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Fourth gen of supermini brings new look and new engine but keeps Suzuki's trademark compactness and lightness

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At the launch of the new Suzuki Swift, the company said that so many small cars have been cut from manufacturers’ ranges recently that it estimates 250,000 people in the UK have bought a supermini in the past three years but won’t be able to replace it like-for-like when the time comes.

There’s no longer a Ford Fiesta, a Kia Rio, a Nissan Micra and more besides; 28% of the small car sector has been binned off. There is, though, a new Swift, and this is it.

And it’s good. It's in the UK from April 2024 in two trim levels, with a manual or an automatic gearbox and with the option of four-wheel drive. Read on to find out more.

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DESIGN & STYLING

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SUZUKI SWIFT FRONTIER BLUE BORDEAUX MAR24 UK ©JORDAN BUTTERS 29

The latest Swift is a conventional small car offering and very Suzuki: light and frugal, with a strong list of equipment and keenly priced.

Although small cars' share of the overall UK market has shrunk from 20% to 15%, “the B-segment is important and our customers want a small car", says Suzuki UK’s cars director, Dale Wyatt.

The new Swift is the fourth generation of a global model launched in 2004, although there were two previous European versions before that, so we’ve had Swifts here for 40 years. Suzuki calls this one all-new, although the ‘all’ is doing some heavy lifting, because who’s making new small cars platforms these days? 

This Swift rides on an evolution of the previous Swift’s Heartect architecture, although there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with that. It has a transversely mounted engine, front-wheel drive (with a 4WD option) and a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which is mildly hybridised, as standard. 

There’s a five-speed manual gearbox and, on front-drive models, a CVT automatic option. Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear. The brakes are ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear.

The appearance is new, but the Swift is broadly the same size as before, so it remains one of the smaller cars in the class, blurring whatever lines still exist between city car and supermini, at 3.86m long and 1.74m wide.

Gratifyingly, FWD versions come in at less than 1000kg. Wyatt says Suzuki makes cars that “tend to be a little smaller than the competition". "They’re smaller, neater, lighter. There’s a Japanese phrase for it [sho-sho-kei-tan-bi, apparently]. It’s a philosophy.”

Sound-deadening has been applied, though, in places where it usually doesn’t make it onto a Suzuki. There's underbody sound and vibration adhesive, upper-body structural adhesive to stiffen the shell, more baffle plates in the A-pillars, thicker damping sheets on the floor and dashboard, heavier carpets and liquid-filled engine mounts. 

Overall, weight is up by several tens of kilos over the lightest previous Swift, but nonetheless a basic-trimmed manual car is still just 949kg.

INTERIOR

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Inside, you can feel where weight has been saved. The Swift has an attractive enough interior but one made largely from hard, scratchy materials. This is actually fine, I think. There are soft pads on the doors, while the switches you touch often, like the brushed-look climate control, are pleasingly finished. 

There’s a good amount of ergonomic soundness to it, too: the controls for the lights (including the foglight) sit on the left stalk, those for the wiper sensitivity on the right, and there are separate climate buttons and a soft-feel old-school handbrake.

There's also a touchscreen, of course, but you don’t need it for major driving controls or safety functions.

The lane-keeping assistance can be toggled by a button on the dash, but the speed-limit assistant (which pings with false positives, as these systems do, and is obliged to default to on) can be toggled only via a steering-wheel button and a trip computer stalk while the car is stationary, so do try to remember before you set off.

This is a silly solution, by the way: there are button blanks on the dash that could do the job, and if you have to be stationary, that negates the advantage of avoiding putting it on a touchscreen. 

Still, it's a decently spacious interior, with ample front head room and a forward-pushed windscreen such a stretch from the driver that you feel set a long way back in the car.

There’s plenty of head and leg room in the rear, too. It's relatively narrow but plenty comfortable enough for four (although it can seat five).

The boot is from 265 litres with the rear seats up to 980 litres with them folded down. It has a deep floor, loosely carpeted rather than solidly based, with space for a spare wheel (optional) beneath.

ENGINES & PERFORMANCE

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The small, naturally aspirated engine fires to a muted idle. This Z12E triple replaces the previous Swift’s four-cylinder unit and makes a near square 81bhp and 83lb ft (down 1bhp but up 4lb ft on before), with the 12V starter-generator helping out at low speeds.

This is not a fast car, with 0-62mph taking 12.5sec and a top speed of 105mph, but it will keep up with traffic easily enough.

Throttle response is good, linear and positive, with a modest little thrum accompanying acceleration, and I never felt the need to rev it out towards its 5700rpm power peak.

The five-speed manual gearbox is a joy, too, not short of throw but beautifully weighted and notch-free.

We haven’t tried the CVT option here, but I did quite recently on a previous Swift. If it’s similar, and there’s every reason to think it will be, I wouldn’t recommend it.

RIDE & HANDLING

Suzuki makes some clear claims about the Swift’s ride and handling and what its engineers have benchmarked. Body roll has been reduced to Volkswagen Polo levels, we were told, and steering response upped towards Polo and Ford Fiesta levels. 

It hadn’t really struck me that the previous Swift was less responsive than a Polo, but it doesn’t take long behind the wheel for this new model to feel relatively alert.

The steering is nicely weighted and geared and provokes a linear, positive response. It’s still perfectly stable around the straightahead – albeit it’s worth noting that my test route didn’t take in any higher-speed motorway driving, and it’s fair to think that noise levels won’t be as low as in the plushest, biggest cars in this class.

The good thing about a car that weighs sufficiently little, though, is that you don’t have to tie it down too firmly to retain strong body control. The Swift leans only a bit, takes no time to settle, and is a pretty game companion to chuck along a windy road. 

Our test car rode the 16in wheels that are standard in the UK (15s are standard in some markets), and even those were fitted with 55-profile, 185-section tyres, so there’s some absorbance in the sidewall.

This isn’t a car that rides with the same kind of deftness between ride and handling as the Fiesta did, but it's significantly closer to the top of the class than it was.

MPG & RUNNING COSTS

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SUZUKI SWIFT FRONTIER BLUE BORDEAUX MAR24 UK ©JORDAN BUTTERS 1

The Swift line-up is relatively straightforward in the UK: only one engine option, the 1.2-litre, and two trim levels, Motion and Ultra. 

With its hybridised engine, the Swift is around 7% more efficient than previously: this is a 64.2mpg, 99g/km CO2 car in base trim or a 58.8mpg, 108g/km one with the CVT.

Motion trim comes with most of what you need: reversing camera, parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, alloy wheels, keyless entry and a touchscreen with smartphone mirroring. And a suite of active safety systems that you might not want and without which it could have been even cheaper. 

Ultra trim level polishes those alloys, gets automatic climate control and a vent for the rear cabin, electric folding mirrors with integrated indicators, rear grab handles and painted door trims.

The CVT adds £1250 to the price of each trim.

Suzuki’s Allgrip four-wheel drive system, like the one you will find on the Ignis, is available with the manual only. It adds 25mm to the ground clearance and overall height. We will test that another time.

VERDICT

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Despite the departures in the small car segment, it still has a lot of good cars in it, of course. And it just gained another. The Swift is fun to drive, compact and frugal and comes well-priced and well-equipped. 

Given that you can no longer have a Fiesta, the Swift arrives rather higher up the ride-and-handling-blend order than it once would have.

And this combined with its eager engine and terrific gearbox, plus the general narrowness, means there’s a lot to like here and decent fun to be had.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes.