Don't let its diminutive size fool you: the hatchback can be a great companion out on a road trip. The hatchback is one of the most practical body styles out there, and you don't have to drive around all that bulk when you're touring the countryside. Sure, they don't have the presence (or size) of pickups or SUVs, but if you're smart about packing, these little things can take a lot in.
With that in mind, Suzuki reckons you should consider the Swift if you're looking for a hatchback that can do it all. Well, except for muddy trails, that is.
Yes, we've reviewed it before and it's a great metropolitan runabout. We even praised it for its fun to drive character, both as a 5-speed manual or as a continuously variable transmission variant.
To get a perspective of the Swift's abilities, Suzuki set up a road trip going to Las Casas in Bagac, Bataan, northwest of Manila. Just to make things a little more challenging, we were not going to take the full expressway route going there.
The trip flagged off in Suzuki North EDSA, just a few kilometers away from the North Luzon Expressway. There stood 19 brand spanking new Swifts, all equipped with CVTs, and one of them would be our steeds (ponies?) to Bataan. After a quick bite and a short briefing, we hit the road. I was to be a passenger for the first stint.
Shotgun seat impressions? The Swift feels pretty steady on the expressway. I won't go as far as saying rock-solid, it is still a subcompact hatch after all. But what was impressive is the fact that the flyweight Swift (it weighs less than a ton) doesn't seem all too fazed with crosswinds. Wind noise isn't that bad for a small car either. So far, so good, then.
But you won't really know much about a car unless you get behind the wheel, so after the first stopover, it was time to switch seats. As soon as I turned the wheel, I felt that the Swift had something most small cars didn't: weight in the steering wheel. It's not heavy, but there's enough heft to let you know where the wheels are pointed. On the highway, it felt direct with only a few degrees of input needed to switch lanes. I also noted the ride being good on the expressway, but the real test would come in later.
Instead of taking SCTEX, we left the highway and into San Fernando, Pampanga to make our way to Bagac, Bataan. There the Swift retained most of its composure even as the roads were becoming rougher in some parts. Road surface noise had started to seep in, as well as small jolts to the back thanks to the firm suspension. Despite that, for a small car, it's a relatively comfortable place to be in, if you don't mind the occasional thump, that is.
Fortunately, the Swift made up for it by being a joy in the corners. Handling is sharp and precise, even as the bends got tighter. Unnecessary body sway was kept at a minimum and there were loads of grip despite the economy-oriented tires. Its handling even made up for the fact that it only has 82 PS to play with. The 1.2-liter engine made good progress when dealing with hills, although it can be a bit on the vocal side. So while it's no hot hatch by any measure, the playful nature of the Swift's frame proves one thing: Horsepower isn't always everything. On the flipside, I can only imagine what the Swift will be like if it had more power and stickier rubber.
I do have to have a word about its air conditioning. It did a decent job keeping the cabin cool under the scorching Pampanga (and Bataan) sun. That being said, it's not quite as powerful as some A/Cs out there, hence decent, and not great. Perhaps it's forgivable given ambient temperatures of 40 degrees, but there are some cars out there (in the same segment) that can cool down their interiors in less time under the same conditions. The lack of window tint in our test cars may have played a role in that, though.
After a lengthy drive, we finally made it to Las Casas where I could appreciate the Swift's design with a backdrop from yesteryear. I can see why Suzuki chose this as a location. With its blend of Euro-chic and inspirations from the past, the Swift complemented the Las Casas scenery down to a tee. I do have to say that I still prefer the look of the previous generation model, but the new one is still a looker nonetheless.
Driving it around the cobblestone roads of Las Casas, I felt like I had visited the narrow streets of ye olde Europe. Only the heat reminded me that I was still in the Philippines. Speaking of which, the ride on the cobblestones was actually okay. At low crawling speeds, the firmness of the suspension is very much felt but bring it to 20 km/h and it actually smoothens out a bit. It's an odd sensation given that out on public roads the stiffer suspension was constantly making its presence felt. Maybe they tuned the Swift for late-1800s pavement too.
As the day wound down, I had a good think about the Swift. It's not the most spacious hatchback out there, but it did the job anyway. The little hatchback carried luggage for two, which included two duffel bags, two backpacks, one camera bag, and two fairly large boxes. Yes, a little bit of trunk tetris was needed to fit it all in, but the Swift pulled it off. It felt solid on rough roads and cobblestone streets, showing that small cars aren't flimsy at all. It even offers driving pleasure when you're looking for a bit of fun. It's easy on fuel too, hitting as high as 21 kilometers per liter on the highway.
Of course, an SUV or a pickup will be more practical at the end of the day, moreso when you're bringing a whole lot more people. But this funky little hatchback has proven a point: You don't always need a big car for a big road trip, and the Suzuki Swift will gladly bring you to your next holiday.