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Review and photos by Greg Wilson
Affordable, small hatchbacks were becoming a rarity after the last generation Suzuki Swift and Chevy Metro/Pontiac Firefly were discontinued in 2000. Hyundai and Kia carried the torch for a few years with the Accent and Rio, then Toyota joined the race with the Echo hatchback. Now Suzuki and Chevrolet are back with the Swift + and Aveo respectively.
While the previous Swift/Metro/Firefly models were manufactured at a joint GM/Suzuki plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, the new Swift/Aveo are built by General Motors Daewoo Auto and Technology (GMDAT) in Bupyong, South Korea. GMDAT was formed in 2002 when General Motors bought a majority stake in bankrupt Daewoo. Suzuki is a minor partner in the company, which explains why they share some of the cars made by GMDAT, such as the Swift + and the Verona.
Essentially, the Swift + is the next generation Daewoo Lanos, if that company had survived long enough to build it. Having driven both cars, I can safely say that the new Swift +/Aveo is a far superior car to the Lanos (which was sold in Canada prior to Daewoo’s demise) particularly in the areas of noise and vibration reduction and interior quality.
In Canada, Suzuki offers the Swift + in a four-door hatchback bodystyle only while Chevrolet also offers a four-door sedan version of their Aveo. The Suzuki and GM hatchbacks are almost identical, but there are a couple of differences: the Swift + is not available with anti-lock brakes while the Aveo offers them as an option. The Swift + is about $400 cheaper than the Aveo hatchback, but the Aveo includes standard fog lights. However, the Swift + has a standard CD player whereas the Aveo does not.
Both come with a standard 3 year/60,000 kilometre warranty and a 5 year/100,000 kilometre powertrain warranty.
What you get for $13,495
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For its base price of $13,495, the Swift + is equipped with power steering, a 5 speed manual transmission, AM/FM/CD player with 4 speakers, 5 seatbelts and 5 head restraints, rear window defogger, wiper and washer, tilt steering wheel, tachometer, variable intermittent wipers, power point, height-adjustable driver’s seat, two cupholders, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, a single folding rear seat cushion, body-coloured bumpers, and engine block heater.
Air conditioning is an extra $1,000, and a 4 speed automatic transmission is an additional $1,000. But if you choose the Swift + S model ($15,495) you get a bunch of options, including air conditioning, for an extra $2,000. These include an MP3 player and two extra speakers, power windows, power door locks, remote keyless entry, alarm, fog lamps, body-coloured mirrors and door handles, rear spoiler, and mud flaps. Front disc brakes and rear drum brakes are standard on all models, but as I mentioned, anti-lock brakes are not available.
With an optional automatic transmission, a fully loaded Swift + S goes for $16,495 plus $995 Freight. My test car was a base model with no options and an as-tested price of $14,490 including Freight.
Interior roomy for four
The Swift +’s boxy cabin provides generous headroom and adequate legroom for four adults, but it can seat five passengers – it has five 3-point seatbelts and four height-adjustable head restraints. The door openings are big, making it easy to get in and out of the raised seats. The driver’s seat has a manual height adjustment and the steering wheel tilts providing a variety of seating positions for shorter and taller drivers.
The interior is attractively designed with soft, sturdy seat cloth, patterned seat inserts, and average-grade dash plastics. My test car’s interior had a light grey dash, dark centre console, “golf-ball” style trim on the perimeter of the centre console (similar to some Mazda models), and a dark-coloured steering wheel with subtle metal accents on the steering wheel spokes.
A circular design theme is a nice touch: note the round door handle design, a circular pattern around the window winders and armrests, semi-circular designed seat inserts, large round air vents, and a round gear knob.
Two large pods behind the steering wheel house the tachometer and speedometer, as well as fuel and coolant indicators – these are easy to read. I didn’t like the horn buttons on the steering wheel spokes rather than on the centre hub.
The centre dash features a digital clock and a ‘DRL’ (daytime running lights) light that stays lit continuously unless the headlamps are turned on – I thought this unnecessary.
The standard AM/FM/CD stereo offers acceptable sound quality from its four speakers, however I didn’t like the turn-and-stop ‘Tune’ knob for finding radio stations. A storage slot for CDs is conveniently placed just below the radio.
The three dials for the heater are easy to operate, but if you place large cups in the slide-out cupholders below it, they can get in the way of the heater dials. Just below the cupholders is an ashtray and powerpoint, and between the front seats is a second 12 volt powerpoint. An open storage bin at the bottom of the centre console is a handy place for phones, loose change, breath mints, keys or what-have-you. A third cupholder is found at the back of the centre console for rear passengers.
A unique feature in the Swift + is a card-holder slot near the door. Designed to hold cards the size of a credit card, the slot grips the card while exposing the end for easy access.
The folding rear seats are both clever and annoying. Standard split 60/40 rear seatbacks fold down flat on top of the seat cushions, but they aren’t level with the cargo floor. In addition, the entire seat cushion can be lifted and tumbled forwards against the front seatbacks. This provides a surprising amount of cargo room (42 cubic feet), however the rear seats cannot be tumbled individually reducing the Swift cargo-carrying versatility. For example, if the seats could be tumbled individually, one or two rear passengers could be seated on one side, while a long load is carried on the other side. A rear privacy cover hides items in the cargo area from view.
The rear hatch is easy to lift up, and features an interior grip to pull it down easily.
The Swift +’s 1.6 litre 4 cylinder engine is not particularly powerful, but neither are most engines in this class. With 105 horsepower @ 5800 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm, the Swift + will do 0 to 100 km/h in 11.4 seconds according to independent test by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC). Above 4000 rpm, I found the engine rather ‘thrashy’.
Still, the Swift has peppy off-the-line response, and it cruises very comfortably at highway speeds – in fifth gear, the engine does 2700 rpm at 100 km/h and 3200 rpm at 120 km/h. In the economy car class, you expect some engine noise and vibrations, but for the most part, the Swift + is reasonably quiet.
Fuel consumption of 8.8 l/100 km (32 mpg) in the city and 6.1 l/100 km (46 mpg) on the highway is comparable to the Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio, but not as good as the economical Toyota Echo hatchback which offers 6.7/5.2 (42/54 mpg) city/highway.
The Swift +’s tall shift lever is easy to reach, and I found shift effort light but shift lengths a bit long. Clutch pedal effort is light and there’s a nice dead pedal to left of the clutch to rest your left foot when not changing gears. To engage Reverse gear, the driver squeezes a release under the shift knob, and shifts over to the left and forwards.
The Swift + has nimble handling, but its small 185/60R-14 Hankook Optimo all-season tires and a tall body height contribute to some lean and tire scrubbing in aggressive cornering. The suspension is independent in front (MacPherson struts) and semi-independent at the rear (rear torsion beam).
Outward visibility is excellent courtesy of big windows, particularly a useful third side window. Being a short car, parking is not a problem even though the driver cannot see the nose of the car.
Other things I liked about the Swift + were its easy-to-roll-down windows, and rear wiper/washer for clearing accumulated dirt and grime. Too bad it doesn’t have an intermittent setting though.
Roomy for a small car, the Suzuki Swift + hatchback is economical, relatively inexpensive, and has a good warranty. Built by GM Daewoo in South Korea and also sold as the Chevrolet Aveo, it’s too early to tell if the Swift + will be reliable transportation.
Technical Data: 2004 Suzuki Swift +
|Price as tested||$14,490|
|Type||4-door, 5-passenger subcompact|
|Layout||transverse front engine/front-wheel-drive|
|Engine||1.6 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16 valves|
|Horsepower||105 @ 5800 rpm|
|Torque||107 lb-ft @ 3,600 rpm|
|Transmission||5 speed manual (opt. 4 speed automatic)|
|Curb weight||1065 kg (2348 lb.)|
|Wheelbase||2480 mm (97.6 in.)|
|Length||3880 mm (152.8 in.)|
|Width||1670 mm (65.7 in.)|
|Height||1495 mm (58.9 in.)|
|Cargo capacity||Rear seats up – 200 litres (7.1 cu. ft.)|
|Rear seats down – 1,190 litres (42.0 cu. ft.)|
|Fuel consumption||City: 8.8 l/100 km (32 mpg)|
|Hwy: 6.1 l/100 km (46 mpg)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Warranty||3 yrs/60,000 km|
|Powertrain Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|