For a first-time car owner: Honda City or Suzuki Swift?

Or does Botchi have other cars in mind?
by Botchi Santos | May 5, 2010

Hi, Botchi!

I'm in a double-whammy sort of a situation and I seriously need your advice. I'm a newbie driver with less than a year of actual driving experience and I'm about to purchase my very first car.

I've narrowed my choices down to two: The Honda City 1.3 S and the Suzuki Swift 1.5--both with automatic transmission. My considerations in choosing a car are: the price range, the performance (I'll be using it on the NLEX almost every weekend), the reliability, the fuel consumption, the vehicle's ease of use considering that I'm a new driver, and the ownership and maintenance cost.

I'd really hate it if my hard-earned money goes to a car which won't work out for me. Which of these two would you recommend? Or is there a third option out there? Just a hint though--I don't like the Toyota Vios. It looks like some sort of mutated fish to me.

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Hi, Ford!

It's interesting to see you're looking at buying a small car then planning to use it extensively on the NLEX on weekends. It's something that seems counter-intuitive in our bigger-is-better-obsessed car buying industry. Small cars are fun, period!

The Honda City (click this link to view the entire Honda City lineup) is a very good and highly competent car but I just do not like how it looks. Better than the previous one--no doubt--but I feel it's trying too hard to be an executive-type vehicle. That sounds nice and dandy but small cars are about being fun, invigorating and enjoyable, not something rather staid and quite boring. Also, I'd recommend you get the bigger 1.5 liter engine if your budget can stretch to that. You'll want the extra power, mid-range grunt and overall flexibility when overtaking on the highway. Besides, in steady-state cruising, both 1.3- and 1.5-liter engines have negligible fuel consumption differences. I always advise people to get the variant with the bigger engine since more power is always good and you have the potential to run better fuel economy matched with enhanced engine longevity. The bigger engine will be less stressed to haul the similar amount of weight of the car and its occupants.

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The Suzuki Swift (click this link to view the entire Suzuki Swift lineup) is also an equally good car but it feels a generation old compared to its peers. The interior is tight, there's not much flexibility with the seats that allow you to haul big, bulky and heavy stuff, and the inside is just a bit too plain. It's built well and handles really well, too, thanks to the Swift's involvement in motorsports improving the overall gene pool. The limited number of dealerships can mean you'll have less after-sales support and options on where to have your Swift fixed or serviced.

Have you thought of looking at the Toyota Yaris? It offers great value for money and is surprisingly well-built with an interior that is of higher quality than that of the Vios' (it uses different plastics). It's also quite cheap. I drive one everyday and am very happy with my choice. With a decent mix of highway and city driving, I get about 9.5km per liter but mine's lightly modified and has big wheels so that's a consideration.

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Another option would be the Mazda 2. This is quite tight and very sporty, foregoing the typical mini-MPV like cabin of its competitors. You feel you're strapping yourself into some low-slung sports-slash-race car and the feel of the cabin is very intimate. I love this car! It drives well, handles well, has a very fuel efficient-engine and looks great! When I drove this in Thailand (check out our February Roll-Out issue for full coverage) we drove flat-out for about 140 clicks and I got a very decent 9km per liter. Amazing considering we were cruising at 120 to 140kph most of the way.

Lastly, why no mention of the Honda Jazz?  I run out of superlatives when describing this car: most power, most room, best handling and best braking of the bunch and most versatile interior. It is unfortunately the most expensive too. My mom has one and in mostly city driving the car does close to 10km per liter on the dot.

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If you want the best, the Jazz (arguably) is. If you want great value for money, the Toyota Yaris is your best bet. It's also the easiest to own if you're going the leasing or financing route and they give good discounts now. If you want to have the newest kid on the block, then Mazda 2 is the way to go. Notice how I recommended an all hatchback line-up? Because hatches are fun, and little cars are all about being fun!

Take care, good luck and keep us posted. God bless!

Botchi Santos
Consumer editor

Lost in a sea of cars and not quite sure which one to get? Click here to email your car query so Botchi can help you pick the right vehicle! 

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