by James Siddall
Anyone can build a car. All right – not quite anyone. That's a bit of hyperbole. Let's rather say that lots of people – or manufacturers – can build a car. But injecting a little brio and spirit into the package seems to take some sort of alchemy that far transcends mere engineering concerns.
This is something that Suzuki is good at. Very, very good at. Now as a motoring writer I get to drive a vast cross-section of vehicles, and everything from German sports sedans packing enough firepower to sink HMS Ark Royal to sybaritic SUVs take up residence in my driveway for a week at a time.
And yet whenever I'm scheduled a Suzuki I perk up a little – simply because the Japanese manufacturer's cars are invariably as entertaining as a barrel of monkeys.
The little Splash that I just spent a week with is no exception. Now like many – no most, even all – of its stablemates it's a deeply practical creature.
In the urban environment it's as wieldy as a scapel in a surgeon's hands. So it should be with a length of just 3 775mm – and a height of 1 620mm, which makes wearing an Abraham Lincoln-style hat while driving distinctly feasible.
And that interior is surprisingly vast. Fold the 60/40 split rear bench seat and you're left with a huge, flat-floored cargo area capable of swallowing 1 050 litres when loaded to roof height. That's an awful lot of cargo, while stowage space for oddments abounds.
It's well-specced, too. Figure on air-con and an integrated audio system (on GL models), for starters. Those GL models also get steering wheel-mounted audio system controls. And safety levels are up there with build quality. So across the three-model range you get dual front airbags, side impact protection beams in the doors, and ABS braking. GL models? They also get keyless entry.
That's all pretty good for this price point. But it's the sheer, unexpected grin factor of the Splash that I'm willing to bet will get customers into Suzuki Jhb South for a serious chat with Meyer Benjamin and his merry men.
Key to all this is a fun, feisty, 1.2-litre, four-cylinder motor banging out 62kW at an industrious 6 000rpm, and 113Nm of torque at 4 500rpm. Now that might not sound a lot in an age when sports sedans and super-SUVs are making five, even six, times that. But that's on paper. In practice, the lightweight little Splash is a free-revving, nippy creature, and the five-speed manual model (there's also a four-speed auto variant) will run from rest to 100km/h in 12.3 seconds. And again, it feels far swifter than mere figures suggest.
Top speed is 160km/h, which is quite fine thank you, given that the national limit is set at 120km/h – which is a sensible enough velocity given road surfaces that can be, um, challenging mated to having to share those roads with vehicles in vastly differing states of repair helmed by drivers of vastly differing abilities.
Prices start at a whisker under R125 000 and include a three-year/100 000km warranty and a two-year/30 000km service plan. There's no extra charge for the grin factor...
iX Online Motoring