2009 Suzuki Swift S Automatic Road Test Review
WHEN IT COMES TO NAMEPLATES that evoke a reaction, there are plenty out there.
Some of them adorn the noses of supercars, others rock-crushing 4X4s, yet others are simply loved (or reviled) for their style.
But some nameplates, not surprisingly, find recognition and admiration for the simple virtues of being reliable and economical transport.
Of course, not every badge elicits a response, some are just 'there'... cars that come, sell for a few years, then fade from view. But for manufacturers who manage to build a positive rapport with consumers, and a strong sense of what the badge embodies, well, that’s half the battle won.
Licking its wounds from the Ignis experience, Suzuki restored the Swift name and comprehensively reworked the styling - years later, it's still one of the best lookers in the sector. (And while the current Swift’s successor has been caught on camera undergoing development testing, it is some time away from gracing showroom floors.)
So, how well has the Swift has held up over its model-life? TMR put the up-spec Swift S automatic through its paces to find out if the little hatch could still manage to impress.
There’s a world of difference between the current Swift and the previous model that wore the same name. Gone is the typical hatchback form of previous-gen Swifts.
Instead, the current car presents itself as an upright, bluff and boxy five-door. Don’t take that as criticism of the Swift’s appearance though, it manages to wear its lines handsomely.
Visual highlights include a single bodyside crease that starts low in the front bumper, and traces the outline of the guards before stretching into the outer edge of the tail lights.
Exaggerated sills add strength to the lines and help to keep the Swift from appearing overly tall. The front pillars are blacked out for a wrap-around glass look, while the wide C-pillars draw the eye to the rear of the Swift.
The car's overall proportions are also helped by the wheel at each corner stance.
Narrow vertical lamps front and rear offer a nice break from convention, as do the door frames which wrap into the roof rail to remove some of the visible shut lines.
Inside the minimalist theme continues, and like the exterior, it ensures the Swift doesn't date before its time.
Hard black plastic dominates, and a couple of the interior details are a little awkwardly executed. The worst offender here being the clock and trip computer near the base of the windscreen, a position that makes them difficult to reach and reset when required.
Clever design touches such as the Swift's low centre console free up room for front seat occupants. The impression of space is further aided by the low-slung front seats, and high roof-line.
In the back, a high theatre-style bench seat means no-one misses out on the view through the windscreen. Unfortunately it also means its easy for taller people to collide with the top of the door opening when getting in and out of the rear.
The rear seat is well appointed, with three adjustable head rests and three-point seatbelts in all positions. The almost flat floor and plenty of foot space under the front seats, help to keep rear seat occupants comfortable.
Visibility for rear seat passengers can be hampered by those thick rear pillars, which reach far enough forward to limit the view. The same limitation applies for the driver when checking blind spots.
In the boot, cargo space measures in at 213 litres with the rear seats up. A week's worth of groceries will make short work of the available room, however more storage space can be liberated by lifting the false floor, revealing a reasonably sized cargo tray (below).
With the rear seats folded, boot space extends to 562 litres to the window line or 949 litres to the roof. This, coupled with the wide opening doors, means all manner of items can be happily stowed in the rear, albeit with a loss of seating capacity.
Equipment and Features
The entry-level Swift provides a decent list of standard equipment. There’s remote central-locking, power windows and mirrors, 60:40 split fold rear seats, a height adjustable seat for the driver, and a tilt adjustable, leather wrapped steering wheel.
On board entertainment is provided by a single disc MP3 compatible CD player with six speakers and steering wheel mounted controls.
Safety comes courtesy of dual front airbags, ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Brake Assist (BAS). Stepping up to the Swift S (as tested) adds front seat and curtain airbags, front foglights and 15 inch alloy wheels.
Under the bonnet lies a 1.5 litre petrol engine featuring Variable Valve Timing (VVT) that produces 74kW of power at 6000 rpm. Maximum torque is 133Nm at 4000 rpm.
Suspension is provided courtesy of MacPherson struts up front and a beam-axle in the rear. Not exactly cutting edge, but well up to the task and tuned in such a way that the Swift can be accurately described as an enjoyable drive.
Braking is courtesy of ventilated discs for the front wheels and drum brakes for the rear. The disc/drum setup is common in the Swift's class and they do a workmanlike job of bringing things to a halt in short order.
Transmission choices extend to a standard five-speed manual or optional four-speed automatic. Officially the Swift returns 9.6 l/100 km around town and 6.2 l/100 km on the highway, but our day-to-day testing revealed the Swift is capable of better.
Normal driving returned a highway figure of 5.5 l/100 km and city fuel economy figure of 9.0 l/100 km.
The Swift GTi of old is held in high esteem for its perky performance and sharp handling. The new generation Swift delivers at least half of that promise.
Suzuki’s chassis engineers have endowed the Swift with a degree of handling prowess that lifts the Swift above being just 'mere transport'.
It may not be the best in the business, but the Swift still manages to bring a touch of entertainment to the weekly grocery grab.
As a daily driver the Swift remains an easy car to live with. There’s no harsh ride or hard-to-live-with peaky engine with forward thrust only accessed high in the rev range.
Instead, the Swift is for the most part quiet and comfortable, with just enough power, delivered in a relaxed and linear manner.
String a few corners together though and the the DNA from Swifts of yore reveals itself. The Swift posseses a level of cornering aptitude that can impress and surprise.
It is helped by well-weighted steering that provides good feedback through bends. The Swift's playful chassis, and taut yet compliant suspension make it a fun steer, but the downside is that there is a degree of noise fed back into the cabin over rough roads, potholes and speed bumps.
Visibility up front is excellent thanks to slim A-pillars. The thick C-pillars however can be a little bit more challenging to see past, as is the high rear seat - particularly with the head-restraints raised.
The Swift's seats are all a little 'flat', and there’s not much in the way of lateral support (it’s a minor gripe that would go unnoticed in most situations).
That said, the grippy cloth trim helps to keep occupants in place. Engine noise is well suppressed when cruising, but tyre and wind noise become obvious at speeds over 80 km/h which may prove tedious for long distance tourers.
But touring isn't the Swift's area of expertise. It is 'town duties' that best suit the Swift. Here, it is right at home.
It's compact enough to negotiate narrow city laneways or tackle tight parking spaces, and perky enough to mix it up in the cut and thrust of city traffic.
If trying to stretch things out, the auto transmission lets the package down slightly by up-shifting at 5000 rpm instead of letting the engine run closer to its 6000 rpm red-line.
But few Swift drivers will notice or wish to push to these extremes. (And with the engine starting to sound coarse and a little breathless that high up in the rev range, it may well be a hidden blessing.)
In entry-level trim with a manual gearbox, the $16,790 Swift isn’t the cheapest offering available, but 'Made in Japan' build-quality and the entertaining chassis help justify the spend.
An asking price of $20,490 for the Swift S Automatic starts biting at the heels of the next size-class. While $1700 of that is for the automatic transmission alone, the additional equipment fitted to the S doesn’t quite justify the spend.
As always, choosing a new car is a case of 'horses for courses'. If all you need is a car that will transport you from A-to-B, then there are cheaper but not necessarily better options than the Swift.
Should getting there be half the fun, and should enduring style be considered an asset, then the Swift should be on your test drive schedule.
- Handsome styling
- Rewarding drive
- Great fuel economy
- Pert engine
- Hard plastic interior
- Vision limiting rear pillars
- Road noise on the highway