“You are not special,” Chuck Palahniuk once spat onto a page. “You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else.”
Brutal, perhaps, but what else would you expect from a book as ragged as ‘Fight Club’? And he does have a point. If we’re all as unique as Oprah and Dr Phil tell us, why are our choices always the same: life or death, chicken or beef, Yaris or Polo?
With Toyota and VW’s littlest cars more common than potholes on the N1, it’s easy to forget there are other options. Like the Suzuki Swift, a car that gets the priorities right.
It doesn’t jump out in a parking lot like the bold Ford Fiesta or perfectly pretty Mazda2 – this former UK and Japanese Car of the Year favours function over flash. Shorter but wider than competitors, it’s a stocky little tyke, with the clean styling creating a slick but decidedly cheeky look. A low “hey, you-lookin’-at-me?” stance and sporty spoiler-style roof edge only add to the cockiness and single-minded sense of purpose.
That sense of purpose continues inside. Comfortable and tasteful, yes, the neat, uncluttered cabin emphasises simplicity. Blame the car’s age if you like – the Suzuki’s been available in Europe since 2005 – but, frankly, it’s refreshing to sit in a car so intentionally easy to use.
It’s all about analogue dials, good ol’ twisty air-con knobs, and chunky indicator stalks that don’t operate 73 functions from cruise control to seat massager. With audio controls for the standard MP3/CD system mounted on the leather-bound steering wheel, everything’s within easy reach – except the trip computer, tucked away at the windscreen’s base.
Seemingly added as an afterthought, it’s the only real lapse of judgment in here. Don’t bother bitching that the plastic panels aren’t of the soft variety – slightly better looks are trumped every time by durability, fine finishes and solid build quality. And this Suzuki is certainly well built. Doors close with a satisfying thud while, even out on the highway, noise and vibration levels are kept to an unobtrusive minimum. In fact, the overall sensation inside is one of cocooned safety, bumped up further by the fitted-as-standard six airbags, ABS (with EBD and brake assist), and four-star Euro NCAP rating for adult protection.
Those adults, unless they’re contestants on ‘The Biggest Loser’ or try to cram into the 201-litre boot, will likely be surprised by the space on offer. Even in the back seat there’s enough head space and – thanks to the overall width – shoulder room for two red-blooded South Africans. Leg room’s not quite as generous but just get those upfront to scooch up; the front seats have ample fore/aft adjustment, with the driver getting height adjustment too. Along with the adjustable steering wheel and visibility offered by a wrap-around windscreen, it remains undeniably clear that this car was designed with one purpose in mind: to be driven.
Tipping the scales at 980kg and outstripping its rivals with a 1.5-litre engine, the Swift lives up to its name. Drive it gently and the little Suzuki calmly handles the daily grind of stop-start traffic. But it’s when you’re late for a meeting across town that this little racer comes to life. Use your right foot to really kick the feisty motor into life above the 3000rpm mark. Flick up through the gears on the slick, punchy gearbox. And, thanks to the shorter wheelbase, nimbly zip in and out of tight spots with the ease of a go-kart or MINI driver: turning circle is only 4.7 metres; steering is responsive and light – but not overly so.
That’s expected. But head out of the city and onto the open road and you’ll be really floored. With its low, bulldog stance and taut suspension creating a feeling of calm and solidity behind the wheel, this peppy troublemaker cruises with the poised road-manners and resolve of a larger car, while fuel consumption drops below the 7.0l/100km mark.
Surprisingly flexible, undeniably fun to drive, Suzuki’s baby really excels where it counts: on the road.
Chuck Palahniuk may be right about us all being the same. But the Swift at least makes you feel unique.
- This story originally appeared on iafrica.com.