In this issue we look at two cars that embody different hopes and strategies for their respective brands.

Show off a little: Suzuki Swift Sport

WHAT IS IT?

Suzuki have used their regular recipe of redesigning the base five-door hatch Swift to look better and be a whole lot more entertaining behind the wheel. 

WHY THIS?

Suzuki is making such great cars at the moment, from the immensely popular Jimny to the funky little Ignis and the practical Swift. While the Swift Sport may be double the price of the entry-level Swift, it is still great value when it comes to ‘performance’ cars. The Suzuki Swift Sport is the epitome of driving fun, as well as being great to look at and good value – that’s a hard package to beat!

OUTSIDE

The regular Swift is a nice-looking car, but Suzuki has elevated the Swift Sport to hot and sexy through the judicious addition of bespoke body-trim and flash wheels. The entire nose is unique to the Swift Sport, with a larger, honeycomb front grille straddled by two large cut-outs with integrated fog lights. There are carbon-look side skirts, a rear spoiler and twin exhausts to emphasise the sporty nature of the little athlete.

INSIDE

The cabin is a far cry from the sensible interior of the regular Swift, with gorgeous and comfortable bucket seats and red trim that is a consistent thread tying the interior together. Luckily the comfort features haven’t been stripped out to make the Sport even faster, and automatic climate control, speed-sensitive power steering and all-round electric windows are standard. There’s also a 7-inch touchscreen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a reverse camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, as well as steering mounted controls and cruise control. Six airbags are also standard, which is impressive considering both the price and weight of this vehicle.

THE DRIVE

These days 103kW and 230Nm aren’t especially extraordinary for a hot hatch, but bear in mind that this is a car that weighs just 970kg! The power is produced by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine, marking a departure from the naturally aspirated engines of Swift Sports before it. Thanks to the high torque and free-revving nature of the powerplant, this is a car that you will have great fun driving, smiles appearing even in traffic, and you’ll find a windy piece of tarmac calling you back again and again.

Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual gearbox and a six-speed auto complete with paddle-shifters. While the manual may be more in keeping with the lightweight, fairly basic nature of the Swift, the auto is brilliant and obviously that much more relaxing when your mood calls for it.

FINAL WORD

You have to respect Suzuki as a brand. They have identified what they excel at (make great small cars) and have focused their energy on that. The result is that they have bucked the trend of slowing markets and experienced record sales consistently. Locally, they’ve also been voted Brand of the Year a few times. It’s an excellent example for all of us.

And the Swift Sport itself? Absolutely brilliant, and a car that will likely entertain you for as long as you own it, and then repay you for your loyalty with outstanding resale value.

GO GET IT

The Suzuki Swift Sport is priced at R315 900 for the manual and R335 900 for the automatic, including a 4-year/60,000km service plan and a 5-year/200,000km warranty. Visit www.suzukiauto.co.za for more information.

Gallic charm: Citroën C3

WHAT IS IT?

The C3 is Citroën’s nicely different compact hatch, based on sister-brand Peugeot’s 208 but with typically unique and left-field styling. Citroën has just returned to the country after a 3-year hiatus, so they have something to prove. As such they are offering everything they can to win back customer loyalty through a programme they have coined Citroën Serenity. This includes a 5-year/100,000km warranty and service plan, a courtesy car when servicing yours, an extensive parts inventory, complimentary vehicle health check, a 24-hour customer care centre, licence renewal reminder, roadside assistance, and service plan and warranty expiry notification. Citroën vehicles can also be serviced at any Peugeot Accredited Dealership nationwide. It’s a good move, and hopefully Citroën can regain the heights it once enjoyed.

WHY THIS?

I love French cars because they are quirky and interesting – the C3 is no white appliance that focuses just on doing the job of transport. No, this is a car that has been built to win your affection, so that when you see it in the gym’s parking lot you give a little smile and think a happy thought. I know some people who would name a car like this and greet it every morning. But even if you’re not that type, the C3 offers comfy, spacious transport with a host of features and a decent driving experience. 

OUTSIDE

Curves, a bold and flat front, the two-tone colour scheme and rubber ‘airbumps’ are the standout features of the C3, although the airbumps only feature on the Shine model. It is amazing how much attention the C3 got while we were driving it, partly due to the red roof but also because it is a very handsome car. The boot is a decent size too, while there seems to be more space inside than the dimensions should allow.

INSIDE

Little touches set the C3 apart from its more mundane competitors, like strap door handles, the dimple motif that mirrors the airbumps, and seats that feel as though they belong in your lounge. In terms of features there’s a really nice 7-inch touchscreen audio system that is intuitive and easy to use, loads of storage compartments, automatic air-con, cruise control, electric windows (front only on the Feel) with one-stop up and down, multi-function steering wheel and more. I like that the Feel model doesn’t feel hard done by in terms of features when compared to the Shine.

Both models have a full complement of active and passive safety features, including front, side and curtain airbags.

THE DRIVE

The C3 might be no Suzuki Swift, but it definitely has a charm of its own. While both models are powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine, the five-speed manual produces power of 60kW and torque of 118Nm, where the six-speed automatic has been given a turbo so produces a far more sprightly 81kW and 205Nm.

The suspension is soft and almost ridiculously smooth for a car of this size, while there is also very little road and wind noise at highway speeds. The automatic gearbox is probably the best suited to a car of this relaxed, care-free-living nature.

FINAL WORD

The C3 definitely deserves to be looked at if you’re in a car of this size, especially if you like to drive something a bit different to your peers. You won’t be sacrificing much if you choose it over a Polo, although resale value could be a potential weakness.

GO GET IT

The Citroën C3 is surprisingly affordable given its flash appearance and relatively well-equipped interior. R239,900 will get you the manual Feel model, while the automatic Shine is R289,900. All new Citroëns come with a 5-year/100,000km service plan and warranty. Visit www.citroen.co.za for more information.

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