Text: Marcus De Guzman / Photos: Marcus De Guzman | posted June 15, 2016 08:42
Less is more, and then some
How does one normally improve an existing product?
For most automakers, they add more power, features and maybe even throw in a special edition model that gets unique upgrades. For Suzuki Philippines, they took a slightly different approach.
Two years ago, the company broadened their Swift lineup by offering a 1.2-liter variant of the revered hatchback. Many might think that this is just a way for Suzuki to expand their grasp on the lucrative B-segment hatchback, but this particular Swift has some subtle upgrades that may make it more practical to own, and improve its bang for the buck.
But first, let’s take a look at its exterior. I admit it’s a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ design revision. With a keen eye however, one would see it gets an updated set of headlights that gives it fresher look. It also has a tweaked front bumper, wider air intake and satin silver accents on the foglight bezels.
It doesn’t have the multi-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels, but it still gets stylish 15-inch alloys that spruce up the Swift’s appearance. The side mirror caps now have integrated turning lights, allowing Suzuki to replace the fender-mounted turn signals with variable valve timing (VVT) badging.
Ever present at the rear are the sloping combination taillights. They still use bulbs for illumination but they deliver a bright and clear light for all to see. Rounding it all off is a tailgate-mounted spoiler that comes with a built-in stoplight.
Like the 1.4-liter model, this 1.2-liter Swift also measures 3,850mm long and 1,685mm wide. It differs however in height as the 1.2-liter variant now stands at 1,530mm tall, 20mm taller than the 1.4. This allows the hatchback to have a minimum ground clearance of 170mm (30mm higher than the Swift 1.4). According to the company, this gives the 1.2-liter model a better chance of wading through flooded streets and tackling rougher patches of road.
But even with the slightly increased ride height, we still urge future owners to only tackle the rough stuff if it’s absolutely necessary.
Stepping inside, the familiar dark interior surrounds the cabin of the 1.2 Swift. Personally, I have always found the Swift’s interior ergonomically designed. Almost everything has been carried over from the 1.4-liter model except for the new touchscreen infotainment system. It has AM/FM radio, CD, USB, Bluetooth hands-free telephony and GPS navigation. The screen itself was easy to manipulate and also easy on the eyes. Browsing through the menu was also a breeze and the onboard sound equalizer made for better audio adjustments. Better radio reception however could be improved upon.
Meanwhile, the instrument panel is distinctly Suzuki with its easy-to-read tachometer, speedometer, and multi-information display. I do wish however that Suzuki installs front cup-holders in the future. The doors carry bottle holders and deep storage pockets, but the addition of center-mounted cup-holders is something that most cars nowadays have as standard.
The black fabric front seats provide decent side support and are quite comfortable. A bit more shoulder support could have been done as this is the kind of hatchback that is fun to chuck around corners. Interior fit and finish was up to standard and every door closes with a quality sound. Trunk space at the back is decent, and if you need to haul more than a weekend getaway’s bags, the rear seats can be folded. They don’t fold flat so precious cargo has to be placed carefully.
For something that is priced and built to compete against similar B-segment sized hatchbacks, the Swift 1.2 has interior build quality akin to more upscale cars.
From the name itself, this particular Swift is driven by a K12M 1.2-liter inline-four that is married to a 4-speed automatic gearbox. Maximum power of 87 PS is achieved at 6,000 rpm while maximum torque is at 114 Nm at 4,000 rpm.
It won’t be winning drag races anytime soon with its small engine, but the hatchback does excel particularly well in one area, handling. Relatively lightweight at 990 kg, it can still generate speed fairly quickly and keep on going while carving through long bends and sharp curves. What it lacked in pulling power, it made up for with a great gearbox that kicks-down immediately when it senses the driver’s input. Overtaking with the Swift 1.2 still has to be done with commitment but it’s nice to know the transmission can keep up. For a 4-speed unit, it still performed well, especially in a time where most companies have opted for 6- or 8-speed automatic transmissions.
Even with an electronically-assisted power steering system, the 1.2 Swift still delivered adamant road feel. In most cases, cars that handle great suffer from bad ride quality thanks in part to a stiff suspension setup. The Swift however, still rode well and managed to absorb most road imperfections. It also has a tight turning radius, which allowed the hatchback to weave through the tightest of spots and maneuver through side streets in no time.
The Goodyear Duraplus tires provided adequate grip and there was hardly any tire noise. Speaking of noise, even with the air-conditioning system on full blast and the car cruising at highway speeds, occupants can still hold a conversation without having to shout at one another.
With an even smaller engine, the Swift was able to rack up admirable fuel economy figures. Cruising at a steady 90 km/h, the hatchback was able to average 22.2 km/l. City driving, on the other hand, gave a fuel readout that averaged between 10.5 – 11.1 km/l. Even when faced with congested traffic, it still returned a respectable 8.0 – 8.5 km/l.
One would have expected Suzuki Philippines to upgrade their bigger-engined Swift, the 1.4, to get more upgrades along with a slight model facelift. But with the competition releasing more budget-friendly hatchbacks equipped with new features, the automaker opted to have the 1.2-liter Swift receive the necessary refresh.
With a retail price of PhP 678,000, the Swift is quite the bargain for those that want a small 5-seater that can take on tricky mountain roads, tight city streets and occasional highway runs. For once, receiving something less actually results into something more.