Swift Sport set to ramp up baby boom?

Last year delivered a great result for Suzuki – a run surely set to further strengthen with the arrival, now, of the new version of a car that has been a big past success.  

AS the launch of the latest generation of a past best-seller nears, a big-hitting small player has reflected on a superb 2017 performance.

Whanganui-based Suzuki New Zealand is chuffed its passenger cars and SUVs leapt 31.7 percent last year over calendar year 2016, a period when the industry average increase was 5.7 percent.

A total of 6983 Suzukis were sold in 2017, up from 5308 in 2016, according to Motor Industry Association figures.

This tally was 22.9 percent up on the previous peak recorded by the franchise, back in 2008. 

Suzuki was the fifth best-selling passenger and sports utility vehicle franchise in December and was in the top six brands for the year with 6.5 percent market share.

This was a solid gain over 2016 when the marque was eighth with 5.2 percent percent penetration.

It cites the introduction of the new Ignis and the updated S-Cross as being prompts; these models helped Suzuki achieve 27.2 percent share of the under $40,000 small SUV segment.  This was a 74.6 percent increase over 2016.

Suzuki also took 24.3 percent of the light car segment with Swift and Baleno. 

Swift has traditionally been the biggest seller and expectation that it will continue in that vein has likely strengthened now that the variant that previously drove that success is here.

Suzuki NZ will show the new, third generation of its Sport flagship version to media and dealers in Queenstown next Thursday. It has yet to provision pricing and local market specification.

However, it has previously signalled this model will sit above the current range of mainstream editions, which start with a GL at $19,990 and top at $25,990 for the RS auto, earning that position through being more richly specified, racier in appearance and, of course, by delivering a substantial performance edge.

Having previously run a high-revving 100kW/160Nm 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder, the Sport now comes with a variation of the turbocharged 1.4-litre ‘Boosterjet’ unit already employed by the Vitara and S-Cross Turbo.

Cited outputs are 103kW of power at 5500rpm and 230Nm of torque between 2500-3000rpm. The latter figure is 10Nm more than in the other applications. The engine is also substantially more powerful than the other powerplants in the local Swift lineup, a 66kW/120Nm 1.2-litre and a three-cylinder 1.0-litre, making 82kW and 160Nm.

The Sport also stands out by being the first in the Boosterjet family to offer with manual transmission. A six-speed conventional automatic also offers; there’s no place for a CVT here.

Both variants return combined-cycle fuel economy of 6.1 litres per 100km and a CO2 emissions average of 141grams per kilometre.

A 0-100kmh time of about eight seconds is expected to be claimed. That puts it behind some direct rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta ST and incoming Volkswagen Polo GTi. However, Suzuki is expected to make a point that, while those rivals (and others) have more grunt, they are also heavier, so power-to-weight also hits. The Sport is very light, clocking just 970kg.

It’s also dimensionally tight. Sport – like all current Swifts – is lower (by 15mm to 1495mm in overall height) and wider (by 40mm to 1735mm) than previously and, when placed alongside the previous flagship, is seen to sit on a 20mm longer wheelbase, now 2450mm.

A longer, more aggressively styled nosecone means the Sport is 50mm longer than the lesser editions and thus, by measuring out 3890mm, is a match for the old car.

It also stands out because of the enhanced body treatments. Sport-exclusive body parts include LED headlights, a much wider grille with honeycomb motifs, larger foglight housings, aero-optimised under-spoilers, carbon-fibre-style elements for the grille, lip spoiler, side skirts and rear diffuser, fresh 17-inch alloy wheels (with 195/45R17 tyres) and dual tailpipes.

Suzuki NZ promotional material for the car suggests ‘Champion Yellow’, a Sport-only colour, could well be the hero hue here.

The cabin makeover also plays up on the junior hot hatch theme. The Sport delivers reshaped front seats yielding greater support, racier instrument dials with revised markings, the inclusion of boost and oil temperature gauges in the multi-info screen between the speedo and tacho, bold trim inserts, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and alloy pedals.

As on the RS, the multimedia touchscreen brings a reversing camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity and Bluetooth telephony.

Although the ‘Heartech’ light-car platform retains, in addition to the conventional MacPherson strut front suspension, a torsion beam arrangement in the rear – as per the lesser editions – Suzuki assures a substantial amount of modification has occurred.

As previously, the Sport employs Monroe-supplied shock absorbers, gains redesigned wheel hubs and bearings that boost camber rigidity during cornering, gets a new rear trailing arm that better resists deformation for more precise control and adopts thicker anti-roll bars and larger disc brakes (ventilated 16-inch items up front, 15-inch solid rotors at the back).

On the safety front, the Sport adopts autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane-departure warning, adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist and a system Suzuki calls ‘weaving alert’ that warns the driver if the vehicle is wandering due to operator drowsiness.

This level of safety, also shared with the RS, allows the Sport to also qualifies for a five-star ANCAP crash test rating.