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Concerned about the price of fuel these days? Don't have a lot of money to spend on a new car? Consider the Suzuki Swift. With a base price of $9299, the Swift helps stretch a dollar both in terms of monthly payments, and in how much you shell out for fuel. It offers an alternative to a used car.
Suzuki's pint-size, two-door Swift hatchback (the only body style offered) starts at $9,299 for the GA model with a five-speed manual transmission; an automatic costs an extra $650. Even the top-of-the-line Swift GL, equipped with air conditioning, cassette player, and an optional three-speed automatic transmission comes home for only $10,949.
Steering a Victory Red edition of the two-door Swift GL hatchback, we zipped up California's Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu, that elite Mecca for movie moguls and the super-rich who drive some of the most expensive cars on the planet. While our Swift may have seemed incongruent among so many fancy fenders along PCH, it was able to dart ahead of more conservatively driven Porsches.
Our GL, with a five-speed manual shifter, popped off the line at each of PCH's seemingly infinite series of traffic signals. It accelerated aggressively through second and third gears, revving toward the redline. By the time we shifted into fourth, that crisp response diminished somewhat, but by then we were exceeding the speed limit anyway.
An optional three-speed automatic transmission dims this liveliness only slightly but takes a big bite out of Swift's fuel economy figures.
Navigating sharp canyon sweepers in the Santa Monica Mountains just east of the coast highway showed off the Swift's agility over a twisty road. Never mind that a Ferrari tailed us with its driver anxious to pass; we were able to power through the curves, hitting each apex as if we too drove an exotic. We began to wonder who was having more fun.
The Swift's good road manners stem from its hardware: a crisp rack-and-pinion steering system and four-wheel independent suspension with MacPherson struts over coil springs plus front- and rear-stabilizer bars to check excessive body sway. The strut design does a reasonable job of smoothing out pavement irregularities, although the short wheelbase imparts more harshness to the ride quality than would a larger car with longer wheelbase.
A benefit from the abbreviated wheelbase on Swift shows up when maneuvering in crowded parking lots. Its small turning radius allows the Swift to steer circles around larger cars and easily work itself into the narrowest parking space. This trait makes it ideally suited for inter-city transit.
The featherweight scale of the Swift counterbalances the puny power figures from its meager four-cylinder engine, and results in lively throttle response. While it won't win any speed contests, the Swift can run quickly through its lower gears and it has fortitude when passing other vehicles at highway speed.
Thrifty fuel economy numbers make it an economical commuter car. The Swift boasts an EPA-estimated 36/42 miles per gallon city/highway. High fuel-economy figures like these can have a dramatic impact in deflating fuel costs when long commute distances and heavy traffic are involved.
Driving a small car can invite feelings of insecurity due to the diminutive scale when stacked against larger vehicles in traffic. The Swift counters these threats with passive and active safety features. For instance, the structure of this subcompact contains front and rear crumple zones as buffers to a steel safety cage that surrounds the passenger compartment, plus steel beams in side doors to check side intrusions. Each A-pillar is made of a single strong, rigid piece of steel, while each B-pillar has been strengthened for extra rigidity. Standard passive safety assets include dual airbags, an energy-absorbing steering column, front-seat head restraints, and firm rear anchors to secure a child's safety seat. Daytime running lights are standard to increase visibility to other drivers.
Suzuki's Swift has been around for seven model years, yet it continues to look fresh and measure well against more recent competition. It's tiny in overall dimensions, but easy to maneuver in the crunch of urban traffic. It's affordable for a tight car budget, but nicely equipped and quite comfortable. The small engine lacks power, but offers frugal fuel consumption.