Monday, July 02, 2012
Despite it's name, do not expect Suzuki’s latest offering the Splash, to make to many waves in our mini hatch market.
The introduction of this 5-door hatch to this part of the world is a bit out of left field as it almost goes head-to-head with the Swift on size, price and performance. Just where this five-year-old model fits in the Suzuki game plan is a bit of a head scratcher.
Price was probably a motivation with the strength of our dollar against the Euro making it possible to sell the Splash for a drive away price of $17,995 for the 5-speed manual. The four-speed automatic used for this road test retails for $19,500. This drive away price includes all on road costs, a three-year, 100,000 km warranty and a full five-year roadside assistance plan. Suzuki sees the Splash slotting between the larger Swift and smaller Alto models. I do wonder though whether this plethora of mini hatch offerings by the company all within a similar price envelope, might only serve to confuse buyers.
The engine bay action is provided by a 1.2 litre motor that is a smaller capacity version of the 1.4 unit used in the latest Swift, yet its 69kw of power is only one less than the motor in the Swift. The motor in the Splash presents a nice shiny clean green image easily meeting Euro 5 engine emission standards. There is plenty of innovative technology behind it as well with silent chain timing gear technology, lightweight pistons plus distributor less ignition. It all adds up to an engine that has the key virtues most owners seek, flexibility, refinement and responsiveness. Acceleration is lively and for a small engine it has big ticker that it draws on to tackle undulating roads and hill climbs, with the zip and sparkle of a much bigger motor
In 5-speed manual form the Splash would be an even more entertaining giving the driver the ability to fully exploit the motors free revving nature. The 4-speed automatic in the test car struggled to do this, largely because it is overly anxious to shift into a higher gear at the earliest opportunity, know doubt to help fuel economy.
The cabin is modern, inviting and offers is a decent size for a mini hatch. There is plenty of head and leg room both front and rear, while good ground clearance makes it easy to enter and leave the car, as unlike a number of mini hatches, you step in rather than down into the Splash. This sort of accessibility is something older buyers who are not agile as they once were will appreciate. The 178 litres boot capacity with the back seat in use is a bit below par but can be almost tripled to 573 litres by folding the 60/40 split rear seats. There is a clever 36 litres waterproof lined under floor compartment that is ideal for storing valuables or wet items.
The dashboard has an attractive a metallic-silver border with the other major feature of the dashboard landscape being a large speedometer that sits the steering wheel, with all indicator lamps arranged around it. A lot of thought has gone into cabin storage space with a bottle holder incorporated into each door. There are additional ones in front of and behind the handbrake lever, so there are no excuses for owners getting thirsty, as this car has the water carrying capacity of a camel.
For modestly priced car this one is well equipped with front electrically operated windows, tilt facility for the power assisted steering, four-speaker sound system with CD and MP3, speed sensing volume control and steering wheel controls for the audio. Safety is good with six airbags with dual front, dual seat-side and dual curtain airbags, seatbelt pretensioners and anti skid brakes, but could be a whole lot better if electronic stability control was part of the cars safety arsenal. For some odd reason initial shipments of the Splash did not have this life saving safety feature that is expected to be included as standard in models imported from March or April onwards. Better late than never but the car should have had this feature from day one on our market.
Being taller than most of rivals and a bubble like profile, the Splash has the look of a mini people mover, with an almost guillotined look around the area end thanks to its vertical drop rear hatch. It is a slippery customer, scything through the air on the back of its 0.32 drag coefficient.
Suspension is similar to the proven Swift set up, with a MacPherson strut front suspension and torsion beam rear, and coil springs front and rear. Fifteen inch steel wheels offer better than expected levels of grip and the rack and pinion steering is neatly weighted with acceptable levels of road feel. While it’s not in the same ride and road holding league as the larger Swift, the Splash acquit itself well enough for what is one of the cheapest Japanese hatchbacks on our market.
What is the verdict? A three year-old model before it arrived here and does not really add anything new to Suzuki range. It’s priced too close to the excellent Swift hatch to stand much of a chance in this market, making the Splash a bit of a belly-flop.