Suzuki Swift review
The Suzuki Swift is a fun and affordable supermini that rivals the Renault Clio and Vauxhall Corsa
The third-generation Suzuki Swift arrived in 2010, and is a fine alternative to mainstream rivals, such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20 and Mazda 2. It has a longer body and wheelbase than the old car, and offers a more stylish look, better performance and lower emissions, too. It’s still not one of the best-looking superminis on the market, but it does boast an engaging driving experience, peppy petrol engines and a great-value price tag. It’s a winning formula for the brand, too. The Swift now accounts for almost 40 per cent of the company’s sales in the UK. The Swift is available in racy three-door and practical five-door bodystyles, as well as a brilliant Swift Sport model that's the hot hatch bargain of the decade. The latter arrived in 2011 and is powered by a 1.6-litre engine, with 134bhp and 160Nm of torque, for a 0-62mph time of around 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 125mph. However, it's not all good news, because the Suzuki is hobbled by a small boot and cramped rear seats. A mid-life facelift in 2013 brought slightly different bumpers and interior trim, plus the option of four-wheel drive on the 1.2-litre five-door model.
Our choice: Swift 1.2 SZ3 five-door
Although it was an all-new model when it launched in 2010, from a styling point of view, it was more like a mild facelift. Changes over the previous generation are hard to spot but the small Suzuki still looks clean and dynamic. There are some sleek new headlights, a more upright grille and revised rear light clusters, plus a MINI style wraparound windscreen, that combine to make the new model every bit as stylish as the current Corsa. The interior is well laid out but some of the plastics still look and feel a little cheap. There are four 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. A limited-edition Attitude model comes with Superior White paint, contrasting matt black 16-inch alloy wheels, a carbon-look roof and door mirrors, plus a body-coloured roof spoiler. The Sport 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.
The Suzuki Swift has a vibrant personality. The tiny dimensions and light controls make it a doddle to drive in town, while the sharp steering, strong grip and slick gearchange mean it's as fun as Ford Fiesta on a twisting backroad. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol engine is a smooth and eager performer, but it needs to be worked hard to give its best, although 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 acting four-speed 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. Drivers wanting maximum thrills should take the 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. From 2013, this car is now 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.
The Swift has a full five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash tests, with a class-leading 94 per cent for adult occupant protection. Standard safety kit includes seven airbags, ESP, ABS and seatbelt reminders. Suzuki finished a disappointing 26th in the 2012 Driver Power survey, putting it one place above Renault but a long way short of Vauxhall in 13th. The company has a strong reputation for reliability, while all the examples we've tried have been robustly constructed. The Swift also represents great value for money, as it undercuts many of its rivals on price yet comes with a decent haul of standard equipment.
The Swift is 3,850mm long, 1,695mm wide and 1,510mm tall, which makes it 90mm longer than the model it replaces. However, despite the increase in dimensions, outright carrying ability is way below the class standard. With just 211 litres of boot space, the Swift falls far behind many of its rivals – the Vauxhall Corsa offers much more space, with 285 litres of space, while even the smaller Skoda Citigo will swallow 251 litres. The boot itself is an awkward shape, too, as it’s too high and narrow to carry anything except the smallest bags. 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 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.
As you'd expect from a small supermini, the Suzuki Swift should cost peanuts to run. The cheapest Swift to run will be 1.3 DDIS model as it can return an average fuel consumption figure of 78.5mpg - although it disappointingly fails to dip under the 100g/km CO2 threshold. The entry-level 1.2-litre petrol manages 64.2mpg 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 57.6mpg with 129g/km of CO2. All models benefit from decent residuals, though, 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.