The Suzuki Swift is better than ever - but is that good enough, when the crowded supermini segment is filled with excellent alternatives?

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Suzuki is a quiet giant – a mass maker of cars like the Suzuki Swift, motorbikes, SUVs, ATVs and outboard motors, yet its position in our consciousness Suzuki sits well beneath Subaru and Mitsubishi, never mind Nissan, Honda and Toyota.

The first Swift actually dates from 1983 and was unusual back then for appearing under an amazing variety of guises: Chevrolet Swift/Sprint/Metro, Geo Metro, Holden Barina, Pontiac Firefly, Maruti 100, Subaru Justy, Suzuki Forsa and Suzuki Jazz. It was also extraordinary for surviving for 12 years and for briefly running alongside its 2000 dual-named Swift/Suzuki Ignis replacement. 
The 2004 Swift that replaced these was vastly more competitive, but shorter lived.

Suzuki has taken the evolutionary route with this Swift

Suzuki has taken the evolutionary route with this Swift. It requires a hard stare to distinguish it from the old version, whose style it emulates in almost every detail. There’s no stand-out area of improvement here. Instead, the Swift has incrementally advanced on multiple fronts and, as we’ll see, mostly to good effect.

The new range starts with a three-door Suzuki Swift 1.2. The 
five-door 1.2 SZ4 is the most expensive petrol model in the line-up, while an automatic gearbox adds further to the price. A 1.3-litre Suzuki Swift diesel is only available in SZ3 trim.

Such are its merits, the warm hatch Suzuki Swift Sport is reviewed separately elsewhere.



Suzuki Swift headlight

Its styling may be evolutionary, but this Suzuki Swift rides on an all-new, Suzuki-designed platform and is usefully bigger than its predecessor. The wheelbase is 50mm longer than before and overall length is up by 90mm, but width and height have increased only fractionally. 

Despite its familiarity, the Swift remains an attractive design, subtly modernised by lamp clusters that stretch further along the length of the car, tidier detailing and, inside, a swoopier dashboard that’s arguably less distinctive than that of the old car. 

Its styling may be evolutionary, but this Suzuki Swift rides on an all-new, Suzuki-designed platform

The new Swift’s nose is remarkably similar to the old car’s. The subtle identifiers are a grille that cuts into the leading edge of the bonnet, more shapely foglight surrounds (SZ4 only), a more prominent lower intake and bigger headlights. The radiator is one of many components to have had weight removed. The assembly is now 1.5kg lighter because the cooling fan shroud is made of plastic rather than steel.

Black A-pillars are standard on all Swift models and are key to the success of the tall, boxy shape. Contrasting roof colours aren’t available. Privacy-blackened, electric rear side windows come with top-of-the-range SZ4 trim, and all models get tinted glass.

The rear end is distinguished by a tailgate overhanging the numberplate plinth, a rear foglamp flush with the faux diffuser and a rear wiper that, curiously, now parks on the offside rather than nearside.

The rear lights are the most distinguishing detail of the new-generation Swift, with the clear inset panel differentiating them from the all-red clusters of its similar predecessor.

16in alloy wheels are standard from the SZ3 trim level upwards and ride on 185/55 R16 rubber. The entry-level Swift SZ2 gets steel wheels and 175/65 R15 tyres.


Suzuki Swift dashboard

The Suzuki Swift’s extended wheelbase has produced a roomy cabin, for passengers at least. Room up front is ample and the driving position comfortable. The SZ4’s four-way adjustable wheel (the column adjusts for rake only on cheaper models) makes it easy to get comfortable in the supportive seat. 

The story is pretty good in the rear, too. There’s decent leg and foot room (you can slide your size 10s under the front seats) and the seat cushion is long enough to provide proper thigh support – rare in this class. Head room is less capacious, and a fifth passenger won’t be enjoying a five-star experience, but this cabin is roomier than many in the class.

The cabin is notable for being almost bereft of colour

The same can’t be said of the boot. A 204-litre capacity is small and looks it when you lift the electrically released tailgate, which doesn’t extend to floor height. You can fold the asymmetrically split rear seats, of course, but these rest crudely on their cushions to create a huge step up from the boot floor and a rather unsatisfactory extended cargo zone. 

Storage provision for minor cargo is more generous and includes door bin cum bottle holders in every door, a spacious centre console and an adequate glovebox. 

Less pleasing is the cabin’s finish. In addition to having hard-feel plastics throughout (seats and carpet apart), it’s notable for being almost bereft of colour. The red instrument details are the only relief apart from the usual deployment of silver plastic trim. You can only have the interior in a dull grey-black, too.


Suzuki Swift side profile

The Suzuki Swift would score more highly here were it not for the power delivery of its 1.2-litre petrol engine, which we suspect won’t suit every buyer, even if Suzuki says it’s targeting younger types with this car. That’s because this sweet-spinning unit produces its best work from around 4000rpm, at which point the revcounter’s needle advances with a rorty beat and noticeably more vigour. 

Although you wouldn’t call the Swift slow below this engine speed, it’s short of no-nonsense grunt, as might be expected with a 4800rpm torque peak. Instead, you must rev it and use the gearbox, which at least serves a particularly slick shift – characteristics that are fun for keen drivers but inconvenient for those who aren’t. 
The lowish gearing is no surprise with an engine this small – second is good for 53mph, third for 77mph – and underscores the need to continually stir the gearbox.

The lowish gearing is no surprise with an engine this small

The fact that the Swift hits 60mph in 11.6sec – very good for a 1.2 -  demonstrates that it is possible to travel briskly in this car, though, and the process is made all the more enjoyable by an engine so smooth and willing. But the 10.5sec lug from 30-50mph in fourth, although adequate, is less sparkling, and while the engine is also remarkable for the low speeds from which it can pull the higher gears, it could use more low-down tug. You can feel the soft clunk of the air conditioning compressor cutting in and out as well. 

But there’s little else to criticise, especially given the powertrain’s strong fuel economy. We recorded 42.8mpg overall – an excellent result, given that this included our performance testing, so 50mpg plus should be a real possibility.

The diesel promises a very credible average mpg and performance isn’t that far off the petrol car, but you'll have to go quite a few thousand miles before the economy saving of the extra mileage offsets the higher initial outlay. The diesel is a decent enough motor, being willing and reasonably refined, but it makes sense for only a small proportion of buyers.


Suzuki Swift rear cornering

The Suzuki Swift’s chassis is well able to handle either engine at its most eager and, perhaps more impressively, any liberties taken by an emboldened driver. This car has a game chassis that encourages brisk driving. Its mix of strong grip, good chassis balance, confident body control and excellent brakes makes a decent little entertainer of the Swift. 

That’s how it feels on the road, and MIRA’s handling circuits do nothing to challenge that conclusion; the Swift handles very tidily. Drive it with the zeal it encourages and you can be circulating rather more speedily than you’d expect of a supermarket shopper.

This car has a game chassis that encourages brisk driving

The Swift is slightly let down by its steering, which feels a little artificial and disconnected during the initial swivel and doesn’t exactly flood you with feel. A more serious criticism for most buyers will be the mild lack of directional stability in crosswinds. 

But it’s a relaxing car for the most part. Its ride is unexpectedly pliant, even if some surfaces trigger a bit of fidget. Its ability to deal with bigger potholes is quite impressive and partly compensates for the mild shortage of refinement at motorway speeds that demands a brief tweak of the volume control if you’re listening to the stereo. There’s no dominant background sound – it’s mostly the general commotion of motion – but there’s more wind than road noise. Were it not for this, the Swift would be a surprisingly able long-distance car.

Given its likely urban commuter status, its reasonably quiet and comfortable ride at lower speeds is more important. It’s also easy to manoeuvre, although, as in most contemporary cars, the view to the rear is restricted.


Suzuki Swift 2010-2013

The Suzuki Swift’s three-year/60,000-mile warranty looks unexceptional next to the Kia seven-year and Vauxhall lifetime warranties, but its strong reliability record makes this issue less serious. More appealing will be its strong economy, low emissions and low VED exposure. Depreciation is likely to be competitive, even if insurance costs more than for the equivalent Ford Fiesta.

Fuel economy on both the petrol and diesel models is competitive with the best of its rivals, without reaching class-leading standards. Good enough then to suit all but the buyer trying to eke the very last metre from their tank.

The diesel’s performance is pretty close to the petrol model’s

The top-of-the-range SZ4 gets you Bluetooth, electric rear windows, keyless ignition, automatic lights, rear privacy glass and climate control (rather than air conditioning). Bluetooth apart, SZ3 should be a cannier buy for most with its manual air conditioning and alloy wheels. However, the entry-level SZ2 isn’t especially well equipped so it’s worth trying to find the extra grand it costs to get up to SZ3 level.

The auto version is only available in SZ4 trim and adds to the price, while economy drops, emissions rise and the 0-62mph time rises by over a second.


3.5 star Suzuki Swift

This latest Suzuki Swift is the best Swift ever. Its smaller petrol engine is brisker and more efficient and its CO2 emissions are excellent, especially on the petrol..

There’s a well sorted chassis that combines with rev-happy manners to produce a lightly entertaining drive. The Swift should be safe, too, as it also scores five NCAP stars.

The Swift is good, but it’s not yet strong enough to challenge the best

There are disappointments. The cabin provides decent passenger space, but the boot is ridiculously small and its seat-folding arrangements are crude – we expect a little more flexibility from a supermini these days.

What’s more, the Swift’s dash is short on charm – it’s an unrelentingly grey interior while the quality of plastics, while hard wearing, are some way off those of rivals. It’s a cheap-feeling interior in a not very cheap car. Equipment levels of all bar the entry-level car are no more than reasonable, on the cheapest car they’re poor.

This would matter less if it were significantly cheaper than the Volkswagen Polo SE or Ford Fiesta Zetec, both of which are more rounded and stylish, but the difference is not that great. The Swift has real appeal and is more competitive than before, but it’s not yet strong enough to challenge the best.

Suzuki Swift 2010-2013 First drives