Whether it’s Dukes of Hazzard, Herbie, or the recently announced Knight Rider remake, every rehash of an old car-related classic turns out to be a pile of cheese. Dukes of Hazzard was a fantastic TV show when I was 10; now it’s a very bad movie. Herbie Goes Bananas was one of my all-time favourite movies; I didn’t bother seeing the remade Herbie because I could smell the stench of cheddar from two miles away. And now it’s Knight Rider – K.I.T.T will be played by a Shelby GT500KR, and we don’t yet know who will replace the Hoff. But it’s bound to be steeped in stilton and garnished with gouda. Can’t people just have an original idea that’s cool? I mean, recently, what decent car-based movies have we had? The Fast and the Furious? I’ll be really furious if they remake Smokey and the Bandit or Convoy!
OK, Renault has got 8 models in its range that have 5-star EuroNCAP crash ratings. This is great – it means that owners, bamboozled by their cars’ quirky French-ness will be more likely to survive when they drive off the road under the influence of du vin. But to place such graphic images in an ad risks anchoring the perception of Renaults crashing into the minds of all prospective buyers.
“Oh year, Renaults, those are the ones that crash, right?”
Most car manufacturers are desperate to add zing and life into their brands by filming soaring commercials in the Alps or Mediterranean. They want you to feel like you can be there, too. That’s the point of TV advertising – to vicariously live the moment of the ad while on your couch, which gives you the impetus to buy the product to alleviate the mundane quality of your everyday life. While you could look at a forested alpine vista or sun-drenched beach and want to be there, you don’t look at the crash and say “I wish that was me!”
Sure, it’s beautifully done, but I don’t want to buy one.
I actually can’t believe I ended up liking the Jimny. For something so utilitarian, with no air conditioning and a very underpowered engine, it was kind of endearing. I think that the reason is because it’s an engaging drive. I’m a bit bored with the cosseting nature of most cars; they go where you point them without much fuss. The Jimny isn’t like this. Your biceps get a workout at speed, especially in a crosswind because it fidgets over the road surface at every opportunity. This is good. Perhaps all youngsters should learn to drive in a Jimny- not too much power, not too much grip, handling to keep a modicum of terror present when driving, and if you come a cropper and end up off-road, you can drive out with the Jimny’s superior 4WD! At the other end of the scale I now have the Kia Carens. It has seven seats. It’s got soft suspension. It has a bag hook in the passenger footwell. I don’t think it would pull out of a boggy situation, but then I never plan to get into one. It’s a solid, quality feeling car, but my newfound biceps won’t get such a workout.
Vauxhall has discovered that the car is actually a good place to sing. Its dimensions mean the modal frequencies add warmth to your voice. Depending on the pitch of your voice, you may want to choose a different size of car. Deeper voices benefit from a larger car because of the longer wavelengths of the frequencies involved.
The hard surfaces in front of you (dashboard and windscreen) provide early reflections, while the softer surfaces behind you absorb the sound making it easy for you to hear and correct yourself. So, this is the total opposite of a shower. A car’s surfaces are aligned randomly, which scatters the reflections evenly whereas a shower often consists of three sets of parallel surfaces, with an opening into a bathroom with a further three sets of parallel surfaces, all of them hard, which gives a lingering reverb.
While 87% of people admit to singing in the car, you don’t often see them, which would indicate an embarrassment with doing it in public. A car may be the best place to practice singing, but a shower is more satisfying to sing in, especially if no one else is home.
It’s big in the US. It’s the unthrilling aural spectacle of drag racing electric vehicles. Don’t think that just because it’s using electrons it’s going to be slow: electric cars have all their torque available from zero revs, so they get off the line like they’ve been catapulted, and the fastest ones are sub-8-seconds. Will electric vehicles eventually be better than top fuel dragsters?
If you took a line-up of ‘Cars of 1948’ you would find the Citroen 2CV (designed to carry a basket of eggs across a field without breaking any), the Morris Minor (designed to remind people in the UK of their lounge furniture) and the Land Rover Defender (designed to boldly go where Shire horses fear to tread). Who would have thought that 60 years later the 2CV and the Moggie are popular classics, while the Defender has reinvented itself as often as Joan Rivers (and with slightly less plastic surgery)? How long can this carry on or, is it that, like Cliff Richard, the Land Rover is so ingrained in our psyche that there’ll always be a soft spot for it? With cars looking more and more like appliances, with soft curved edges and aerodynamic features, the Landie stands in bold defiance of coefficient of drag. Long may it continue to amaze us with its panel gaps and astound us with its ability to haul through the mud like a randy hippo after a willing mare.
I broke two ribs in my last kart race about five years ago. I carried on and got second place and a nice trophy, but six months later when I could finally sneeze without it hurting I decided that I’d like something with a roll cage. What brought back these memories is not that the Swift Sport is uncomfortable to drive (or has a roll cage), but that it handles like a go-kart.
This is the product of Suzuki’s concerted effort to make a car that is dominant at the Junior World Rally Championship, and use that experience to make a road car.
Hugging the road like a sumo wrestler is one trick this supermini excels at. Its sheer pace is because you just don’t need to slow down through the corners, which is fortunate because the engine only produces 92kW — good enough for a sub-9-sec 0-100kph time, but it’s never going to give you the instant facelift that you get from, say 292kW.
Driven well, Swift isn’t merely an optimistic name for this car then, it’s an accurate description. Also, you can explore the whole envelope of the Swift’s capabilities. Unlike a million dollar supercar, in which you would struggle to use 18% of the available power and grip on most roads, the Swift can be chucked around to within an inch of its life, with its slight understeer making it a safe car to push into the bends. Understeer is the best option for a car only 3.76m long — any tendency to swap ends would be difficult to catch in a car this short. The 195/50R16 tyres are perfectly matched to the Swift and, along with its rally-inspired suspension keeping the car flat, means it carves into the corners like a wakeboarder on a still lake. I almost expect tarmac to come flying up in a big rooster tail. The Swift’s ability to change directions like a gazelle being chased by a cheetah is because its kerb weight is a measly 1090kg (though Suzuki quotes 1500kg gross weight). Still, that’s over 300kg less than, for example, a Porsche Cayman.
The willing 1.6-litre engine has high-lift camshafts, shot-peened rods and oil-cooled pistons to help deliver more grunt. Mated to a fairly close-ratio gearbox, you have the pleasure of choosing to keep the Swift’s engine racing near the redline, heel-toeing the drilled aluminium pedals, or using the 148Nm of torque and taking a more leisurely drive in the lower rev range.
For the moments when enthusiasm exceeds ability this revised Swift adds Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) to the previous version’s ABS, EBD and brake assist. Six airbags, side impact beams and head impact protection structure complete the safety picture.
The driving position, as with most small cars, is quite upright. My six-foot frame fitted in the car with no trouble at all, even having a surprisingly large amount of headroom. The Recaro-style seats are not buckets, but are reasonably supportive laterally and are well-positioned for the driver to reach the gearstick with its positive short-throw action. Audio controls for the WMA/MP3/CD player are located on the leather steering wheel and the sound quality is adequate for a car in this price range.
A basic trip computer showing average and instantaneous fuel consumption sits in the centre on the dash. We managed to equal Suzuki’s combined cycle of 7.5l/100km.
There is a lack of storage cubby holes inside the car, particularly ones that will close to keep things hidden. The boot, though, has an innovative adjustable floor, which can also be used to hide items like a laptop.
External styling shows the Swift’s sporting pedigree. From the twin exhausts peering from the rear valance and the tailgate spoiler, along the sideskirts punctuated by 16-inch alloy wheels, to the deep grille extension and integrated bumper at the front, the Swift Sport defines hot-hatch.
To get the power Suzuki recommends 98 octane fuel which is more expensive, though bear in mind sometimes using a higher octane fuel can be more efficient than lower octane, but we couldn’t verify this on this test.
Companies obviously like the Swift, too. Like a Mini, it looks great sign-written, and the price is attractive.
The Swift Sport is the leader in fun, small cars. It has been the best seller for two years. Its handling prowess and taught suspension are going to be too extreme for some buyers, but there’s always the cheaper (and softer) 1.5-litre Swift from $19,400.
Price: from $24,990 (Swift Sport); from $19,400 (Swift)
What we like
- Relatively economical for this type of car
- Makes sense as a company car
What we don’t like
- Limited internal storage
Words and photos Darren Cottingham
I swapped the Ford Fairmont for a Suzuki Jimny. The second cheapest new car in the New Zealand market has a longer list of what it hasn’t got than what it has! You don’t even get a clock for your sub-$17,000 jalopy. There’s no electric windows, no electric mirrors, no ABS, no central locking, no immobilser, no adjustable steering wheel, etc. But, the Jimny is quite capable in the rough stuff. It weighs seven tenths of nowt, and so it doesn’t bog down like larger 4WD cars do.