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DURBAN – So, you're looking for your first new car. After realising that your dream wheels are way beyond your means and any attempt to pursue them would surely lead to financial ruin, you get realistic. The vehicle you're searching for needs to be reliable and fuel efficient, offer enough space for the odd weekend away and priced at or below your R180 000 budget. It would help if it looks youthful and is fun to drive, too. Well, let me introduce you to the new Suzuki Dzire (and Swift) range...

The looks

The previous Swift Dzire looked decidedly awkward from the rear, with the boot section appearing little more than an afterthought. This is not the case with the new sedan, which features a far more cohesive design that is far enough removed from the hatchback (which we earlier sampled in India) to justify its shedding of the Swift nameplate. Based on the Japanese brand's new Heartect platform that also underpins the likes of the Baleno and Ignis, the vehicle is actually slightly shorter (by 10 mm) than before, although its width has increased by 40 mm, resulting in a sportier stance and increased interior space. Still, the narrow wheels (165/80 R14 or 185/65 R15) are a reminder that this car plays in the budget category as they don't quite fill the arches.

On the inside, fit and finish is on par with that of competitors, with virtually no soft plastics to be found. Suzuki decided against a touchscreen infotainment system, but at least the tactile switch gear is easy to locate on the move. Bluetooth connectivity is standard, with satellite controls sited on the steering wheel.

It's spacious

An advantage of the square glasshouse with its upright windscreen is that the interior feels spacious for a car in this segment. Rear legroom is more than adequate, even for a six-footer such as myself, and the boot has a claimed 378 litres (26% more than before) of luggage space that should be enough for the obligatory road trip.

How does it go?

Sliding behind the wheel, it's fairly easy to get comfortable, although the steering column has rake adjustment only (I would also have preferred the figure-hugging seats to be sited a little lower). All models in the Swift and Dzire ranges are powered by the same 61 kW/113 N.m 1,2-litre naturally aspirated engine driving the front wheels through either a five-speed manual (as in our test unit) or automated manual transmission.

As the Dzire weighs a mere 890 kg, performance is quite sprightly in the short lower gears, with the front wheels serving up a cheeky chirp on pullaway, confirming that no traction control or ESC programme is fitted. Additional safety concerns are covered by ABS and driver and passenger airbags.

However, this performance dulls with speed and although the Dzire easily cruises at the national speed limit (with some wind noise), I suspect that overtaking at high altitudes with a fully loaded vehicle may prove tricky. The trade-off, of course, is a potentially impressive fuel consumption. Indeed, we managed an indicated 5,9 L/100 km during our spirited test drive, suggesting that the claim of 4,9 L/100 km may just be achievable.

Handling

It's clear the Suzuki is set up for comfort as the suspension system soaks up most road imperfections with ease. The negative side of this soft suspension is that there is generally plenty of body roll in the bends and the nose quickly pushes wide when the driver is in a hurry. Still, this is to be expected in the budget segment and is not a problem during day-to-day motoring. If you want a sportier Suzuki, then you'll have to wait for the Swift Sport, which is due to touch down on local soil in the first quarter of 2019.

Summary

Both the Swift hatch and Dzire sedan ranges represent a compelling value-for-money proposition, as they offer fuss-free, honest motoring complete with a two-year/30 000 km service plan and five-year/200 000 km warranty. In short, I have no trouble recommending either the Swift or the Dzire, as each does exactly what it says on the tin.

Author: Nicol Louw

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