A very capable, well-judged little sibling for the impressive Swift; just needs the right price

What is it?

Suzuki describes the new Splash as a ‘worldwide mini-wagon’; doesn’t sound that enticing does it? But we reckon a cute, contemporary five-door city car is a much better description. Think of it as a direct rival to the Fiat Panda and you’ll get the idea.

In effect the Splash replaces the Wagon-R. But that eminated from the company’s bad old days of unappealing styling and lacklustre dynamics. Now that the company’s got Europe fully in its crosshairs things are a lot more convincing. We’ve been raving about the Swift supermini for the past eighteen months, so the Splash’s job is to spice things up further down the food chain.

Like the Wagon-R, the Splash is made in the company’s Hungarian factory and, like its forebear, it is also seeing service as a Vauxhall Agila. The technology, though, is all Suzuki’s. Both of them are built on a chopped down Swift platform and use Japanese engines, which in the UK amounts to a choice between an 86bhp 1.2 or a 75bhp 1.3-litre turbodiesel.

What’s it like?

For a start, it’s a smart, well-proportioned car, with plenty of cheekiness about it but nothing overtly wacky or weird like some other Japanese runabouts we could mention.

The good looks carry on in the cabin, too. There’s one or two areas of nasty looking plastic, but the whole effect is good and it looks classier than its £7500 starting price would lead you to believe.

The high roofline makes the cabin feel more spacious than it actually is, though you can cram two adults into the rear quarters, but you won’t get their luggage in. The boot is only just adequate for the weekly supermarket shop.

On the move the similarities with the Panda continue. Like the Fiat it’s got tidy, if uninspiring, handling and there’s a soft, comfortable gait to it. Yes it rolls a little, and yes a few bigger bumps find their way into the cabin – but it felt better than most of its peers on our Hungarian test route.

Both petrol and diesel engines give adequate verve and stay reasonably refined at cruising speeds, though like most small one-box cars, road rumble and induction noise is in evidence.

Should I buy one?

The Splash is a very well-judged car, but it all really depends on what Suzuki decides to charge when it goes on sale next March.

If the price does, as promised, start with a seven then it will be a sound buy, In fact, possibly a sounder buy than a Panda.

If the company’s entry-level price tag turns out to be any less enticing, though, there are better-value city cars to be considered.

Chas Hallett

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