Suzuki Swift Review
The Suzuki Swift is a bit of an unsung hero in the car world. For years, it has been an understated, undervalued small hatchback that’s engaging to drive and great value for money. While that has made it a success in its own right, it has never sold as well as the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo.
But Suzuki has persevered and the latest version promises a raft of appealing features, including better technology and improved environmental credentials, as well as the usual selling points: the handling, the value and the availability of all-wheel drive. But will that be enough to put the Swift up there with the big players, or will it always be a niche choice?
Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5
At a Glance
The Swift might not be the first car you think of when small hatchbacks are mentioned, but it is one of the better-looking efforts. With squat, chunky proportions and a charmingly pugnacious Sport version, it’s quite an attractive little number.
Sadly, the interior is its biggest weak point and luggage-carrying ability is limited, but it’s a robust small car with enough space to carry four adults in relative comfort. It’s also available with all-wheel-drive and mild-hybrid technology, which will appeal to some customers.
Unless you opt for the slightly faster Sport model, performance is underwhelming, but the car handles well and there’s plenty of fun to be had on a good road. It’s also agile around town, but it struggles for refinement on the motorway.
Even so, it’s a worthy rival to the more established brands, even if it will always be a mid-table performer.
The Swift’s charms mostly stem from its no-nonsense attitude and its on-road capabilities, but the hybrid system is well worth a mention. It’s a mild-hybrid set-up, which means the engine takes the strain, but it does reduce the load at key moments and allows the stop-start system to cut in earlier, saving fuel and therefore money. On paper, at least, it works quite well.
The optional AllGrip four-wheel-drive system will also appeal to some customers, offering the peace of mind that comes from extra traction in all weathers. In truth, it won’t help much unless you live somewhere susceptible to snow and ice in the winter.
If you just get a bit of rain and the odd frosty morning, it probably won’t be much use. After all, all-wheel-drive helps you get moving, but it doesn’t help you stop.
Performance & Drive
Almost all Swifts come with the same engine: a 1.2-litre turbocharged petrol with mild-hybrid technology and a five-speed manual gearbox. With 83hp, it’s far from fast, managing the sprint (or should that be jog?) from 0-62mph in a leisurely 13.1 seconds. However, those who want the optional automatic transmission will see that number fall to a slightly more respectable 12.2 seconds.
There is also an AllGrip all-wheel-drive option for the more luxurious SZ5 model, offering customers extra traction in slippery conditions. It might suit those who live in more remote or cold areas of Scotland, Wales and northern England, but it won’t be that much use to anyone else.
A set of winter or cross-climate tyres would probably be a better investment for most – particularly when AllGrip extends the 0-62mph time to almost 14 seconds.
Not that performance will matter to most Swift customers. This is a down-to-earth hatchback designed to cope with the school run, shopping trips and commuting, rather than winding mountain roads. To that end, it has light steering and a compact footprint, which makes it easy to manoeuvre in town and simple to park.
But it’s also surprisingly good when you find a fast B-road and wring out what performance there is. It rolls a bit through corners, but it’s nimble and responsive, which means you can chuck it around a bit. It might not be as polished as a Ford Fiesta, but it’s nearly as much fun.
And for those who like the sound of that, there’s a go-faster Sport model that rewrites the Swift story. Officially, the mild-hybrid, 1.4-litre Sport takes 9.1 seconds to get from 0-62mph, assuming you can rifle through the six-speed manual gearbox fast enough, but it feels faster than that.
There’s plenty of punch from the engine, and the car doesn’t weigh very much. It also makes best use of the Swift’s already impressive chassis, but ride comfort is a bit more of an issue as a result. Still, it’s great fun on the right road.
Running Costs & Emissions
With mild-hybrid power on board, the Swift is relatively economical. The basic SZ-T will do almost 60mpg on the official economy test, and even the Swift Sport claims it will return over 50mpg. Admittedly, you might struggle to match those figures, but you can expect to get somewhere in that sort of ballpark.
By the same token, the tax implications shouldn’t be too onerous. Unlike the Peugeot 208 or Vauxhall Corsa, there’s no electric option, but the 106g/km emissions mean road tax and company car tax will be sensible, if not dirt cheap. Even the Swift Sport is relatively eco-friendly.
Interior & Technology
The biggest chink in the Swift’s armour is its cabin. When you get towards the smaller end of the new car market, profit margins tend to be tight and the temptation to save money wherever possible becomes irresistible. Usually, that results in some suboptimal plastics and the odd iffy bit of switchgear, but the Swift feels slightly more bargain basement.
The plastics are hard and unforgiving, the fabric upholstery feels cheap and the door trims are disturbingly thin. It all feels quite 1990s, with seemingly little in the way of soundproofing and even less focus on comfort.
Instead, it feels like the bare minimum, although like so many Japanese cars, it will almost certainly prove more rugged than it feels.
Not that it feels flimsy – just a bit cheap and dated. Our test car came with carpet mats that had frayed labels on the wrong side, for example, and the fuel filler release handle feels like a plastic lollipop stick. They’re little things, but they make a big difference – particularly when most of the switchgear actually seems quite robust.
By far the worst thing about the Swift cabin, though, is the touchscreen infotainment system. It’s used across the Suzuki range, but it’s one of the worst systems on the market, with clunky menus, a dated display and a horrible touch-sensitive volume control.
Practicality & Boot Space
While the Swift’s interior might feel cheap, it is at least spacious. For a car of this size, there’s enough room between the driver and passenger, while even relatively tall adults will be able to fill four of the five seats without any issues.
Rear legroom is acceptable and rear headroom is quite good. The ‘hidden’ rear door handles mean it feels a bit dark and claustrophobic back there, though.
But the boot is slightly disappointing, with 265 litres of luggage capacity making it smaller than that of a Ford Fiesta or a Hyundai i20. More spacious vehicles, including the Seat Ibiza and Honda Jazz, make it look a bit titchy.
That said, you can fold down the rear seats to free up a much larger space, but the seats don’t fold flat and there’s still an enormous load bay lip, which makes it difficult to pack heavier objects.
The Swift scored solidly in the Euro NCAP crash test, earning itself a four-star rating. However, the results are not that easy to interpret, because the car has two different ratings. But don’t be put off by the lower three-star rating, because that only applies to vehicles without the safety systems found as standard in the UK.
That means the four-star rating is applicable to all Swifts built for the UK market.
As standard, all British Swifts come fitted with an automated emergency braking system that can stop the car automatically if the driver fails to respond to a hazard. And if you climb the range, you get lane departure warning technology, blind-spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition, as well as rear parking sensors.
And that’s before you consider goodies such as the rear-view parking camera.
The Swift range is relatively simple, with three ‘core’ variants on offer. The base model is the SZ-L, which comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and manual air conditioning, plus rear privacy glass and digital radio.
That’s a relatively simple specification, but those who need more can always upgrade to the mid-range SZ-T, which gets painted alloy wheels and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity systems, as well as a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Finally, the SZ5 model (no, we don’t understand the naming system either) is the most luxurious model in the line-up, providing satellite navigation, ‘keyless’ entry and engine ignition, and automatic climate control. It also comes with a few more mundane features not found elsewhere in the range, including electric rear windows and a steering wheel that’s adjustable for reach, as well as rake.
Beyond the core Swift models, the Swift Sport gets all the features of the SZ5 plus larger alloy wheels, sporty upholstery and aluminium pedals. It also gets some sportier exterior styling features, including more pronounced spoilers and side skirts, and a pair of tailpipes in the rear diffuser section.
The options list is generally pretty limited, but customers do get a choice of several equipment packs, including the Attitude Pack and Rugged Pack, which add sportier and more off-road orientated styling features respectively. Suzuki will also offer protection features such as mats and a load lip protector for the rear bumper.
The Suzuki Swift has rivals in abundance, and almost all are worthy of your consideration. Chief among these are Ford’s ever-popular and brilliant to drive Fiesta, the cool, well-built Seat Ibiza and the classy Volkswagen Polo. Other big-name competitors include the practical Skoda Fabia and Honda Jazz, as well as the stylish Renault Clio and Peugeot 208.
Slightly less exciting is the drab-but-competent Vauxhall Corsa and the sensible Hyundai i20, as well as the functional Dacia Sandero. Perhaps more intriguing alternatives include the funky Citroen C3, and the Mazda 2, which is a driver’s dream. It’s worth looking at the Nissan Micra, too, and the very rounded, hybrid-powered Toyota Yaris.
There’s also some premium competition, primarily from the Audi A1 hatchback, but also the Mini Hatch. Both cars offer a premium image and a more premium feel inside, although the Mini is the more solid option.
Verdict & Next Steps
The Swift has myriad charms, including a range of efficient engines and surprising amounts of agility. It also offers great value for money, but it lacks the quality and refinement of more established brands’ models – particularly in this hyper-competitive sector of the new car market. That said, the Swift Sport is enormous fun on the right road, and there’s plenty to be said for an old-school hot hatchback.
Where to next?
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**Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Suzuki Swift
**Correct as of 13/12/2021. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1494.81 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.