What is the Suzuki Swift?
The supermini, or small hatchback, is the UK’s most popular type of car, and the Swift is Suzuki’s answer to the better-known models such as the Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo.
It comes in a choice of three or five-door body styles. The range is relatively straightforward with a 1.2-litre petrol engine powering the majority of models, or a 1.3-litre diesel for those who are happy to pay more in return for better fuel economy (72.4mpg on the combined cycle).
There is a 1.6-litre petrol engine in the hot Sport version. It’s what some might call Suzuki’s “halo” car; the one that will get the motoring press and car fans talking. It is available with three or five-doors, sporty styling (rear spoiler, twin exhaust pipes and 17in alloy wheels) and that 1.6-litre engine directing 136hp to the front wheels via a six-speed gearbox.
The everyday 1.2-litre Swift is impressively frugal, returning as much as 56mpg, but dynamically it feels middle-of-the-road. It can’t match the Ford Fiesta’s sense of fun and composure when driven quickly, nor is it as refined and comfortable as a Volkswagen Polo. That leaves it mixing it with cars such as the Mazda 2, Toyota Yaris or Vauxhall Corsa, which are all competent but no more. One of its issues is an excess of noise, which can become tiring over a long journey.
However, there is one exception to the rule: the Swift Sport. It is light: 1,045kg at the kerb compared with a Mini Cooper’s 1160kg. Lightness means less mass, means quicker responses. The Sport has very quick responses. Its steering is fast and just the right side of light; you always know which way the wheels are pointing. It grips corners as if its 17in wheels were shod with Velcro. Of course, none of this would amount to much were body roll to fling you about like socks in the wash. Happily, the little Swift remains upright throughout. Thanks to those tall wheels and a well balanced suspension set-up, it’s supple riding, too.
The engine is a jewel: normally aspirated where many rivals rely on forced induction, smooth revving (it develops peak power just shy of the 7,200rpm redline without complaint) and muscular. It feels easily capable of besting Suzuki’s claimed 8.7 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint. The six-speed gearbox has a range of well-chosen ratios and a strongly sprung selector action that locates them for you. Its weak spot is the clutch. The pedal has too much travel. Especially in stop-start urban driving, raising your foot to operate it becomes tiring.
This isn’t a car for those who value expressive design and playful detailing in the cabin; the Swift’s driving environment is functional and doesn’t deviate from the default grey and black colour schemes for car interiors. Too many of its rivals show it up in this area.
At least the Swift’s cabin is extremely roomy. A 6ft 5in colleague who usually complains about being forced into a ball in most cars, had nothing but praise for the Swift’s generous leg and headroom in the three-door model. The rear cabin will accommodate a couple of more average-size occupants while the boot is, just, big enough for a week’s shopping, with a 211-litre capacity. The rear seats split and fold to help fit larger loads.
What to look for when buying a used Suzuki Swift
The Swift has so far proved to be very reliable, with very few fault patterns showing up. However, some owners have had problems making a clean getaway with their 1.2 auto. It’s because of the way the CVT gearbox works and unfortunately they all do that, Sir… The paint can also chip and scratch a bit too readily but obviously, how cherished a car is makes a big difference here.
One recall so far isn’t a complete disaster. It came in January 2012 and covered all Swifts built in June and July 2011. They could suffer from ESP failure; the control unit packs in.
The one to buy
Suzuki Swift Sport
- 1586cc, 4 cylinders
- 136hp @ 7000rpm
- 118 lb ft @ 4400rpm
- 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph in 8.7sec
- Top speed:
- 44.1mpg (combined)
- Road tax band:
- L 3890mm, W 1695mm, H 1510mm
Suzuki Swift used rivals
- Mini Cooper (check used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Ford Fiesta (check used car prices on driving.co.uk)
- Volkswagen Golf (check used car prices on driving.co.uk)