Fun and sporty

The Suzuki Swift offers a decent drive and reasonable practicality, although rivals are more refined

The Suzuki Swift is an appealing alternative to the likes of the Hyundai i20, Kia Rio and Toyota Yaris, that delivers good economy, particularly from its punchy three-cylinder engine, and solid build quality. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s able to challenge the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia; put simply, there are better-finished, more comfortable and more refined offerings on the market. Since prices for this Swift have been nudged upwards, it can no longer rely on ‘bargain’ appeal either – and the same is true for the Swift Sport flagship.

While the Suzuki Swift Sport has gone down as one of the best small hot hatchbacks for sale in the UK, the standard Swift is more of a left-field choice in the supermini market. It’s a decent enough small car and will appeal to those looking for something that’s fun to drive, while the Swift 4×4 is a unique model in the sector.

The current model line-up comprises SZ3, SZ-T, Attitude and SZ5 models with the Swift Sport at the top of the range.

The engine range in the standard Swift consists of two petrol units – so you either get a 1.2 Dualjet naturally aspirated four-cylinder, or the more modern 1.0-litre Boosterjet Turbo three-cylinder. Both engines can be had with Suzuki’s SHVS mild hybrid system. The 1.0 Boosterjet comes in SZ-T and SZ5 trim, with the latter version also available with a six-speed automatic gearbox.

The 1.2 Dualjet is available in combination with SZ3 trim, while SZ-T and SZ5 trims are offered with the hybrid version of the same engine. The latter, SZ5 version, is fitted with four-wheel-drive.

From 2019 onwards, the 1.2 became available with Attitude trim, which adds Swift Sport-inspired styling add-ons but at a more affordable level – both in terms of purchase price and insurance costs. The Sport model which inspired the Attitude gets a 1.4-litre turbo four-cylinder with 138bhp.

Prices for the Suzuki Swift range start from around £13,000 and climb as high as £19,200 for the Swift Sport. However, Suzuki has introduced price cuts of up to £1,000 across the range to help the car regain some of its competitive edge, helping the car look more attractive to customers.

Engines, performance & drive

The Swift features some very tricky construction that means it’s just about the lightest car in the supermini class.

That means that the 1.0 Boosterjet Turbo engine feels pretty comfortable with life; it’s not about to tear up asphalt, but you don’t have to expose yourself to too much of its characterful three-cylinder thrum, because it does its best work by 4,000rpm anyway. Indeed, you can treat it almost like a diesel, because there’s usable torque from below 2,000rpm, and in our performance tests it exceeded its quoted 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds by almost two seconds.

Likewise, the 89bhp offered by the naturally aspirated 1.2 sounds small by modern standards, but the Swift’s light weight means that it feels anything but sluggish. The lack of a turbo means that it’s down on torque though, so be prepared to work the slick and smooth five-speed manual gearbox to get the best out of the engine.

The rest of the basics feel sound enough. The steering doesn’t do an amazing job of communicating what the front wheels are doing but it’s nicely weighted and consistent. The five-speed manual gearbox has a pleasingly short throw and is happy enough to shift quickly, too.

That lack of mass means the Swift feels pretty agile, too. The car is happy to change direction quickly and it stays admirably flat in corners. Unique to the class is the AllGrip all-wheel drive system available on some models, which offers extra traction and security. While it’s cheap and rugged enough to do a decent job off-road, it only has a limited appeal with buyers.

The trade-off for this agility is ride quality. In the most part it stays composed, but over broken surfaces it gets a bit unsettled. In particular, passengers in the rear are likely to complain about being bounced around.

There’s nothing to suggest that you’re driving a hybrid if you’re behind the wheel of an SHVS-equipped car, incidentally. It’s a very mild set-up, with a lithium-ion battery under the front passenger seat that harnesses braking energy and then uses it to power a small integrated starter generator. This, in turn, helps the petrol engine when you’re accelerating, but the goal is efficiency rather than performance, so it never feels like an extra surge of pace. Indeed, if anything, it’s impressively well integrated.

The hot Swift Sport has a decent breadth of talents, with a punchy engine and direct steering, but it’s undone by handling that plays it too safe.

Engines

The most basic engine is the 1.2 Dualjet petrol, a normally aspirated four-cylinder unit producing 89bhp and 120Nm of torque. In this spec it’s available with the entry-level SZ3 trim only, and it’s not the most rapid of vehicles; 0-62mph takes 11.9 seconds.

The heartland of the range is the strong and swift 1.0 Boosterjet Turbo three-cylinder. This turbocharged motor produces 110bhp and 170Nm of torque between 2,000rpm and 3,500rpm – enough for the Swift to crack 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds.

Suzuki’s SHVS mild-hybrid set-up is offered on both of these motors, which helps reduce emissions, but without an increase in performance.

The SHVS-equipped 1.2 is the niche model in the range, because it also gets four-wheel drive. That hybrid tech helps to negate much of the efficiency penalty of the 4×4 system, but it’s the slowest Swift, with a 0-62mph time of 12.6 seconds.

All of these derivatives get a five-speed manual gearbox – but there is also a six-speed automatic available. It’s offered only with the non-hybrid Boosterjet, and is actually the fastest Swift model (0-62mph in 10.0 seconds).

The Swift Sport offers 138bhp from its 1.4-litre turbocharged engine. This doesn’t sound like much but, given the Swift’s low weight, and the engine’s decent 230Nm of torque, it’s satisfyingly brisk when shooting out of corners.

MPG, CO2 & running costs

There’s no denying that the Suzuki Swift’s lightweight construction helps both of its core engines to achieve some strong fuel economy figures. Go for the most basic unit of all, the 1.2-litre Dualjet, and you’re buying a car with CO2 emissions of just 106g/km and official fuel economy of 55.4mpg. At the other end of the scale, the 138bhp Swift Sport returns 47.1mpg and emits 125g/km of CO2 – excellent numbers, considering the performance.

Our long-term Swift Sport returned low-forties mpg over the course of our nine-month run. The turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder Boosterjet should be able to get similarly close to its official numbers – which are almost as impressive, at 51.4mpg and 110g/km. Add the SHVS hybrid system, and the Boosterjet manages 98g/km and marginally better fuel economy of 51.8mpg.

The Suzuki Swift 4×4 uses the 1.2 Dualjet engine with SHVS, and courtesy of its part-time 4WD system manages an impressive 101g/km emissions (better than the standard Dualjet), while economy is 49.7mpg.

Insurance groups

Ratings for the Suzuki Swift are surprisingly high. The 1.2 SZ3 starts in Group 22, while the SZ-T is in Group 25 and the SZ5 is in 27. Even higher is the Swift Sport in Group 35. Go for an SHVS hybrid-equipped model, and insurance groups jump to 23 and 27 for the 1.2 and the 1.0 Boosterjet.

The only explanation for these ratings must be the relatively small number of Suzuki dealers and repairers, as well as the hassle of sourcing parts for the Swift from Japan if you have an accident.

Depreciation

Our experts predict the Suzuki Swift range will retain 37-43% of its value after three years. The best performer is the SZ-T, while the Swift Sport retains around 38% of its value.

Inside, the Swift’s cabin is best described as functional. There’s no soft, squidgy plastics or fancy features here: what there is, is a fairly solid cabin with a neat layout and big, simple controls for the air conditioning system.

Suzuki expects few customers to opt for the most basic SZ3 edition of the Swift, and we can see why; it does without any sort of central touchscreen system, and gets electric windows in the front only. However, it does bring air-con, LED daytime running lights, DAB and Bluetooth connectivity.

Mid-spec SZ-T looks the most appealing of the editions, because it brings a seven-inch infotainment screen that incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. You also get 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights.

The Attitude edition shares most of its spec with the SZ-T. The main changes come on the outside, where it gets different alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and sill and bumper extensions which mimic those of the Swift Sport.

SZ5 throws in a 4.2-inch display between the instrument dials, climate control, polished alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and reach adjustment on the steering wheel. It also adds Suzuki’s navigation software to the central infotainment screen.

The interior design is neat, and all of the switches are in sensible positions. However, while there’s no denying that it all feels tightly screwed together, the whole experience is short on flair. Even range-topping versions get swathes of hard, black plastic, with only a single colour insert in the fascia to brighten things up. Indeed, there are precious few soft-touch materials throughout the cabin; the likes of the Ford Fiesta do a better job of feeling plush in the right areas, and it’s a world behind the SEAT Ibiza in this regard.

The Swift Sport looks the hot hatch part without being garishly attention grabbing – if you don’t choose Champion Yellow paint, of course. It gets a honeycomb radiator grille, carbon-fibre effect sills, twin exhausts and a small roof spoiler, plus unique bumpers and sports seats.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The most basic SZ3 spec brings DAB and Bluetooth compatibility, but the Swift’s infotainment set-up only really kicks off in mid-spec SZ-T and above. That brings a seven-inch infotainment screen that incorporates Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, allowing you to run apps – including audio streaming and phone-based navigation – via the large central display.

SZ5 adds a navigation system to the same display – but we’re not sure it’s worth the step up in trim level alone, because the software is a bit clunky to use and slow to respond to inputs. In fact, the whole infotainment set-up feels like it needs a quicker processor; it’s easily overwhelmed by relatively simple instructions. The resolution of that seven-inch display isn’t great, either – the graphics look clunky and the menu layouts aren’t particularly intuitive.

Practicality, comfort & boot space

Many superminis will be used as two-seaters, in effect, with the rear cabin being used for shopping more regularly than as a space for passengers. If this is your pattern of use, the Swift won’t disappoint; there’s room for two adults up front, and two grown-ups will be able to sit behind them for more than a short journey. If they’re over 6ft tall then they may complain about their knees hitting the front seats, however.

The Swift’s boot is a respectable size, at 264 litres – but it’s fair to middling for the class. The Kia Rio’s capacity is up to 325 litres, for example, and even the latest Ford Fiesta can muster around 290 litres. However, it’s worth noting that the Swift’s boot is smaller than those two because the whole car is much shorter overall. So the choice comes down to either load capacity or ease of parking.

There’s a fair old lip to lift heavy items over, though – and while the Swift’s rear seats do fold down in a 60:40 split, they leave a pretty horrid step in the floor. It certainly wouldn’t be easy to slide heavier items into the expanded load bay.

It’s easy to see all round the Swift, despite the relatively thick C-pillars. And there’s a fair amount of oddment space in the cabin, with decent-sized doorbins and a storage area ahead of the gear lever.

Visibility is good, thanks to the thin pillars and upright rear screen, although top-spec cars offer a reversing camera option. Other practical features include a small central armrest, as well as usable doorbins and a decent glovebox. You’ll also find a couple of cupholders ahead of the gear lever.

Size

The latest Suzuki Swift is about 10mm shorter than the car it replaces. However, its front and rear axles have been pushed further apart (by about 20mm); this increase in the wheelbase is designed to improve the amount of cabin space on offer, particularly to those sitting in the rear seats.

As a result, the Swift keeps its overall compact dimensions – as well as the wheel-at-each-corner stance and short overhangs that gave its previous generations such striking looks.

To give you an idea, the Swift’s wheelbase is only 20mm shorter than a Skoda Fabia’s, but the Suzuki is more than 150mm shorter than its Czech rival overall.

Leg room, head room & passenger space

The Swift’s diminutive size means that it’s still not quite as spacious as the likes of the Skoda Fabia, but there is room for four adults – and unless you’ve got a couple of six-footers in the rear, there are unlikely to be many complaints about longer journeys. There’s plenty of head and shoulder room for both sets of passengers.

Boot

The good news here is that this Swift’s latest platform has allowed Suzuki’s engineers to package in a much larger boot than this car has ever offered before – 264 litres. The bad news is that this is still really only average in a class where plenty of rivals are used as small family cars. A Skoda Fabia offers 330 litres, for example, and even the latest Fiesta manages 290.

Nor is there anything remarkable about the Swift’s boot set-up. The back seats fold down but while doing this does free up a fair amount of extra space, it also leaves a big step in the floor that makes it awkward to slide in heavier items.

Reliability & safety

Suzuki has a pretty strong reputation for build quality, and that side of its operation tends to score well in the Auto Express annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey.

The Suzuki Swift didn’t feature in the 2019 Driver Power survey, but Suzuki itself achieved an impressive eighth place finish out of 30 manufacturers. No other brand scored better for running costs and fuel economy, while reliability was praised. Infotainment and ride quality weren’t rated particularly highly, however.

The Swift was awarded two separate ratings by Euro NCAP. In standard guise it was given three stars out of five. While its 83% adult occupant and 75% child occupant scores are decent enough, it was let down by a 25% safety assist score.

Euro NCAP gave the Swift four stars, however, when it was fitted with an optional safety pack that included autonomous emergency braking. In this guise, the Swift scored 88% for adults, and 44% for its safety assistance systems.

Warranty

All Suzuki Swifts get a three-year, 60,000-mile warranty. That’s a typical duration for the industry in general, albeit with a slightly higher mileage limit (many brands still operate on a 12,000-miles-per-year basis). However, the Swift’s warranty can’t match the Kia Rio’s seven-year policy, or the five years of cover offered with the Hyundai i20 and Toyota Yaris.

Servicing

Suzuki has a history of shorter service intervals than many of its rivals, and the Swift looks set to continue that pattern. Its service intervals are listed as every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres (just over 9,300 miles). That’s a slightly shorter distance than you’ll find with many other superminis – although given how most Swift customers use their cars, the annual interval is likely to kick in before the mileage does anyway.

We’ve yet to see any hard figures on how much the Swift will cost to service, but Suzuki has a history of being competitive on maintenance pricing – and of offering payment plans that allow owners to spread the cost over a 12-month period.

Verdict 3/5

Positives

  • Strong performance
  • Good economy
  • Tidy handling

Negatives

  • Noise at speed
  • Unsettled ride
  • Hard plastics in cabin

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