When the first diminutive citycars like the Fiat Panda
appeared on the market, the manufacturing philosophy behind them could be best summed up with two words: cheap and cheerful. Although instantly popular, there were some drivers - particularly those in the market for a second car solely for city driving - who made it clear that, while they liked the size, they wanted the kind of build quality they were used to with larger vehicles. Enter the Suzuki Splash.
Despite costing around the same as you would expect to pay for a car from a class above, the Splash had no difficulty finding plenty of fans. Initially available with two engines - a 1.2 litre petrol and 1.3-litre diesel - a 1.0-litre model was added to the range in 2009. Although Suzuki may be best known for its motorcycles, it is actually the second largest manufacturer of small cars in Japan and the expertise it has gained in this field is instantly apparent with the Splash.
Bang for your buck
In order to meet the expectations set up by its relatively high price point, the approved used Suzuki Splash features a high level of standard equipment. Air conditioning, a leather-trimmed steering wheel with remote audio controls, a CD tuner with MP3 player, heated and electrically-adjustable door mirrors, ESP stability control and ABS with brake assist are all included with every model.
Built on the same chassis as the Suzuki Swift supermini, the Splash has a shorter wheelbase making it compact and highly manoeuvrable. By making the Splash considerably taller than the Swift, Suzuki's designers have managed to create an interior that feels light and roomy. Front and rear doors make it easy to seat four adults in comfort. The boot capacity is limited with the rear seats up but can be boosted by folding them down.
What you'll pay
The build quality of the Suzuki Splash has led to higher than average residual values. A 08 plate 1.3-litre diesel model will cost around £5,560 - more than half its original value when new. Later models from the first year of production should still come in at just under £6,000. Savings can be made on insurance as the 1.0, 1.2 and 1.3 litre models fall into groups 2, 3 and 4 respectively.
What to check
The higher price of the Suzuki Splash for sale is reflected in the fact that both the engine and bodywork are reassuringly solid. As with most citycars, the main things to watch out for are the dings, bumps and scrapes that are all part and parcel of urban driving.
The higher quality components used in making the Splash are reflected in the fact that some replacement parts are on the expensive side, but savings can be made if reconditioned rather than new parts are chosen. A full exhaust system for a 2008 1.2 GLS costs £130 which compares well with similar vehicles but brake pads are at the higher end of the scale, costing £60 for the front and £40 for the rear. A reconditioned starter motor will cost around £110 while a reconditioned radiator can be had for around £100.
How it drives
The all-round visibility of the elevated driving position combined with nimble handling make the used Suzuki Splash a pleasure to drive through the busy city streets it was designed for. Parking is particularly easy thanks to the lack of a rear overhang. Some find the ride a little firm, though whether this will be a problem depends on the quality of the roads in your local area. A test drive is the best way to experience this first hand.
If you occasionally undertake longer journeys the 1.2-litre model provides the best blend of power and economy as the newer 1.0-litre model lacks the power needed for motorway driving. If, however, your use mainly involves commuting and the odd trip to the shops, the smaller power unit could be ideal. With more than 56mpg on the combined cycle, the 1.0-litre is also cheap to run. The 1.3-litre diesel offers even greater fuel economy at 62mpg but only drivers who cover sufficient miles will be able to successfully offset the additional cost.
The Suzuki Splash costs more than many equivalent citycars but has a high enough build quality and comes with sufficient features to justify this. While the driver and passenger are well accommodated, space is limited for both rear passengers and luggage. Despite this, when tasked to tackle the role for which it was designed, the Splash is hard to beat.