The Splash, as you may know, is a hatchback that fits into a space that nobody really imagined could exist: in between the best-selling but quite small Swift supermini and the minuscule Alto city car.
What’s new? Splash has been facelifted with a new front bumper, grille and bonnet, there’s new trim inside (new cloth, black inserts replace silver) and the 69kW/118Nm 1.2-litre engine has been tweaked to give better fuel economy: 5.7 litres per 100km for the four-speed automatic model on test.
The Splash starts at $18,500 and it’s that entry-level model that gets the most benefit from the model-upgrade because it has finally gained electronic stability control. The top Limited model has always had it, but also gains 15-inch alloy wheels, body-colour doorhandles, keyless entry and pushbutton start over the base car.
Cars like this are commonplace in Europe but do still seem like a bit of an oddity in New Zealand: we don’t really have the congestion and parking restrictions to warrant such compromise in styling and dynamics for the sake of a small footprint.
Compromise there certainly is. The powertrain is perky but requires tough love to keep up with fast-moving city traffic. The Splash is fine on the motorway and it certainly doesn’t shy away from open-road driving, but you have to accept that when you stray away from city streets and/or the suburbs you taking the car to the limit of its abilities. As you would be with any similar-size machine.
Which is perhaps the reason why there really aren’t that many similar-size rivals on sale in New Zealand. The Splash is a better car than the Holden Barina Spark (and you can’t have an automatic one of those either), but the Korean-sourced Holden is a lot cheaper. It lines up nicely against the Kia Picanto, but falls short on sophistication compared with the Kia.
Contrary to how it might seem, I do think I ‘get’ the Splash. It’s a car aimed at older buyers who appreciate the massive glass areas (although rearward visibility is severely compromised by the thick C-pillars) and what Suzuki calls a “walk-in” cabin – meaning that you don’t really have to bend over to get into the thing because it’s 80mm taller than a Swift and the seats are mounted high.
However, I really do think you’d have to be very old indeed to buy the Splash because the Swift remains a brilliant little car in most respects and you’re giving up a lot to move from that to a Splash.