Maintenance tips: Suzuki Swift

All you need to know about this model, plus how to keep it running strong
by TopGear.com.ph | May 29, 2019
PHOTO: Top Gear Philippines
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Traditionally, a lower-spec variant sacrifices the range-topper’s bells and whistles. But with the 1.2-liter Suzuki Swift, that isn’t necessarily the case.

If you’re the type looking for a daily driver that’s easy to park, easy on the eyes, and relatively easy on the wallet, Suzuki would like you to consider the Swift 1.2 hatchback contender.

Styling

Externally, the only ways to tell it apart from the 1.4-liter Swift are its 15-inch wheels (versus 16-inchers) and side-mirror-integrated turn signals (versus plain caps). The spot-the-difference game becomes even more difficult inside; it seems the only real divergence is that the center console box on the higher variant’s dashboard is absent here.

With very little cosmetic variances between the two trims, it’s a given that the P141,000 pricing gap would be noticeable on the mechanical side. The 200cc deficit in displacement results in a power gap of 7hp and 16Nm, but that doesn’t make the 1.2-liter Swift a lesser car. The lower engine output is offset by the 65kg curb-weight difference, so the fun-to-drive Swift platform becomes even more enjoyable.

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Engine and performance

While the suspension setup—MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear—has been retained, the 1.2-liter Swift rides a little taller, perhaps due to the road ‘variety’ in India, its country of production. This does make the car feel slightly top-heavy, but it can still take sweeping corners at 70kph.

It’s when you push the Swift that you’ll start to see where Suzuki has cut some corners to achieve the entry-level variant’s current price point. NVH levels are higher, and the amount of road noise is particularly irritating if you’re driving on concrete. Engine noise also intrudes into the cabin when you hit 3,000rpm. On startup, the K12M mill sounds coarse, and the four-speed slushbox has a ’90s vibe to it because there’s still shift shock when you transition from Drive to Neutral.

Not very exciting, right? It may be all you need in a daily driver, though, as its tenure with me (over three weeks) was largely uneventful. Neither exciting nor droll, the Swift served me on my daily commute well enough, sipping fuel to the tune of 10-11km/L in the city while ably keeping up with traffic and jostling for space on EDSA. The drivetrain has just enough power and compact gearing for sub-Skyway speeds, but it quickly gets overwhelmed when the road opens up (which is practically never). One area the drivetrain is showing its age is in trying to maintain a steady 110kph. The tall fourth gear and the meager power on tap will always have the car struggling to get back up to speed if you need to slow down.

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The power-steering system is also slow to boost assist at low speeds, where quick transitions will have you muscling the wheel as the electric pump tries to catch up. At cruising speeds, though, the car tracks well enough despite the slim tires (185/65 R15s). The steering wheel could be a tad thicker to give a feeling of more heft.

Overall size and cabin space

The 1.2-liter variant retains the weaknesses of its bigger-engined version: the tight second-row seating and the shallow 210-liter cargo capacity. Rear cargo space can be increased to 533 liters when the rear seats are folded down.

Verdict

The 1.2-liter Swift is supposed to be less of a car than the 1.4-liter variant, but for a lot less cash, you’re actually getting quite a bit more out of the clever package. (Patrick Everett Tadeo and Andy Leuterio)

Recommended maintenance schedule

If you follow the maintenance schedule, and if you have a basic sense of car maintenance, you can reasonably expect your car to run perfectly fine for many, many kil. Here are 10 quick tips to keep your ride in tip-top shape:

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1) Follow the 5,000-7,500km maintenance schedule.

The service interval is important to your car’s wellbeing, depending on its make and model. Primary maintenance services include oil and filter change. At times, it may also include several others such as A/C filter cleaning and freon recharging, as well as changing of other fluids and filters. Your car’s spark plugs should also be changed yearly.

2) Know if you really need 95- or 98-octane gasoline.

It’s not as crucial as it sounds, but it does help. Most daily driver gasoline engines are fine being powered by regular unleaded (93-octane), but some perform better with higher-grade gasoline. But if you have a minor engine mod like an aftermarket ECU chip which may experience knocking 93-octane fuels (especially in the summer heat), then spending a bit more on 98-octane will help your engine run smoother and keep you at peace.

3) Check fluids regularly.

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The ones you should check regularly are your coolant, water reservoir, oil, brake fluid, power steering and automatic transmission fluids (if applicable), and windshield washer. Save for the washer fluids, any significant losses on a weekly basis could indicate a possible leak.

Check the ground in your garage and usual parking slots for any indicative leaks or puddles and trace its origin, but do note that a few drops of liquid from A/C condensation is normal.

4) Check tire pressure often.

Your tires pressure change gradually over a few days, increasing or decreasing depending on the situation. Follow the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle (taking into account your average passenger and cargo load), keeping in mind that one or two psi above or below the suggested values won’t hurt your car. You are allowed some room to work with to tailor the ride quality to your preference.

Have tire pressures checked after gassing up, preferably also in the morning while your tires are still cold.  Soft tires that are 5-10 psi below the usual may indicate slow leaks somewhere. Inspect your tires, but remember that should you find any foreign objects such as nails or bolts impaled to your tires, do not pull it out. Doing so will quickly deflate the tire, and running it flat will destroy it. Take it to a vulcanizing shop instead, and let them patch it up and save the tire for you.

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5) Occasionally have your tires rotated, aligned, and balanced.

To maintain an even wear on its treads, practice having your tires rotated every six months or 10,000km. Have them balanced and aligned upon each time doing so.

6) Check your battery.

A battery will last anywhere from a year or two depending on its usage. One telltale sign that a battery is about to die is its difficulty to turn over on startup. If you aren’t too sure about it, you can always have a battery shop checked it out.

7) Do not ignore your timing belt/chain.

This is probably the most crucial item in your service manual that you would never want to ignore. When the timing belt or chain breaks, an engine freezes and you as the owner will be stuck with an overhaul. Depending on the vehicle, the recommended replacement schedule is somewhere between 60,000-70,000km.

8) Know when you need a transmission overhaul/clutch replacement.

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“Overhaul” is a scary word, but it’s just a routine service if you’re talking about the transmission. When your car’s gears begin to slip or refuse to engage, that’s a sign that the clutch is worn out and needs replacement. Don’t ever let a service advisor tell you that the entire transmission needs to be replaced, especially if it’s less than 100,000km old!

9) Find out if you really need to have it rust-proofed.

The shell of the car already has already been made rust-resistant through several layers of primer and paint. Some casas may try and make you take that paint protection service on a four-digit value. Unless you park beside the ocean or have a snowy climate (which we in the Philippines don’t), you don’t need this.

10) Have the Italian tune-up.

Every once in a while—say once a week or month—take a longer drive with your car to destinations where you can rev it more than the usual, gently working the upper ranges of the gears and blowing out any crud from the pipes. The heavy traffic in Metro Manila is detrimental to a car and can be considered as extreme road conditions because of the continuous stop-and-go that takes its toll on the transmission, and the fumes ingested by the air intake. To help keep the engine in tip-top shape, a regular Italian tune-up should help do the trick. (Andy Leuterio)

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PHOTO: Top Gear Philippines
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