FIRST DRIVE | Safety concerns take the shine off new 2021 Suzuki Swift
The Swift and SX4 jointly spearheaded proceedings when Suzuki made a re-entry to the South African market more than a decade ago.
And while the latter nameplate has taken a bow, the former has become a genuine sales mainstay for the Japanese manufacturer on SA soil.
No mystery why, when you consider that its virtues mesh perfectly with the basic requirements of the average motorist in our country. The demand for affordability, low running costs, healthy specification levels and attractive styling will never go out of fashion.
Which are all hallmarks delivered on faithfully by the Swift.
The model was treated to an (extremely) subtle revision this month and we sampled it in Johannesburg.
It was a pleasant reacquaintance: many positives were uttered after the initial launch back in 2018, about the way it drove, overall interior quality and competitive pricing.
One glaring negative emerged, however. In September that year, safety body GlobalNCAP crash tested the Swift, picking a model from an Indian Maruti Suzuki production line, the country that supplies our market too.
The test vehicle was equipped with dual frontal airbags, safety-belt pre-tensioners, Isofix anchorages and anti-lock brakes, but only mustered a two-star rating. Bodyshell integrity was deemed unstable.
Unfortunately, no enhancements were made to the updated model on the structural front. The only safety update for 2021 is the inclusion of electronic stability control across the range, supplementing the provision of driver and passenger airbags as well as anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution.
The entry-level GA model (R180,900) now gets a parcel shelf. This basic model also benefits from rear parking sensors and full wheel covers, unlike before. The GL (R199,900) - one notch above - now benefits from fog lamps, an audio system with USB connectivity, tachometer and electrically-adjustable mirrors.
But as is customary with product launches, the manufacturer opted to put its best foot forward, presenting the range-topping GLX (from R218,900) to sample.
It wore options from a new and optional dual-tone colour palette, contrasting black or white for the roof section with body shades like Fire Red or Midnight Blue Pearl.
An even spiffier touch is the adoption of 15-inch alloys, with the polished, diamond-cut appearance that has become on-trend.
The GLX also gets climate control and a comprehensive, touchscreen infotainment system familiar from other top-tier models within the stable.
You will have to look closely to identify the styling enhancements for 2021. By their own admission, Suzuki acknowledges that the cues of before were retained. A new chrome line divides the grille features. The mesh pattern of the grille itself is slightly more aggressive and the brand claims this is an expression of a sporty nature.
Not quite. Remember, you can still have the proper Suzuki Swift Sport if budget allows. The garden variety model might not be especially dynamic, but it more than caters for what is expected from a B-segment city-slicker.
Tidy handling, cheerful nimbleness and sprightly performance. That is what you get. As before, motivation comes from a normally-aspirated, 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, delivering 61kW and 112Nm.
It is enough to hustle the featherweight along with proper effervescence, all while yielding consumption figures in the 5l/100km region, though Suzuki says you can get 4.9l/100km in ideal conditions.
Clutch travel in the five-speed manual version makes shifts a cinch, but if you must have two-pedal convenience, an automated-manual is on offer too, in GL and GLX grades.
As before, the Swift has plenty going for it. But that GlobalNCAP result is hard to ignore, no matter how eloquently or dismissively brand spin doctors might try to dance around it when asked.