, one can get a great looking, capable and reliable compact SUV. If buying down for you means getting into a car like the new Vitara, then all we can say is happy savings.

A Swift week: Suzuki family test.

What if you had to drive a Suzuki for the rest of your life?

 for fast food. But let’s for a moment use our imagination and picture a world where we only had one brand of cars to choose from. Imagine for some inexplicable reason, Japan ruled the world and the only cars they produced were Suzuki Swifts. We at TheMotorist had to imagine such a world for a week, when Suzuki decided to involve us in their “family test”. This entailed us driving a different model Swift every two days and the final one for the weekend.

Monday to Wednesday: Swift 1.2 GL Dzire.

The Swift Dzire is an interesting car. We won’t call the boot section ugly, we’ll rather say it’s functional. What you sacrifice in looks, you gain in practicality. This vehicle comes in handy in our “Suzuki Swift only” alternate universe because the start of the week is when most people decide to do some shopping, this where the extra boot space of the Dzire comes in handy.

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Besides the added space, the Dzire shares the same interior as its hatchback siblings. Which means a nice and neat dashboard is included, as well as features such as Bluetooth radio, CD and USB input. Electric windows and remote central locking are features this model was equipped with too.

The small 1.2 litre engine in the Dzire is extremely frugal on fuel, which makes it an even more appealing package for those needing some extra space. Priced at R 145 900 for the entry level GA variant, many small cars will battle to give you all that for that price.

Wednesday to Friday: Swift 1.4 GLS Hatchback.

Now this is a good looking little car. This vehicle has the right combination of cute in it not to feel too feminine or too masculine. What you lose in boot space over the Dzire, you gain in visual appeal. Interestingly the 1.4 GLS, apart from having a more powerful engine, is very taught on the road which gives you a great feeling of nimbleness behind the wheel. It’s no super hatch but it makes for some good fun around corners because you can chuck it around and feel safe at the same time.

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Again despite more enthusiastic driving, the 1.4 GLS was also very good on fuel, a feature which seems to be a recurring theme amongst the models. The comfort levels of the GLS are great and the LED lights on the exterior, as well as the larger wheels make this car a great package for an up and coming young person who wants something trendy to commute with everyday.

Friday to Sunday: Swift 1.6 Sport.  

Remember the 1.4 GLS we were discussing right now? Now take that car, give it some steroids and a caffeine addiction, then you get the Swift Sport. Suzuki South Africa planned this week well, because the Sport is a car that does well in the weekend atmosphere. During the week, you have work and errands so your time is limited, whereas on the weekend you have more time to be silly. The Sport is a car that brings out the silly in most people, it’s an involving car therefore it makes you work for your fun. When you’ve worked hard enough, you appreciate what the essence of the car is about.

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The car is all about feeling and revving that 1.6 litre engine all the way to 7100 rpm is a good feeling. The size of the car also has much to do with the experience it provides. Since it’s small and low and light on its feet, it can do things bigger cars can’t. It’s like a mouse. Mice aren’t the fastest creatures out there, but because they’re small and nimble, they can fit in many little nooks and crannies. Similarly, the Swift Sport allows you to explore every inch of its rev happy engine. The suspension setup also allows you to do things you shouldn’t do, and just when you think you’ve gone too far, you come out thinking “how did I make that gap?” or “how did I make that corner?”. For R253 900, you get a great deal of fun for the price you pay.

So at the end of the week we can say that an alternate world of just Suzuki Swifts wouldn’t be a terrible thing. The question is, in the real world if we had to choose one car from the models we tested, which one would it be? As practical as the Dzire is, we’re too vain to turn a blind eye to that boot. The natural choice then would be to pick the Sport, but truthfully no one drives like a hooligan all the time and even if you did, Jacob Zuma’s laws and traffic wouldn’t allow it. So as a result, the most logical choice would be to opt for the 1.4 GLS, and at R 212 900, it’s also very well priced too.

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