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Suzuki Splash 1.3 DDiS

Click to view picture galleryWhether theres only you, or
  upto four others in your family,
s Splash offers a lot of
  car for your cash

WHATEVER CATEGORY YOU SLOT IT INTO — city car, supermini, mini-MPV — Suzuki's practical all-new five-door Splash has, in the short time it's been on sale, already made something of a, er... splash. Not unexpectedly, either, given that it does everything you'd want and expect of a small car — and it is doing it all rather well.

Despite the name, there's nothing nautical about the crisp contemporary styling which — depending on your gender — is somewhere between smart and cute. But wherever you're coming from, the Splash's clean well-proportioned lines are pleasantly set-off by flared wheel arches and a well-planted stance, a prominent nose with large headlamps and split front grille and a flowing roofline that drops to meet the rising shoulder line. Overhangs at both ends are short — great for parking — and, at the rear-end, the vertical tailgate is flanked by distinctive arrow-shaped tail lamps. It's a cohesive design and one that successfully pulls off the often-tricky combination of sporty styling and a relatively tall body.

The Splash might leave a small (and environmentally-friendly) footprint on the Earth, but there's a lot of room hidden within the lively cabin. Thanks to the high roofline, there's a feeling of spaciousness and particularly good headroom. The rear seat is set higher than the front seats, so there's a good view out wherever you're sitting. The two-tone front seats are comfortable and the 40:60 split/fold rear seat provides enough room for three smallish adults — although two adults will travel in comfort with rear legroom good enough for some lounging. The three rear headrests all drop down out of the driver's sight line when not in use.

Driving the Splash is a breeze — the raised seating position ensures an excellent view of the road ahead. An easy-to-read large diameter speedometer (but not as in your face as that in the MINI) set in a single cowl ahead of the driver provides all the essential information needed — including outside temperature, fuel consumption (average and instantaneous) and range to empty. Graphics are refreshingly simple with sharp black numerals on a white background. The fuel gauge — a digital bar-graph — is incorporated into the speedometer dial. Our test car, a top-spec DDiS, sported a small individual pod-mounted rev-counter on top of the dashboard. A nice touch, it can be easily seen if you need it but just as easily ignored if you don't.

A logically laid out centre stack — topped off by a pair of air vents and the hazard switch — houses the large, foolproof controls for the audio system (CD tuner with MP3-compatibility and speed-sensitive volume adjustment) that can also be operated via the remote buttons on the left-hand spoke of the steering wheel. Immediately below these are the air conditioning controls and the high-set, clean-changing gear lever — mounted relatively high at the base of the centre stack for easier, more relaxed operation. Combined with the elevated driving seat and a tilt-adjustable steering wheel — both adjust for height — this makes setting a good driving position easy.

Look around and you'll see that the Splash is well fitted out. All models come with air conditioning, a decent sound system, electronic power steering, three-spoke leather-trimmed steering wheel with wheel-mounted audio controls, front electric windows (with driver's auto-down), electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, height-adjustable front seats, an information display and remote central locking. DDiS spec cars are, in addition, equipped with privacy glass on the rear side windows and tailgate, 15-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps.

Splash customers can choose between four models: The 1.2 model comes in either GLS or GLS+ grades; an automatic transmission is available on the GLS+ model and the fourth model is the 1.3 DDiS whose specification is identical to GLS+ grade. Prices start at 8,810 for the entry-level 1.2 GLS and rise to 10,288 for the 1.3 DDiS.

The two engines options are either a 1.2 petrol with 85hbp or, as tested here, a 74bhp 1.3-litre turbodiesel. With a useful 140lb ft of torque, the diesel unit is a lively performer and, particularly in town, always ready to respond to the throttle. Top speed is 103mph and while its official 0-62mph acceleration is given as 13.9 seconds, it feels quicker than this on the road. The 4-cylinder common-rail turbodiesel has strong mid-range pull and flexibility and there are no worries about running out of puff when overtaking.

On the motorway it's better than you might expect. The 1.3-litre unit feels unstrained and acceptably refined cruising along at the legal limit. It also returns a very welcome and extremely wallet-friendly 62.8mpg while emitting just 120g/km of CO2 — thus saving you even more money: because a year's road tax is just 35. For the record, the 1.3's urban and extra-urban consumption figures are 51.4 and 70.6mpg respectively. During a week's hard driving on a mix of roads and a variety of traffic conditions, our 1.3 never returned less than 56.9mpg.

On the move it doesn't feel small, city-like or in any way inhibited by its compact dimensions — overall length is 3,730mm; just 35mm up on the Swift upon whose platform the Splash is based. The driver enjoys excellent visibility — courtesy of the cabin's upright shape, low waistline and deep front windows. So the Splash can be accurately placed on the road.

And the Splash performs creditably on all manner of roads. Our test model's handling was consistently safe, tidy and never gave any cause for concern — the Splash goes where steered, and it feels accurate enough in corners and through flowing bends along winding B-roads. The electric power steering system provides extra weighting at speed and enough feedback to let you know how much grip there is at the front.

The suspension is on the firm side to keep body roll to a minimum (which it does very well), but not so firm that it doesn't smooth out poorly surfaced roads. Overall it rides well — particularly so for a small car. With an easy, comfortable gait that's as welcome in town as it is on motorways and dual carriageways, the Splash is imbued with a pleasantly refined ambience.

The brakes are well up to the car's performance and provide decent stopping power with a progressive pedal action. ABS with brake assist (to boost braking effectiveness during emergency braking) and electronic brake-force distribution is standard across the Splash range, as too is Electronic Stability Control. ESP uses selective wheel braking and controls engine output as necessary to stabilise the vehicle if it detects understeer or oversteer situations which may result in total loss of control. The ESP also incorporates a traction control feature to prevent wheelspin during standard starts or a loss of grip during sharp acceleration.

On the safety front, six airbags (dual front airbags and side airbags incorporated into the front seats as well as two full-length curtain airbags) are also standard on all models. The front passenger airbag can also be deactivated. The front seatbelts are height adjustable; there are two Isofix child seat fixtures and two child seat tether anchorages on the rear seats and three 3-point rear seatbelts. At a time when a number of major car manufacturers are still charging customers extra for ESP, full marks go to Suzuki.

Living with the Splash is easy. For a start it's easy to manoeuvre and slots easily into the meanest of parking spaces with help from the tight turning circle. The high seating positions also make entry and exit for young and old alike easy, and there's plenty of internal storage space including a useful flip-lid cubby built into the top of the dash, a fair-sized glovebox, two bottle holders and lots of cubbies and places to stash things dotted about the cabin — including a sunglasses holder in the roof lining and an under-seat tray.

And while the boot may look tight, there is 178 litres of space that includes a 36-litre under-floor compartment suitable for storing a first aid kit/small valuables and also, thanks to its waterproof lining, wet or dirty items. Beneath this is another compartment for the space saver spare wheel. Folding the one-touch rear seats forward creates a virtually flat load floor with 537 litres of space. Worth mentioning is that another benefit of the higher roof line and the elevated rear seats is the ease with which you can attach a child seat.

The Splash is a versatile five-door city car capable of providing the practicality demanded by the wide-ranging activities of the average couple or family and comes with a good standard specification, decent build quality and lots of safety kit. It is also cheap to run, easy to park and drive and even easier to load with shopping, luggage and/or passengers of all ages. Doesn't this sound like a host of reasons to splash out on a Splash? — MotorBar

Suzuki Splash 1.3 DDiS
| 10,288
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 13.9 seconds
Overall test MPG: 56.9mpg | Power: 74bhp | Torque: 140lb ft
CO2 120g/km | VED Band B 35 | Insurance group 4D