From £11,4848
Fourth-generation supermini mixes charm with peppy economy. Fine looks, handling and reasonable ride quality, but truly bargain basement versions are a thing of the past

Our Verdict

Suzuki Swift

Suzuki’s best-selling supermini returns in a new guise and with mild hybrid tech

21 March 2017

What is it?

This is the latest generation of the Suzuki Swift supermini (third or fourth generation, depending on who's counting), the blue-collar thinking man's hatchback, which traces its genesis back to 1983 and a derivative of the weirdly-named Cultus.

More than a million Swifts have found homes in Europe since 2005, with 127,000 of those in the UK, so there's a lot running on this new version, which goes on sale on June 1. It was born out of Suzuki's spiffy new model plan unveiled two years ago and new Swift shares its high-strength-steel-rich 'Heartect' lightweight underbody with the Baleno and Ignis. The platform is a claimed 30kg lighter and a good deal stiffer than its predecessor. The lightest Swift is a mere 890kg, with the 1.0-litre mild hybrid model driven here weighing 925kg and even the 1.2-litre 4x4 just 980kg.

While visibly still a Swift, with its wrap-around windscreen, upright headlamps and smiling lower air intake, the new model is 10mm shorter, 15mm lower and 40mm wider than its predecessor and has had its wheelbase extended by 20mm.

The interior is redesigned with more comfortable seats and a new dashboard, and there's more space thanks to that longer wheelbase, with the driver/passenger hip points lowered by 20mm in the front and 45mm in the rear. The boot is 25% larger, and now has a much-improved storage capacity of 265 litres.

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There's no three-door model anymore, though the five-door models hide their rearmost door handles in the C-pillar. Also deep-sixed is the old nuclear-winter-spec £9,000 SZ2 trim level, tbut that's not to say the Swift has gone upmarket. The five-door range kicks off with the £11,000 SZ-T, which gets steel 15in alloys, rear drum brakes, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and air conditioning. The SZ-T trim introduces the three-cylinder turbocharged motor and is predicted to take around half of UK sales, offering 16in alloys, a rear parking camera and a smartphone link.

Top-trim SZ5 has a 4.2-in colour information screen between its dials, all-round disc brakes, a central 3D infotainment touchscreen with sat-nav, and a new monocular camera/laser sensor system, which provides assisted and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, as well as lane-departure warning and a weaving sensor which warns inattentive drivers. Prices for top models are expected to be knocking on the door of £14,000.

The 89bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol comes as a five-speed manual gearbox and offers four-wheel drive as an option. The 109bhp/125bhp, 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit comes with front-wheel drive, and offers a choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

Both engines have the option of a mild hybrid. This recoups lost energy in braking with a 0.37kWh lithium ion battery and a starter/generator. That starter spins the engine faster than a conventional system, which means quieter and more efficient stop/starting in traffic. It also helps the engine, with 2kW of power for a short period under hard acceleration. It reduces CO2 emissions by 7g/km, improves fuel economy by 4.3mpg and saves £20 on first-year VED tax, although on the larger Baleno, the same system costs an extra £700 or so.

What's it like?

Vivacious, brisk, and rather entertaining, Suzuki says it's done a lot of testing on UK roads for steering response and ride and handling, and it shows. There's a lightness and a slight nervousness in a straight line on models with the 16in alloys, but this disappears as soon as you turn the wheel. The nose dives eagerly towards the apex and while the variable-ratio, electronically assisted steering is almost too light, with little on-centre feel, it is accurate, with a pleasant sharpness to it.

Body control is pretty good, although there is a fair bit of body roll through corners. Once turned in and heeled over, however, this little car is grippy, well-balanced and a lot more fun that it has any right to be. The ride isn't calamitous on longer undulations, but it does noisily clatter over broken surfaces. The disc brakes are generally good, but they are a bit grabby at very low speeds. 

On start-up, the 1.0-litre three-pot warbles mightily. Suzuki has adopted Ford's strategy of deliberately unbalancing the crank counterweights, turning side-to-side vibrations into vertical ones, which are dialled out with clever engine mounts. It works well with only a couple of periods of buzzing through the steering and pedals.

It's an eager little motor - although not quite as strong as Ford's Ecoboost - with a noticeable whoosh from just below 2,000rpm and a charismatic thrum. Against an official fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg, we achieved 52.0mpg at a measured pace.

One fly in the hypoid is the five-speed transmission, which feels stodgy and unwieldy with long gaps between the lower ratios. The six-speed auto trades a tiny bit of fuel economy (but no performance) for more refined progress.

The interior upgrade is largely successful, with an attractive and clear fascia and simple rotary dial controls. While fit and finish are exemplary, the materials choice isn't a match for supermini rivals such as the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, and the infotainment screen's icons aren't that intuitive.

Front seats are comfy and largely supportive, although the storage space is mean and the glovebox is a joke. The rear seat bench is commodious enough for two full-grown adults with leg and head room to spare and the boot is big enough for a couple of carry-on bags.

Should I buy one?

If you're looking around in this market, you should definitely consider it. The Swift is an unpretentiously charming small car, and its attributes of light weight, peppy power, enjoyable handling and an appropriately trimmed interior make it stand out in its non-premium sector, to the extent that it should not only be on your shortlist, but quite near the top of it.

Andrew English

Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS  Location Nice, France; On sale June; Price circa-£12,500; Engine 3 cyls, 998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 109bhp at 5,500rpm;Torque 125lb ft at 2,000rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 925kg; Top speed 121mph; 0-62mph 10.6sec;Economy 65.7mpg (Combined); CO2 97g/km; Rivals Kia Rio, Skoda Fabia

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Comments
17

21 March 2017
Love Suzuki's, both their cars and motorbikes, but I think I prefer the looks of the previous gen. Whilst I know it's smaller than the fiesta the TOP Swift models are around the price of most basic next gen Fiesta, although that's probably more an indication of how overpriced Fords are at the moment.

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

A34

22 March 2017
...steel 15in alloys? (unquote)... Looks like a revolution in wheel metallurgy!

21 March 2017
Even the heaviest Swift slips under the 1000kg mark. That's quite an achievement. Autocar again missed the chance to tell us has Suzuki achieved this by dropping the ball on ride comfort and refinement. Many journalists were proclaimed fans of the Swift Sport yet no mention on its replacement.

21 March 2017
The renaissance Swift (the version but one ago) was such a fresh piece of design and a handy size, almost iconic in Sport trim. This is a pretty shocking evolution - makes the current Mini (which has suffered a similar fate) look almost tasteful. It will put people off.
The car-buying public gets what it deserves, unfortunately ...

21 March 2017
It looks like the diesel option has been dropped (Autocar must have forgotten to mention this). I don't think this'll be the last to drop that bombshell. RIP (Rattle In Peace)

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

21 March 2017
So many modern car designs look fine until you get to the C-pillar and then they go all goofy. Jaguar started the trend and its still going strong - sadly!
Steam cars are due a revival.

21 March 2017
Of my two Swifts but the old short comings remain. For a couple of hundred quid on each car they could upgrade the horrible hard shiny black plastic for something a little more welcoming. Still, glad to hear that it drives well and, horrible c pillar and dodgy rear aside, still has some visual charm. I hope it does well for them and then maybe Suzuki will get enough funds to fill the gap left by the Grand Vitara.

21 March 2017
To seeing blanked out sections of the front grille, as though some badge or feature is missing. They look awful, especially on the Giulia. They're probably to do with radar for adaptive cruise control/autonomous emergence braking but surely there's a better way to hide that feature?

Aussie Rob - a view from down under

21 March 2017
Spot on. Its the radar for these systems. But at least VW and Mercedes blend them into their badges.

 

 

 

26 March 2017
Deputy wrote:

Spot on. Its the radar for these systems. But at least VW and Mercedes blend them into their badges.

Have you seen the one on the Golf? It certainly isn't blended in

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