Suzuki has a reputation for building fun to drive, well designed, small city cars. How does the Splash stack up?
The problem with expectation is that you run the risk of disappointment. It’s being human: we’re made aware of something and immediately expect certain things from it. Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re pleasantly, or unpleasantly, surprised.
As a professional journalist you need to put this to one side and be objective from the start. For a motoring journalist, though, that’s not easy – we’re car nutters at heart, we’ll always expect certain things from certain vehicles and their manufacturers.
So, the little Suzuki Splash, which was introduced towards the end of last year to slot in below the company’s volume seller, the Swift, and above its entry-level Alto (replaced in February by the Celerio) …
What can I expect from the Splash?
Both the Alto and the Swift (in its current and previous forms) are fantastic little city cars; nippy, fun to drive and full of character. I expected more of the same from the Splash, what with its funky design and compact length and width. It is tall, though, at 1,62 m.
The upshot is that there is an abundance of headroom inside. In fact, it’s a very well packaged little car. You wouldn’t think there’s much room for rear passengers, but there actually is. The boot, at 236 l, is tiny, though (happily the rear seats do fold down). Oh, and if you’re approaching 1,7 m in height, the rear tailgate doesn’t raise high enough.
This little engine is a peach – it’s lively, free-revving and very willing. You don’t even have to throttle it to get the best out of it, though it does pull noticeably stronger from 4 500 r/min, which is where it produces its max torque.
The interior will be immediately recognisable to anyone familiar with the brand. It’s well put together, though some of the plastics and switchgear really scream budget in a horrible, 1990s kind of way. There’s a good amount of stowage space, though.
Is it loaded with lots of safety features and other nice toys?
The GL model as tested comes well spec’d. Among the features are electric windows and mirrors; a decent four-speaker sound system with USB and auxiliary connectivity and steering wheel controls; air-con; a multi-function onboard computer (the button for which is awkwardly placed in the instrument binnacle itself); and fabric door trim.
You also get dual front airbags, ABS anti-lock brakes, front fog lamps, side-impact beams and remote central locking.
What’s it like from behind the wheel?
Unfortunately this is where my expectations came undone … The Splash is powered by Suzuki’s 1,2-litre four-cylinder engine, which produces 63 kW of power and 113 Nm torque. This little engine is a peach – it’s lively, free-revving and very willing. You don’t even have to throttle it to get the best out of it, though it does pull noticeably stronger from 4 500 r/min, which is where it produces its max torque.
The brakes are good too, as is the visibility and ride comfort (tall, skinny tyres + soft suspension + soft seat cushion = quiet, comfy ride). It’s also exceptionally manoeuvrable, dispelling three-point turns.
Unfortunately, the “arm-chair” driving position; notchy five-speed gearbox and its like-pressing-a-button clutch; relatively heavy steering and woeful, top-heavy handling let down the experience.
Will it be kind to my pocket?
Very much so. Firstly, Suzuki claims fuel consumption of 5,6 l/100 km – I managed a great 6,3 l/100 km in mainly about-town driving. Secondly, the Splash comes standard with a three-year/100 000 km warranty, and a two-year/30 000 km service plan.
Finally, the Splash 1,2 GL manual retails at a very reasonable R135 400. But that’s where it get’s confusing …
Should I buy one, or look around?
You see, for around R10 000 less you could buy a Celerio 1,0 GL manual, and for R5 000 more you could buy a Swift 1,2 GL manual. Between the three, there’s not much in it in terms of size, while the Celerio and Swift come with all the same features and more.
It gets worse when you consider the array of stiff competition in the same price bracket, including the Hyundai i10, Toyota Etios and Volkswagen’s recently-launched Up!
Unfortunately, other than lots of headroom and its lovely little engine, that small-Suzuki character is missing. Expectations splattered.
Cyberstoep Rating: 5.5/10
I’m Cyberstoep’s resident (self-appointed) motoring fanatic. My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise … Read more