Suzuki Swift 1.5 GLX

One of our top superminis remains a tempting choice.

  • Suzuki not only has more power than its Chevy rival, it provides better performance and refinement; adding to the sense of luxury is Suzuki’s keyless entry system.
  • The Swift offers the smaller load area.

If you’re trying to design the perfect supermini, the MINI is a fine car to take inspiration from. And that’s exactly what Suzuki did with the Swift. While it doesn’t offer the Brit’s retro looks, it has the elements of a great small hatch; cheeky styling, small dimensions and fun handling.

And the Swift is proof that the company is capable of building quality products. It’s ideal for driving in town – at 3,695mm, it’s 225mm shorter than the Aveo – and also has a smaller turning circle, so parking is a doddle. But while the Swift is compact, it’s far from dull to look at.

It has been designed with European tastes in mind, and so has smooth lines and a high waistline, while tall headlights help it stand out. Check out the black A-pillars, rounded, upright windscreen and sloping roof edges, and it’s clear how big an influence the MINI had on Suzuki’s stylists. It’s one of the class’s neatest designs.

The attractive body also hides the Swift’s height well. It’s only 5mm shorter than the Aveo, yet is undoubtedly better proportioned. The tall cabin means that rear passengers get plenty of headroom – slightly more than the Chevrolet – while legroom is also good. And although the front seats arch back towards you, access to the rear is easier, thanks to wide opening doors.

Up front, the unusual profile is a little more noticeable. Due to the upright windscreen, everything seems much closer to you – just as it did in an original Sixties Mini! Yet we prefer the layout of the dashboard and the general cabin ambience to those of the Chevrolet.

The simple stereo is a highlight, while the rest of the switchgear feels robust. All the controls, from the well weighted clutch to the accurate gearshift, work with precision. Such quality makes a mockery of the sub-£10,000 price.

This extends to the excellent 1.5-litre VVT engine, too. The unit delivers 100bhp – virtually the same as the smaller 1.4-litre – but it feels much punchier. And while you have to push it hard at times, the powerplant’s free-revving nature makes this a pleasure rather than a chore.

The engine isn’t as raucous as the Aveo’s, and offers more refinement. It performed better, too. The Swift did 30-70mph in 11.3 seconds – nearly two seconds quicker – and seems faster than that.

But the highlight of the Swift is its handling. The short wheelbase aids agility, and while body control could be better, it’s still very impressive, especially given its finely tuned ride quality. Rough surfaces provide few problems for the well set-up suspension, and it’s comfortable even with four on board. It can’t match the class leaders dynamically, but the Suzuki is far more sophisticated and composed in corners than its Chevrolet rival.

Only on the motorway is the Swift’s shape a drawback. While the engine ensures keeping up with traffic is no trouble, the high-sided body can be susceptible to cross winds.

You’re more likely to be blown over by Suzuki’s prices, though. At £9,515 for the five-door, the GLX is cheaper than the Aveo LT. You don’t get electric windows in the back, and there’s no MP3 input, but the Swift offers six airbags to the Chevy’s four. It also has keyless entry. Factor in the solid build quality, and the Suzuki looks a bargain.

Details

Price: £9,515Model tested: Swift 1.5 GLXChart position: 1WHY: The cheeky Swift is one of our favourite superminis, and offers excellent value. Buyers get a choice of three or five-door variants.

Economy

WHILE the Swift’s claimed economy is 2mpg worse than the Aveo’s, at 45.6mpg, on test it was only slightly thirstier. It gave 36.7mpg, and does 363 miles between fill-ups.

Residuals

The neat styling and quality cabin make the Swift popular second-hand. And after three years, it will still be worth £4,272 – or 44.9 per cent of its list price.

Servicing

Suzuki dealers came 10th out of 30 in our Driver Power 2008 survey – that’s ahead of BMW and Mercedes. Three services on the Swift cost £485.

Tax

Revised for 2008, the Swift’s 1.5-litre engine puts out 150g/km of CO2. But even though the Suzuki costs less to buy, lower-band business users pay £343 annually in tax.

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