Suzuki Swift review
The Suzuki Swift is a fun-to-drive supermini with a lot of charm, but it's not the most practical choice
The Suzuki Swift is a fun little supermini with plenty to like, and it rivals the likes of the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20 and Mazda 2. The low price, great handling and smart styling mean the Suzuki Swift will appeal to many - and it might just be the perfect supermini for you.
Suzuki's bound to be ahppy with the sales of the Swift, with the car selling over 3.4million units globally since it launched in 2005. The range has been updated over the years, with the newest SZ-L model joining the SZ2, SZ3, SZ4 and Sport versions.
There's also the excellent Suzuki Swift Sport, which is available as a three- or five-door (like the rest of the range) but it also gets a 134bhp 1.6-litre engine and a few tweaks to help it handle better. It's a great 'warm' hatch, and although the performance isn't blistering it's still a brilliant little car to drive. The other models still share some of the Sport's DNA when it comes to the corners, too.
Whether it’s just to pop to the shops or to take on a twisty B-road. the Swift makes every journey fun, but a small boot and cramped rear seats mean it's not the most practical choice in this sector. Some buyers may be put off by the bland interior, which can't match a more expensive rival like the VW Polo.
Some new styling tweaks and new interior trim appears as part of a mid-life facelift in 2013, as well as the option of four-wheel drive on the 1.2-litre five-door model. This is called the Swift 4x4 and is a great choice if you're after a 4x4 supermini, despite losing some fuel economy as a result of the extra weight. There’s no negative impact on the excellent driving dynamics and plenty of extra reassurance in harsh weather.
Our choice: Swift 1.2 SZ3 five-door
The Suzuki Swift's supermini styling might look familiar (the MINI-inspired looks may not be to everyone's taste), but the Swift is still a handsome supermini.
The chunky features mean it has a distinctive look, especially for a car at the cheaper end of the market. The interior is well designed too, and the new sat-nav and DAB radio system on the SZ4 model suits it well. The plastics are a bit bland, however.
There are four main trim levels – SZ2, SZ3, SZ-L and SZ4 – but all cars come with split-folding rear seats, electric front windows, heated door mirrors and a USB connector.
SZ3 trim adds 16-inch alloy wheels, manual air-con and Bluetooth connectivity, while SZ-L spec adds cruise control and rear privacy glass. Range-topping SZ4 cars also get luxuries like automatic air-con, front fog lights and automatic headlights, as well as keyless entry and start.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is the hot hatch of the range, and is identified by its racy bodykit, 17-inch alloys, twin exit exhaust and bright HID headlamps. The 4x4 model comes in SZ3 or SZ4 trim only, with the latter getting front and rear bash plates and plastic wheelarch protectors, which give the Swift 4x4 an extra dose of style.
The Swift SZ-L starts life as a 1.2-litre SZ3 model, which already comes with seven airbags, air-con and Bluetooth as standard. It adds LED running lights, either Boost Blue or Cosmic Black metallic paint, and a white roof, rear spoiler and door mirrors.
Inside there’s silver stitching on the steering wheel and gearlever, plus unique fabric for the seats. It’s not a subtle look, but if you’re over 25, it’s not really aimed at you.
The Swift has a very nimble feel to it and is very easy to drive, making it a doddle to handle in town. The sharp steering, strong grip and slick gearchange mean it's as fun as a Ford Fiesta on a twisting B-road.
The smallest 1.2-litre petrol engine is a smooth and eager performer, but it needs to be worked hard to give its best. The good news is that it makes little difference to performance if you opt for two or four-wheel drive. Petrol versions are also available with a smooth but slow automatic gearbox.
The 74bhp 1.3-litre diesel is the same engine found in the Vauxhall Corsa, and provides a good burst of its 190Nm of torque from low in the rev band, which makes it great fun to drive.
However, drivers wanting maximum thrills should take the Suzuki Swift Sport for a spin. Its combination of 132bhp 1.6-litre engine and precise six-speed manual gearbox means the 0-62mph sprint takes just 8.7 seconds, while the uprated chassis provides acrobatic agility in the corners.
Since 2013 the Swift has been available in three or five-door bodystyles. Better still, all Swift models are remarkably refined on the motorway and soak up most bumps and potholes.
Euro NCAP awarded the Swift the full five-star rating for safety, with a very strong 94 per cent rating for adult occupant protection. Seven airbags come as standard, with ESP, ABS and seatbelt reminders fitted to all models as well.
While Suzuki owners praised their cars' reliability and running costs in the 2014 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey, it was placed last overall as a manufacturer. That means Suzuki's cars, like the Swift, could disappoint when it comes to long-term ownership.
The Suzuki feels well built initially, but owners tell us that build quality is a concern - so look out if you're considering a used Suzuki.
The Swift is about 90mm longer than its predecessor, but it's still far behind its rivals when it comes to interior space. With just 211 litres of boot space, it's beaten on luggage capacity by the Vauxhall Corsa and Honda Jazz - even the Skoda Citigo from the class below has a bigger boot.
The boot is a bit of an odd shape, and the available space is mostly vertical - so wide items aren't likely to fit. Plus, with the rear seats folded, there’s an annoying lip that can prove intrusive when you’re carrying larger items (the three-door has a 512-litre maximum load capacity, while the five-door manages 528 litres).
Rear passengers also suffer, as there's less head and legroom than you'll find in a VW Polo or Renault Clio. At least the interior is filled with a decent amount of useful storage, including a deep centre console cubby, large glovebox and long door bins. Visibility is great, too, with what seems like a wall of glass wrapped around the car, making parking a piece of cake.
Being a supermini, the Swift offers low running costs no matter which model you go for. The 1.3 diesel model manages an average fuel consumption figure of 72.4mpg - although it disappointingly fails to dip under the 100g/km CO2 threshold.
The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol manages 56.5mpg but emits 116g/km of CO2 in three and five-door guise, which is a bit disappointing compared to newer rivals such as the Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre EcoBoost. If you opt for the four-speed automatic gearbox, these figures drop to 50.4mpg with 128g/km of CO2.
From early 2015, Suzuki will offer another version of the 1.2-litre engine, called the 'Dualjet'. Its revised engine internals don't just reduce friction - it also works to make a more efficienct fuel-air mixture, reucing consumption. The official figures show how it's paid off: Suzuki claims 65.7mpg and 99g/km is now possible. however, while you'll get more miles from a atank and pay no road tax, Suzuki predicts you'll only save around £175 over a typical year. The Dualjet model in fact costs £500 more than the normal 1.2-litre which remains no sale, so it's going to take almost three years before you've even broken even on your investment.
All models benefit from decent residuals, while the short 9,000 miles maintenance intervals are offset by the relatively low price of servicing. Every Suzuki comes with a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty and there’s also a range of fixed-price servicing deals, which should help keep costs to a minimum.