Suzuki Splash small car, big heart

Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer, says Suzuki has packed a lot of space in its little Splash.

For all the shouting and big-budget advertising campaigns of the traditional European car-makers, it often pays to look further afield for an equally satisfying and more affordable ownership experience.

If you're in search of a compact car, one such company with the product line-up to equal that of the usual suspects is Suzuki. It might be a small player but the likes of the Swift, Grand Vitara and Jimny have proved that it's perfectly capable of delivering value for money without cutting corners.

In the highly-competitive urban runabout market Suzuki's Splash has been changing perceptions and cutting a dash on the roads. This year sees a modest but important programme of revisions, with the focus on detailed cosmetic enhancements and a new petrol engine.

First seen in its bigger brother, the Swift, the Splash gains a new 93hp 1.2-litre petrol motor to complement the car's existing 1.0-litre unit. Replacing the Splash's old 1.2 lump has seen a useful reduction in CO2 from 129g to 119g/km, while economy is up from 51.4mpg to 55.4mpg

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Performance is, as you would expect, that bit better, with the little Suzuki feeling a little more willing when you need to press on or make a dash for that rapidly-closing gap as part of your daily participation in the urban 'grand prix'.

There's also enough power hidden away to ensure that the occasional foray on the motorway never feels anything but safe and civilised. Factor in a slick manual gearshift located nice and high on the car's fascia, plus steering with plenty of assistance, and you've got a car that's easy to drive whatever the conditions.

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Save for a different alloy wheel design and seat trim pattern, this revised Splash delivers the same, pleasing ownership experience as before. Suzuki's compact hatchback majors on cabin space. It's taller than your average hatchback – that much is obvious from even a quick glance – and the resulting extra head, leg and elbowroom fore and aft is most welcome.

With its small footprint but extra generous cabin, the Splash is ideally suited to urban-centric duties. It will easily fit on the road outside your home, slot gracefully into those ever-shrinking city centre car park spaces and prove anything but a chore to pilot when it feels like everyone's out to get you on the commute to work.

Noticeably more upright in its stance than most rivals, this is how the Splash manages to cram so much into its modest form. Rear-seat passengers will appreciate the car's looks the most – the generous amount of headroom in the back is largely a direct result of the little Suzuki's straight-back-and-down profile.

Stadium-style rear seats with their elevated seating position help liberate the extra legroom that's so often lacking in cars in this class. And while this focus on the cabin is to be commended, it's not at the expense of the luggage area.

Small cars naturally come with small boots, but the Splash offers users a good-sized one for the weekly shopping. The ability to fold the rear seats to increase the available load space is, obviously, an especially welcome benefit on a car of this size.

Along with the Swift, Suzuki's Splash is something of a hidden gem. It would be easy to overlook the car in favour of something more familiar from the established competition, but the styling, cabin packaging and uprated 1.2 petrol engine are persuasive attributes.

With its distinctive looks and refreshingly straightforward ownership experience, this low-cost but high-value small car with the funny name deserves to be at the top of everyone's shopping list.

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