Suzuki Swift: Big hopes for a small car

Champion Motors launched the new Suzuki Swift and opened the doors to a new showroom. But what happens next is more important

SINGAPORE — The new Suzuki Swift was launched in Singapore today, and made its debut at Champion Motors’ new showroom at 10, Chang Charn Road.

The Swift, a household name in Singapore and a key model for Suzuki, is sold here in 1.0 Boosterjet trim, for S$83,900 with Certificate Of Entitlement. The price includes a S$10,000 pollution penalty under the Vehicular Emissions Scheme.

That sort of money means it undercuts some rivals from Europe. Above the new Swift, the Volkswagen Golf 1.0 TSI is listed at S$99,900, while the Skoda Rapid Spaceback costs S$96,900.

There are larger, more powerful models from Korea that cost less, such as the Hyundai Elantra, which starts at S$80,999.

Meanwhile, Honda’s Jazz costs S$72,999 for a 1.3-litre model.

With such intense competition around, it’s just as well for the new Swift that it’s well-equipped.

On the safety front it comes with six airbags and stability control, while the list comfort features includes an auto climate control system (albeit a single-zone one), a multi-function steering wheel, keyless entry and engine starting and automatic headlights.

The headlamps themselves are LED ones with daytime running lights.

Along with the new showroom, the new Swift is the first step in something of a reboot for the Suzuki brand here. Also on the way is an expanded model range that includes a new 1.4-litre turbo engine for the Vitara (a compact crossover), a new family car in the form of the SX4 S-cross, and the new Jimny (below), a legendary 4×4 that has just been redesigned.

For all that, Suzuki is hoping that the Swift will sell well not merely on tangible matters such as size and equipment, but on the brand’s sense of fun.

“We recognise our brand is not only about small cars, but we excite customers,” says Kinji Saito, the managing officer for Suzuki in charge of the Asia region and global automobile marketing, pictured below.

The Swift has iconic status as a zippy, fun-to-drive town car, and it’s typical of the kind of Suzuki that inspires a cult following. Mr Saito points to the Jimny as another Suzuki that excites customers in spite of  — or perhaps because of — its small size.

In Japan, Suzuki sold the entire first year’s production run of the new Jimny in just three weeks.

“The Swift Sport and older Swift series, and plus Jimny, they are very typical products that represent Suzuki itself,” says Mr Saito.

As for the Swift that is being sold in Singapore, Mr Saito jokes that it might be “too fast”, with its Boosterjet engine and six-speed automatic. “This 1.0 litre, it’s turbocharged. It’s hot enough,” he says. “I hope the police will not catch this car on the street.”

Suzuki Swift Boosterjet engine

In truth, the 112 horsepower engine, with 160 Newton-metres of peak torque, is likely to make the car more, well, swift than fast, but the new Suzuki will probably feel lively to drive. It also has a tiny 9.6m turning circle, which should make it easy to manoeuvre in tight spots.

Whether that’s enough to overcome the car’s fierce competition remains to be seen, but Mr Saito says the new Swift’s job is just to develop the same kind of following as older Swifts.

“I expect that very cool customers for Suzuki will come, and they will buy it, they’ll enjoy it. They will talk to another other enthusiastic customer and say, ‘This is a good product.’ Gradually we’ll expand this market, but we are not aiming to be a major volume brand,” he says “We want to be strong — for the cool customers who like Suzuki very much.”

READ MORE > Suzuki’s secret plans for Singapore

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Leow Ju-Len
Leow Ju-Len is a lot older than he behaves. He's been writing about cars for 23 years. Someday he might do it coherently. Ju-Len believes in world peace and V8s, but not necessarily in that order.