The global economy is still in recovery and fuel prices are in the stratosphere, so cost-conscious superminis have become one of the most fashionable commodities on the high street. As a result, the all-new Suzuki Swift couldn’t have arrived at a better time.
Designers have taken a cautious approach with the styling, but underneath its familiar-looking exterior, the latest-generation Swift is a whole new proposition. For example, there is a 1.2-litre petrol engine that promises excellent fuel returns and low emissions, while bosses claim class-leading comfort and refinement. Buyers can take their pick from three and five-door bodystyles, and the model has some big-car features inside.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Suzuki Swift
We test the five-door hatch version in well equipped SZ3 trim, which costs £11,445.
Lining up against the newcomer are two hugely capable value champions. The Mazda 2 is a firm Auto Express favourite. With its striking looks, sharp chassis and excellent build quality, it’s an extremely tempting proposition – particularly in £11,170 TS2 trim.
Completing our trio is the Hyundai i20, which combines a spacious cabin with a generous standard kit list and desirable five-year warranty.
So, can the Swift race to the top of the best-seller charts – or will it lose out to its rivals?
The supermini class is one of the most closely fought sectors of the new car market. As a result, manufacturers need to work hard to keep their offerings ahead of the competition.
Our test models all have a great deal to offer, but the Hyundai is the first to fall. It’s spacious, well built and comes with a superb five-year warranty. Unfortunately, it isn’t as good to drive as its rivals and the uninspiring cabin and plain looks also let it down. So, is the new Suzuki good enough to topple the Mazda? Well, it’s incredibly close. The Swift is more comfortable, easy to drive and refined than before, and has the cleanest engine here. Some of the old car’s flaws remain – the boot is still small – but it does just enough to see off the 2. The Mazda is slightly roomier and cheaper, plus it’s better to drive. But it isn’t as comfortable as its rivals, and a revised model is waiting in the wings to debut at next month’s Paris Motor Show. While that’s good when haggling for a discount, the new Suzuki will feel fresher for longer. None of our contenders is likely to disappoint, but the Swift has the broadest appeal of all.
1. Suzuki Swift
The latest-generation Swift builds on the strengths of the old model. It’s refined, comfortable and good
to drive. We think the firm could have been a lot more brave with the styling and the small boot
is still disappointing, but the Suzuki is a great choice.
2. Mazda 2
Fun to drive, solidly built and competitively priced, the Mazda 2 is a superb all-rounder. The ride is firm and the 1.2-litre engine emits more CO2 than the Suzuki, yet it’s hard not to love this sharply styled supermini. Imminent facelift means you need to get a discount, though.
3. Hyundai i20
The i20’s appeal is obvious. It’s big, practical and has a brilliant warranty. There’s nothing wrong with its performance, either. The trouble is, the cabin is dull, and it’s not as much as fun to drive as its rivals. It’s the no-nonsense choice.