The Suzuki Swift is the centre point of the Japanese manufacturer’s current range of compact, affordable cars. It slots in between the micro-SUV Ignis and the larger, value-oriented Baleno hatchback. The Swift, though, for all this multi-model marketing, remains a straightforward supermini – it comes in just a five-door body style, with a choice of two engines, two gearboxes, and the option of four-wheel drive. There’s even mild hybrid assistance and a range of safety assist systems, although it should be noted that the most impressive of these is limited to the top specification of a three-grade line-up. Rivals to the Swift are multitudinous and varied, from budget supermini fare like the Dacia Sandero through comparable Korean and Japanese rivals to the leading European lights such as the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza, and Volkswagen Polo.
Did you know? Tracing the Swift’s lineage can be hard as the nameplate hasn’t always been used globally – it was known as the Cultus in Japan.
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Suzuki’s growth from being a quirky, ‘alternative’ brand to the mainstream into one of the leading Japanese contenders has been gathering pace in recent years, built on the back of credible, quality products like the Vitara, Baleno, and Ignis. The Swift is the marque’s longest-serving nameplate and so, although there is now a spread of cars at similar price points within the Suzuki family, it had to continue into the current generation.
The Swift is an intriguing car in the sector, because it’s considerably lighter than the vast majority of the opposition and it comes with the choice of hybrid power as well – though that’s only an extremely mild ‘torque infill’ system and there’s no diesel alternative to choose from either. In short, the Swift looks nice and is good to drive thanks to its featherweight build, but it falls just a touch short of challenging the true class elite for overall honours – mainly due to a lack of overall refinement and slightly cheap interior finishing.
Design & Exterior
Interior & Comfort
Technology & Connectivity
Performance & Handling
Spec & Trim Levels
Running Costs & Fuel Economy
Generous equipment levels on SZ5
We Don’t Like
No diesel option and existing hybrid system is very mild
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Design & Exterior: (7/10)
The previous generations of Swift were similar in appearance to each other, and Suzuki has tried to preserve some traditional styling cues from said predecessors, while simultaneously smoothing the supermini off. To some extent, it’s a successful venture, although there’s a considerable proportion of observers who do not find the Swift attractive.
The ‘heritage’ design touches are the wraparound windscreen and sloping roofline, giving the car an almost ‘racing helmet’ look in profile, plus the oblong light clusters and dropped number plate housing at the rear. Newer features include the large, one-piece grille at the front, that strange ‘smiley mouth’ lower bumper signature, the deeply-sculpted flanks, a floating C-pillar, and rear door handles that are hidden up in the black trim aft of the glazing.
The general effect of the Swift’s appearance is of a hatchback that’s inoffensive enough, if nothing like as striking as some other offerings in this sector – such as the Nissan Micra and Seat Ibiza.
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Interior & Comfort: (7/10)
Suzuki’s cabin quality is improving steadily and the company has shown it can do wilfully funky in the Ignis, which is replete with two-tone colour schemes and unusual little design features that mean you can (sort of) overlook the fit/finish deficits in favour of the effort the designers made in trying to render the cabin interesting on the eye. At the other end of the scale are the cockpits of the Celerio and Baleno budget vehicles, which focus on sturdy functionality ahead of any aesthetic glitz.
The Swift’s fascia sits somewhere in the middle of these extremes. It’s nothing like as defiantly unspectacular as the Baleno, but it’s not exactly brimming with brio, either. There’s a smattering of fillets of contrast trim to try and lift things, but you’ll probably notice the built-to-a-price charcoal plastics, leather-lined, but slightly malnourished steering wheel and old-fashioned analogue dials long before you start cooing over some white gewgaws on the door-mounted armrests.
Despite being 10mm shorter than its predecessor, the current Swift’s wheelbase is 20mm longer at 2,450mm overall and Suzuki has worked hard at making incremental increases in interior room within that go towards making the car feel like it is capable of carrying four tall-ish adults.
The front seats are 20mm further apart than they were in the old car and there’s more head and shoulder room for people sitting in the rear. Access to the Suzuki is good, thanks to wide-opening doors, and there’s a light, airy feeling to the cabin as it has full-sized windows in the rear, despite that external C-pillar design flourish.
All models get a height-adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel that adjusts for tilt, but only the SZ5 has a wheel that can slide in and out as well. There are useful storage zones throughout the Swift’s cabin, with little pockets here and there helping with the stowage of odds and sods, while a good-sized glovebox is standard on all cars.
The boot has also swelled 54 litres (or 20 percent) from the old car’s capacity to a total of 265 litres here, which is competitive in class, if not the biggest cargo area going. Access to the boot is good from the hatch and the rear seats split 60/40 across the board, which is a nice touch.
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Technology & Connectivity: (7/10)
As standard, all Swifts get a four-speaker sound system that incorporates DAB and Bluetooth, which is fine enough, but at SZ-T level the seven-inch touchscreen is introduced, which brings with it support for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink, as well as a rear-view camera for safer parking manoeuvres.
Once again, SZ5 customers will enjoy the finer things in life here, with satnav fitted as standard, a pair of front tweeters for the sound system, and a 4.2-inch LCD colour display in the instrument cluster that makes the Suzuki feel a little more cutting edge.
USB and aux-in connection ports can be found in the Swift’s centre console box, while the steering wheel has audio controls on all cars, but there are no options to seriously upgrade the sound system – and rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra have big-power stereos on their options lists. It looks like a serious omission on Suzuki’s part.
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Performance & Handling: (7/10)
Suzuki sits the Swift on its ‘Heartect’ platform, shared with the Baleno and Ignis, and as a result it’s a phenomenally light car. All models weigh between 890 and 980kg, which is to the benefit of handling, economy, and performance.
This is good news, because the petrol-only engines offered by Suzuki are hardly enough to make the supermini, well… swift. But they are likeable. There’s a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged motor called the Boosterjet, and then a 1.2-litre, four-cylinder normally aspirated engine tagged Dualjet, due to its use of twin fuel injectors. The former makes 111hp and 125lb ft of torque, while the latter delivers 90hp and 88lb ft.
Both engines are almost exclusively mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, driving the front wheels alone. There’s a six-speed automatic option for the Boosterjet engine, only on SZ5 cars, which drops torque to 118lb ft.
Additionally, very mild Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS) electrical augmentation is offered on both engines. It doesn’t actually change the official output or performance figures, given it’s a small electric Integrated Starter Generator (ISG) sequestered in the transmission, but it does cut fuel consumption and emissions on the 1.0 Boosterjet by massaging the car’s torque under high-load throttle applications; its beneficial attributes are somewhat lost, however, if it’s specified on the 1.2, as that Swift then comes with four-wheel drive, the additional weight gain of the viscous-coupling set-up making it less economical and more polluting than the base front-wheel-drive Dualjet.
The automatic Boosterjet is the most accelerative car, hitting 62mph from rest in 10 seconds dead, sacrificing some top speed (118mph) to the manual (121mph, 0-62mph 10.6 seconds). The slowest of the range is the 4×4 1.2 SHVS, taking 12.6 seconds to do 0-62mph and topping out at 105mph. You’ll probably therefore want the 1.0-litre SHVS, which offers the most pleasant driving characteristics of the supermini’s range.
Nevertheless, despite the lack of grunt, there’s nothing wrong with these engines – they’re smooth enough, eager to rev, and strong in the 0-30mph ‘nipping’ zone, while the three-cylinder Boosterjet is particularly appealing. And while straight-line speed isn’t the Swift’s forte, its handling is excellent – the lack of mass means there’s a real liveliness to the way the Suzuki turns into a corner and gamely hangs on during spirited driving.
Sadly, the payoff is ride comfort that’s not exceptional for the segment, plus there’s more wind and tyre noise than is strictly necessary on all versions of the Suzuki. The Swift is by no means bad in any of these departments, being merely average or above average on all, but there are cars in this class that do hushed cruising and city driving refinement better than the Suzuki can.
Recommended engine: 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS
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Safety Features: (8/10)
There’s a good array of safety systems available on the Swift, but the very best bits of kit are reserved for the range-topping SZ5 models – hence why the Suzuki hatch actually has two Euro NCAP ratings: without the Dual Sensor Brake Support (DSBS) technology, it is a three-star machine; with DSBS, it’s a four-star motor. However, in an age when the best cars in every class have a five-star Euro NCAP rating, that’s not the greatest news in the world.
Range-wide safety equipment includes six airbags, ABS with brake force distribution and a Brake Assist function, side impact protection beams, Isofix child seat mounting points, a tyre-pressure monitoring system, and an emergency tyre puncture repair kit.
The SZ5, though, gains Hill Hold Control, Lane Departure Warning, High-Beam Assist, a speed limiter, and the DSBS – an advanced forward detection system that uses a monocular camera and laser sensor mounted high up the windscreen near the rear-view mirror, which enables autonomous braking plus various other features typically seen on bigger, more expensive cars.
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Specs and Trim Levels: (8/10)
The solitary no-cost solid shade is called Fervent Red. Then there are six metallic or pearlescent finishes, for around lb500 each: Burning Red Pearl, Speedy Blue Metallic, Pure White Pearl, Premium Silver Metallic, Mineral Grey Metallic, and Super Black Pearl. Finally, there are three two-tone options, which coat the roof in a contrast colour, all at lb650 apiece: Speedy Blue with a Premium Silver roof; Super Black with Premium Silver; and then Mineral Grey with a Super Black top.
Suzuki has three trim levels on the Swift and they are badged SZ3, SZ-T, and SZ5. Base cars come with 15-inch steel wheels with plastic trim covers, LED daytime running lights, air conditioning, front electric windows, and privacy glass – and the only drivetrain available is the 1.2 Dualjet manual. SZ-T is a much more appealing spec, bringing the extra connectivity we’ve outlined above, as well as 16-inch alloys and front fog lamps, and the ability to have the manual, 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine.
SZ5 really loads in the luxuries, though, with climate control, various safety and infotainment upgrades, Adaptive Cruise Control, keyless entry and go, rear electric windows, and LED lights added to the specification. Three drivetrains are available here: the 1.0 Boosterjet manual with the SHVS hybrid assistance; the 1.2 Dualjet manual, also with SHVS, and four-wheel drive too; and the 1.0-litre Boosterjet with the only self-shifting gearbox, the six-speed automatic.
Size and Dimensions
At less than four metres long and 1.8 metres wide (without door mirrors), the Swift is the very epitome of compact and should be no trouble to park in a garage nor thread through narrow urban streets.
1,735mm (excluding door mirrors)
1,495mm (2WD; 1,520mm for 4WD models)
Max towing weight without brake
400kg (all models)
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Running Costs & Fuel Economy: (9/10)
The Swift’s trim body means it’s very good on fuel, even for a petrol-only line-up. Every manual model, even the four-wheel-drive 1.2, is said to comfortably exceed 60mpg and the automatic 1.0 can turn in 56.5mpg combined. Emissions are no higher than 114g/km and go as low as 97g/km, so while that doesn’t affect the VED so much – only saving buyers lb20 in the first tax year for cars below 100g/km – it does help push the cleanest car, the 1.0 SHVS, into the lowest 18 percent Benefit-in-Kind tax bracket.
The problem with running costs is the insurance grouping. All cars sit in groups 22-27, out of a possible 50, which is way higher than the Skoda Fabia (2-12), for instance, and even some ‘performance’ cars like the MINI Cooper (18).
Reliability and servicing
Suzukis are known for being typically reliable, so the Swift should be a dependable car – and don’t worry about the hybrid system, it’s a simple set-up as electrification goes. With a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, the Swift is on a par with most rivals in the market, although Hyundai and Kia obviously both offer superior guarantees to that. Servicing is every 12,500 miles on all models and while costs are hardly punitive, Suzuki does provide packages that can reduce maintenance fees throughout the course of the car’s life.
Every 12,500 miles or annually.
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The Suzuki Swift, while not expensive, is not quite the bargain you might think it is. The starting price is lb11,000, which is certainly competitive, but in reality everyone is going to want at least the SZ-T, which means more like lb13,000. OK, so with a limited options list (once you’re at SZ5 level, the only things you can do to the Swift are add exterior and interior gewgaws to personalise it), it does also mean you’re unlikely to drop much more than 16 grand on the Suzuki supermini, yet you have to factor the limited choice of drivetrains into that; lb16,000 would get you more potent engines, and perhaps a few more toys that aren’t available here, in rival machines.
The SZ3 with the 1.2 engine is the cheapest Swift to buy and insure, and with plastic hubcaps the wheels will be immune from kerbing rash.
With its generous equipment levels and camera-based safety kit, any SZ5 is the choice – the 1.2 SHVS 4×4 is the most complex drivetrain.
Choose an SZ-T with the 1.0 motor and opt for a two-tone colour scheme, plus add some of the exterior styling packs to jazz it up further.
Really distinctive looks, an interesting interior, and an emphasis on comfort mark out the Citroen, although it can be a pricey proposition.
The seventh-generation car is the most polished Fiesta yet built and it still retains a healthy dose of driver appeal, plus a fine cabin.
The i20 has a longer warranty and deeply impressive kit levels, although it’s much stodgier to drive than the Swift.
Drastically improved in its latest guise, the Micra is aimed at the youth market, with edgy looks, a top sound system, and decent dynamics.
Not the most exciting thing to drive but the classy Fabia is, like so many Skodas, a compelling proposition in its sector.
What others say
‘The Suzuki Swift has tidy handling and a strong turbo engine, but its ride and interior quality are a little disappointing.’
‘The latest Suzuki Swift builds on its predecessor’s appeal, but can’t topple the supermini class leaders.’