It looks quite small. Where will the Splash sit in Suzuki’s range?
It’s a replacement for the unloved and unlovable Wagon R+ and built on the underpinnings of the current Swift. It’s the same size as the Swift but it’s been designed to appeal to a slightly more conservative (read older and more sensible) bunch of buyers so it’ll be a bit cheaper than the supermini. You probably won’t be surprised to hear that Suzuki wants to move on from the slow-selling Wagon R+ and build on the success of the latest Swift.
It certainly looks different to the Wagon R+…
Astonishingly, considering its ungainly appearance, that car has topped the best seller list in Japan. But that box-on-tiddly-wheels look with enough headroom for a party of undertakers complete with their hats didn’t appeal to European audiences so they’ve come up with the Splash, a much better looking motor all round. It’s particularly handsome from the front and the rear lights have a hint of Mercedes A-Class about them. However from certain angles that upright back end and flared rear wheel arch have a hint of Daihatsu Materia about them…
What about inside?
As soon as you open the door you realise the Splash has been built down to a price. There’s a lot of scratchy plastic around, particularly on the doors and although it’s all very solidly screwed together in typical Japanese style, the overall feeling is that you’re in a budget car. The driving position is very high: probably no bad thing considering its target market will be the older generation and female drivers rather than strapping six footers. The gear lever is also mounted up on the centre console. However, a steering wheel that had more adjustment than a tiny amount of rake would help matters.
How spacious is it?
Considering this is a small car, it’s remarkably roomy inside. As the front seats are mounted so high up there’s plenty of foot room in the back. And while it’s not as absurdly lofty as its predecessor there’s still lots of head room. The rear seats fold flat but while the opening is nicely square, there’s quite a high boot lip and some wheel arch intrusion on the interior space. But the big problem with the load area is that the rear bench isn’t capable capable of sliding. And as the boot is a relatively measly 537 litres, it’s disappointing you can’t boost its size.
What about under the bonnet?
European Splash buyers will have a choice of 1.0 and 1.2-litre petrol engines as well as a 1.3-litre diesel. Suzuki hasn’t decided whether it’s going to bring the smaller engine to the UK yet so if you’re dead set on that you’ll have to buy the sister Vauxhall Agila. The 1.2-litre is gutsy and whirrs along quietly at the legal limit. Even with three people aboard acceleration was more than adequate to keep up with fast-moving city traffic. The diesel is noisier although more frugal. We tried the automatic box and like most of its kind that are mated to a small engine doesn’t make for the most relaxing drive. The slick-shifting five-speed manual is a much better option.
It looks too tall to handle well…
You’d be surprised. Admittedly there’s plenty of body roll, much more than in a Swift, but the Splash has still got lots of grip. It’s a shame the steering doesn’t give more feedback as you’d have the confidence to exploit it more. But considering this is probably going to spend most of its time on the school run and in supermarket car parks, it’s more than up to the job. The ride is softer than a Swift’s but remains composed over an uneven surface. It’s easy to manoeuvre too and those short overhangs, particularly at the back, make city parking a breeze.
Considering it comes with six airbags, air-conditioning and a sound system with MP3 capability as standard the Splash will represent good value for money. It’s a decent looking car and does exactly what it’s supposed to. It’s a shame the firm hasn’t made the rear more versatile but considering its budget price it feels very solidly engineered. Ironically, Suzuki reckons its biggest competition will come from the identical Vauxhall Agila that’ll be produced on the same line in Hungary. The Japanese firm’s bosses claim the Agila will be cheaper and Vauxhall dealers will have more freedom to negotiate on price than Suzuki sales folk.