The Swift’s engine line-up is entirely petrol-fired and starts with the four-cylinder 1.2-litre Dualjet. This is the only option on base SZ3 models and while it may not be the strongest engine, it should be more than adequate for the urban cut and thrust. Unusually for a supermini, you can also get this engine with 4WD, although it does hurt performance noticeably, with longer up hill sections requiring you to select a lower gear.
Next up is the 109bhp 1.0-litre Boosterjet that comes with SZ-T trim. This little turbocharged three-cylinder engine isn’t as efficient as the 1.2 but it is much peppier. It’s also the only engine that is available with an automatic gearbox, although you’ll need top-spec SZ5 trim for that. The automatic gearbox is relatively slick and responds well to inputs from the pull paddles on the back of the steering wheel.
Finally, manual SZ5 Swifts come with the Boosterjet engine but with the addition of a mild hybrid system labelled SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki). This adds a small battery and a combined motor/generator unit that’s able to recover energy when you decelerate and increase pulling power from low engine speeds.
While you can’t run on electric power alone like some hybrids, this system does make the engine feel like a far bigger unit. You really don’t have to rev the motor hard to get it to pull you up to speed. It also improves economy and emissions.
If there’s one area of the driving experience that’s a little disappointing, it’s the ride. Go over the kind of decaying roads that are all too common in your typical British town and the suspension struggles to deal with the sharpest bumps and potholes.
Things do improve as speed increases, but expansion joints still spoil any calm there may be in the car. If you value comfort above all else, we’d look elsewhere. Cars such as the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo all manage to deal with UK roads more competently.
While ride comfort might be questionable, the upshot is keen handling. Throw the Swift into a few twists and turns, and you’ll find the steering is nicely weighted, quick and makes placing the nose of the car easy. There’s not much in the way of body lean and there’s plenty of grip, too.
If you do enter a bend too quickly, it doesn’t have any nasty surprises lurking, either. Therefore, we wouldn’t recommend the optional four-wheel drive system. It provides fractionally more grip in wet conditions, but the additional weight of the system blunts the Suzuki’s crisp and responsive handling.
That said, even without the four-wheel drive system, the Swift is never quite as much fun as a Fiesta, a car that has more communicative steering and even quicker responses.
So far we’ve only tried the SHVS equipped Boosterjet, an engine that impresses with its refinement. The start/stop system works quietly and sends very few vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel. The typical three-cylinder thrum is well contained and the engine fades into the background at speed.
The Swift’s manual gearbox is also commendable, with a precise, slick action that’s easy to get along with. We’re yet to try the six-speed automatic option.
That said, you hear a fair amount of road noise and plenty of whistling from around the door mirrors and door seals at speed when sat inside.
Getting comfortable behind the wheel of the Swift isn’t necessarily as easy as you might think. Although all models get plenty of movement in the seat, only SZ5 models get fore and aft adjustment for the steering wheel. Go for SZ3 or SZ-T and the wheel only moves up and down. Regardless of model, you won’t be able to get adjustable lumbar support, something that’s common for this class of car. At least all major controls fall to hand and the heater is simple to use.
Forward visibility is very good in the Swift; the windscreen pillars aren’t too thick and it’s very easy to place the front of the car. Thick rear pillars and a rising window line make the rear view less impressive, but mid-spec SZ-T and top-spec SZ5 models do get a reversing camera that helps a lot.
All Swifts get a DAB radio and Bluetooth although we’d say it’s worth going for at least SZ-T if you value connectivity. Jump up to this grade and you add a 7.0in colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, all of which allow you to control certain smartphone functions safely and legally through the infotainment system.
At the top of the range, SZ5 also adds sat nav. Connectivity may impress, but we did find that there was noticeable lag when inputting an address into the sat nav. The graphics also look dated and of low resolution and many of the on-screen icons are small enough that they become tricky to hit when you’re trying to focus on driving too. However, the system is at least easy understand thanks to a logical menu system.
Interior quality has never been one of Suzuki’s strong points and the new Swift is no exception. Everything may be solidly screwed together, but the plastics are all hard, shiny and unattractive. Sure, hard plastics are common in this class, but we’ve come to expect nicer textures and a little more of the soft stuff in places you touch regularly.
It may not be a big car, but the extra 40mm that’s been added to the Swift’s width helps the front feel surprisingly spacious. You won’t be rubbing up against a passenger and you can push the seat back a decent amount if you’re tall. The front seats also go low enough for even tall drivers to have enough head room.
Storage is good, too. The glovebox is a decent size and the door pockets are big enough to carry a 500ml bottle upright as well as the typical assortment of receipts, mints and other junk commonly found there. You also get a pair of cupholders, a smartphone-sized shelf and a tray perfect for loose change behind the gearlever.
The Suzuki Swift is by no means a class-leading small car for rear space, but it certainly offers a generous amount of room for adults: two will sit with their knees free of the front seatbacks and their heads some distance from the ceiling. That said, three adults side-by-side will struggle to stay comfortable on a long journey, and the rear windows could be a little deeper than they are to allow a better view out for rear passengers. It’s not outright claustrophobic, though.
All Swifts come with five doors, and Suzuki has placed the Swift’s rear door handles near the top of the door this time around. Happily, the rear doors open nice and wide to reveal very good access to the rear seats.
So, compared with a Fiat 500, or even Ford Fiesta, the Swift is more accommodating in the back, but rivals such as the Skoda Fabia do an even better job of ferrying rear passengers.
Don’t expect anything special from the Swift here; the seats fold with a 60/40 split as standard but that’s about as flexible as it gets. The rear seatbacks don’t recline for a more comfortable position and once folded down the rear seats leave a fairly pronounced step up in the boot floor to navigate long items over.
The boot is significantly bigger than before, up from a pokey 211 litres to a not quite so small 265. That makes it better than a Mini, but worse than the Fiesta and significantly down on the cavernous Skoda Fabia. There’s ultimately enough room for a week’s worth of shopping although you’d need to fold the seats down to get a pushchair back there. Furthermore, given the Swift’s fairly pronounced boot lip, it’d be useful if Suzuki had included a boot divider or adjustable boot floor.
The Swift looks incredibly good value when viewed next to its main rivals at list price. It’s cheaper to buy than a Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Skoda Fabia and comes with more equipment across its trim levels, too. It’s a little early to confirm whether finance deals will be better than rival ones, but with resale values looking fairly strong at this stage and with these low prices there’s no reason to think they won’t be competitive.
With such small engines, no version of the Swift is thirsty, the worst performer is the Boosterjet auto that gets an official combined 56.5mpg on the official economy cycle and emits 114g/km of carbon. If you can change your own gears, the Boosterjet manages 61.4mpg and 104g/km or 65.7mpg and 97g/km with the SHVS system - and is the best bet for company car drivers. The 1.2 Dualjet matches the fuel economy but is 1g/km worse at 98g/km. Even the 4WD 1.2 is good for 101g/km and 62.8mpg.
While the Swift’s servicing costs are about average at this level, it’s worth pointing out that its insurance costs are unusually high. It’s due to expensive repair costs, and hence a high group rating. Suzuki is aware and trying to sort out it, so it could lower over time.
Even base SZ3 models get a decent level of kit including a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel and electric front windows. We’d upgrade to SZ-T for the standard smartphone link including a 7.0in touchscreen, a rear view camera, front foglights and alloy wheels.
SZ5 comes very well equipped but might prove pricey. You get automatic emergency braking, climate control, sat nav, keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise control, LED lights, rear electric windows and telescopic adjustment for the steering wheel.
Suzuki performed exceedingly well in our last reliability survey, coming in second behind Honda. You’d therefore hope that the Swift would be a dependable little car, especially as the warranty is a standard three-year 60,000-mile affair.
Even the basic SZ3 Swift comes with plenty of electronic assistance, six airbags and Isofix mounting points as standard. SZ-T doesn’t get any extra kit, but SZ5 models add hill hold control, high beam assist, lane departure warning and automatic braking.
Euro NCAP rate the Suzuki Swift at three stars as standard or four with the safety pack SZ5 trim gets. Compared to other superminis, the Swift is beaten by the Nissan Micra and can only match the Citroen C3 in SZ5 trim. It’s worth noting that although the non-safety pack Swift get the same three star rating as the Fiat 500 and Ford Ka+, it gets higher individual scores for adult, child and pedestrian protection. The security experts at Thatcham are yet to test the Swift.
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