Reviewed by Unique Cars and Parts
Our Rating: 1
In Japan the Suzuki's mini-car was sold as the "Cultus", so it was probably just as well that the company adopted the Swift name for Australia. It landed here at a time when there was some pretty fierce competition from Honda
, so the company was obviously pretty confident their product could take the fight up to the by then well established brands.
Of course the mini car of the 1980s had come a long way from those of the 1950s, which featured a near-total lack of suspension
, a violent tendency to swap ends, or an asthmatic wheeze whenever the tiny engine was called upon to escape the path of something potentially harmful.
Suzuki Swift GA and GL
The Suzuki Swift was sold in Australia as the "basic" GA or "less basic" GL, and was pitched directly at the Honda City. The Swift GA had slightly lower trim levels than the Honda and sold for some A$400 less, while the GL had features not found on the Honda - rear wiper, FM radio, digital clock and opening rear windows to name a few - and sold for A$105 more. Although the Daihatsu Duet was competitive in price to the GA, Suzuki saw that car as more the concern of its Hatch 800 model.
The 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Swift had its work cut out to match the 1.2-litre, four-cylinder City. The Swift's three-cylinder engine, mounted transversely and driving through the front wheels, was an entirely new unit which Suzuki claimed to be the lightest 1.0-litre vehicle engine in the world. The design incorporated a hollow crankshaft and thinner-gauge piston rings, which enabled far lighter pistons to be used. The complete engine weighed just 63kg and produced an ample 37kW of power for the tiny vehicle.
One of the more noticeable drawbacks of the three-cylinder design was its noise and apparent coarseness: it developed maximum power at 5800rpm and really responded when it was kept around this mark. Sound intrusion in the non-carpeted GA model was more significant than in the GL, though when cruising in fifth (or more happily in fourth) it really wasn't a problem. And for a "commercial vehicle" it was quite good.
Leaf Spring Rear End
Somewhat strangely Suzuki engineers stuck with a leaf spring
setup at the rear, when coil springs were a more modern and obvious alternative for a vehicle which, by nature of its short wheelbase, would have been inclined to pitch and dive somewhat. Suzuki, however, claimed that the combination of coil-over struts at the front and leaf springs
at the rear had shown no vices. The company also claimed that the leaf spring
layout afforded extra space in the rear luggage compartment. While the space gains in the rear were negligible (the shock absorbers still intruded upon the interior) any liabilities brought about by the use of leaf springs were also negligible.
Behind the Wheel
The Swift was quite surprising in its road confidence, and its stability in all but very strong crosswinds belied its paltry 670kg weight. From the inside, the Swift had a reassuring compactness and its steering was a delight. The seats, however (with cloth inserts on the GL) tended to allow the occupants to roll from side to side. A little extra bolstering in the seatbacks would have cured this problem. The GA's interior was, as you would have imagined, pretty Spartan, but not in an offensive manner. At the time there were plenty of other, more-expensive Japanese cars with far more features all wrapped up in a cheap, badly designed dash layout.
The dash treatment, with both the GA and the GL, was very clean and the finish was quite good. The GL was, all-round, a more serious passenger car, looking more the part with its AM/FM radio and more comprehensive instrumentation. A tachometer came only as an option. The false floor in the rear of the Swift looked easy enough to remove, and novel features of both versions were the rear speakers, armrests and ashtrays. It was a reminder to Australian buyers that the Swift was sold in Japan and Europe as a four-seater. Studies undertaken by Suzuki in Australia in 1983 showed that, of the total number of Hatch examples sold here, only 13.5 percent had been fitted with rear seats. This fact would have also been interesting to GM-H, who were to market the Swift as a small Holden at the end of 1984.
Suzuki's interpretation of the modern mini was inexpensive, handled quite well, stopped adequately and offered zippy performance. Suzuki claimed a top speed of 145km/h and a 0-100km time of 15.9 seconds. Road testers could better 14 seconds, so we assume Suzuki were showing caution when quoting performance figures. On the whole, the Swift's performance wasn't too far behind the Honda City, despite giving away 200cm3 to the latter car. The only difference was that the Honda carried no price penalty for its extra performance.