As I always do in most of the media test drives I participate in, I try to come up with a nice story angle to tie-in our destination with the vehicles we’re driving to get there. In my 19 years as a motoring journalist, there were some hits – where the organizers or the communications head of the car maker makes a perfect combination of the drive and the venue with the vehicle – as well as some misses – where the venue and the drive are not suitable for the vehicle being reviewed.
As I sit at the backseat of the all-new Suzuki Swift on our drive on the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) to San Fernando, Pampanga, I ponder at the strange combination of these two: the third-generation of a modern subcompact 5-door hatchback that has become a cult favorite among young auto enthusiasts and a collection of restored old Spanish-Filipino houses erected in a beach resort complete with cobblestone roads. But that’s getting ahead of my story…
On the Highways
From the Suzuki Auto Kalookan dealership, where Suzuki Philippines Director and General Manager for Automobiles Keiichi Suzuki gave us a warm send-off, our convoy of 14 new slightly dressed-up Swifts and a dozen back-up Suzuki vehicles went northbound on NLEX and had our first stop-over at the Total service station along the highway in San Simon, Pampanga. Our colleague, Ronald delos Reyes, the motoring editor of the Daily Tribune, took the first dibs and drove our car (Swift #9) until the Total station. Ronald could not comment on the performance of the car on the highway because our convoy was moving slower than normal. However, he narrated that the ride was a lot smoother and better than the previous Swift with its recalibrated front MacPherson strut and rear torsion beam suspension system. We took a few moments at the station to recalibrate our bladders.
Vernon Sarne, the Editor-in-Chief of Visor, tackled the driving duties from the gas station to our lunch venue at Tasas by Mundang inside the Kings Royale Hotel in Macabacle, Bacolor, Pampanga. He was more impressed with the efficiency of our Swift’s constantly variable automatic transmission (CVT) and how it quickly adapts to the driving conditions. We were impressed with the improved fit-and-finish and overall quality of the new Swift and we attributed its improved comfort to its longer wheelbase, wider track and bigger overall dimensions. After a hearty lunch, it was my turn to drive.
Around Towns and Cities
From Bacolor, our convoy took the highway and passed by the municipalities of Guagua and Lubao at the edge of Pampanga. We then entered the province of Bataan via Hermosa, through Abucay, Balanga City, and zigzagged through the mountain roads around Pilar until we reached Bagac. Our motorcycle escort mistakenly took us to a little detour inside the small rural roads of the Bagac town proper because WAZE said there was a side road that would lead us into the Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar resort. There was none, of course, and we had to retrace our drive back. But it was a great excuse to test the maneuverability of the Swift and its ability to fit into little traffic gaps because of its still-svelte size. We thought it was part of the drive.
Along the way, I was admiring how efficient the 1,197cc multiport-injected 4-cylinder 16-valve K12M engine was. On paper, it could only muster 61 horsepower at 6,000 rpm but its 113 Newton-meters of torque that peaks at 4,200 rpm feels strong enough to fool anyone that the new Swift is propelled by a larger engine. The electrically-assisted rack-and-pinion steering made direction changes a breeze while front ventilated discs and rear solid discs provided sure and secure stops every time.
Evolution Based on Demand
As we wandered around the restored old houses, the Venicean-inspired canal, and the cobblestone roads around Las Casas Filipinas, I finally found the story angle that I was searching for. Looking at the high ceilings, large windows and ventilated rooms of the old houses, I realized that the traditional large interiors gave way to smaller, more “efficient” designs that we have today, which are also more economical to build. While the traditional designs and craftsmanship look more artistic, they gave way to evolution wherein functionality is preferred over form.
In the same vein, the all-new third-generation Suzuki Swift has grown bigger, longer and wider than its predecessors because it has evolved according to the demands of the market. The traditional Swift loyalists, or its cult followers as they are sometimes called, have also evolved. Where they used to look for the sporty, go-kart-like feel of the Swift, they now want a little more comfort. Where they used to want the snug and cozy interior, they want a little more space. Where they want zest and zing with the motor, they want a little more fuel economy.
Thankfully, the all-new Suzuki Swift has evolved with the times. It is a bigger, better, and much improved version of its former self. Yet, it remains its traditional self – a lovable, cute and instantly recognizable 5-door compact hatchback. Its legions of fans will immediately know it’s a Swift even if they’re blindfolded. And we’re pretty sure they’ll love how it evolved into something that’ll uplift their driving experience. They wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m sure I won’t either.