Earlier this year, Suzuki did the done thing and finally CKD-ed their entry-level model. When I drove it in CBU form, it was pretty fun. Slightly nasty with its slapped together interior and screamy engine noise… but fun.

The thing is, nothing much has changed except that the ride in the rear has been improved somewhat. Oh, and the small matter of price, of course. This used to cost RM87,279 after the NAP hit CBU units hard. With its previous price coming in at RM79,800, it was clear that Suzuki Malaysia had to do something about it.

Shannon Teoh discovered what’s new (or not) with the Suzuki Swift during a short media drive to the assembly plant in Pekan some months back. Details after the jump.

So let’s start with price then. It’s significantly lower at RM69,888 without insurance but somehow, that still seems disappointing. I’m not sure exactly why this is so.

Maybe it’s the fact that CKD discussions started way back in October 2005. Maybe it was the sales target of 300 units/month with actual assembly capacity of 500. Or the millions (20 to be exact) invested into the CKD plant with its dangerous looking robotic welding arm.

Apparently, whispers in the wind said that the idea is to up the branding and compete on prestige with its more visible Japanese brethren. To aid in this endeavour, the Swift Sport was also introduced to beef up the idea that the Swift is an enthusiast’s car – a fact that probably has never been in doubt for the owners’ club(s) here.

I am having a bit of trouble linguistically with something called a Swift Sport. Swift already means fast, or at least, it’s the name of a bird that can fly at speeds exceeding 300km/h.

So Swift + Sport = Supersonic speeds? Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a clumsy allitreation. Its 123hp 1.6-litre engine is in fact, electronically speed-limited to around 190km/h – aren’t you glad you shelled out over RM100,000 for this then?

On the other hand, Recaro seats and suspension set to ‘bone-jarring’ and peak power only coming at the 6,800 rev limit, it’s purpose-built for a very involving, if not exactly lightspeed driving experience. When one is looking for every last ounce of acceleration from the 148Nm of torque available at 4,800rpm, it becomes a raucous and frenzied machine, the car bumping about this way and that.

Along with the sorted Swift chassis, it handles like a go-kart, no doubt. But woe betide anyone who’s strapped into the backseat and doesn’t know a good chiropractor. This will bump you around harder than a horny homosexual at Liquid.

It comes in a 4-speed auto and also a 5-speed manual, of which, the latter should be the one that appeals to motorheads (appeal for geeks comes with a keyless-entry&go system where you simply get in and crank the ignition without having to stick the key in). However, the stick shift really needs a 6th gear as the 5th’s ratio doesnt come anywhere close to the auto’s overdrive and will cost a pretty penny when cruising at extralegal speeds.

Still, when you think about it, this is priced around the same as other Japanese hatches like the Honda Jazz or Toyota Yaris. So it’s a matter of picking between being a boyracer or a yuppie (shudder).

With that in mind, we scale back down to the standard Swift, which suddenly looks like an interesting prospect in terms of value-for-money. What you get is as earlier mentioned, a completely similar car to the CBU, except with a much better ride in the back. They’ve fixed the perennial problem with such short wheelbase cars and the choppy rides of bygone days were not at all missed in the B-roads from Pekan to Kuala Rompin.

The 1.5-litre plant churning out 100hp and 133Nm was good enough to keep one-tonne of car going at a good pace and so we reached our designated hotel with minimum travel fatigue. Maybe that’s because I was snoozing part of the way.

It’s pretty basic actually. It seats five and gets from 0-100km/h in just under 12 seconds with the auto ‘box. The 4-speed staggered gate automatic transmission is mated really well with the engine, though, but it does come off sounding like a 3-cylinder rather than a 4-pot, 16-valve DOHC with variable valve timing.

As one might expect, there’s also airbags, EBD and ABS (same also with the Swift Sport) and happily, six buttons to control the integrated, anti-theft audio system. It’s pretty decent as opposed to the Swift Sport’s third-party JVC unit (which is ‘decent-er’) and it’s at least an improvement over the CBU unit as it’s now got MP3 playing capability.

Further features such as the dial-adjusted climate control system and LED panel at the top of the dash reading out information such as fuel consumption, external temperature and of course, time, put the finishing touches on this car. As far as options go, well there are these sumptuous sounding colours to choose from – Bayside Blue, Silver Grey, Supreme Red and Tranquility Black. Another RM6,000 over the list price gets you the Premier version that comes ready with V-Kool, bodykit and leather seats (which are quite nice actually).

But who needs options? Buying a Swift is already exercising an option. It’s a step up from a local car but still seems like the smart and discerning choice instead of paying for a Honda or Toyota badge. Whether it is or not, remains to be seen of course. Reliability and resale value are rather prominent factors in whether a car is remembered fondly or notoriously.