The Suzuki Swift is a well-loved model in the Australian market, and this third-generation model since the nameplate re-launched in Australia in 2005 arrives to boost the brand’s fortunes in the light car market where it traditionally does the best.
The light car market, as with many passenger car segments in Australia, is starting to shrink and is packed full of choices from the smartly styled Mazda2, to the recently-restyled Toyota Yaris, and the perennially popular Hyundai Accent.
The new Swift has no easy task ahead of it, and even goes up against Suzuki’s own Baleno which occupies the same sales class, but with Suzuki’s trademark perky handling and what has now become iconic styling, this new Swift should make plenty of friends.
Vehicle Style: Light hatch
Price: $16,990-$22,990 driveaway
Engine/trans: 66kW/120Nm 1.2-litre 4cyl petrol, 82kW/160Nm 3cyl turbo petrol | 5sp manual, CVT automatic, 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.6-5.1 l/100km | Tested: 6.0 l/100km
Suzuki offers the Swift in three distinct variants, kicking off with the GL, a manual-only price-leader then onto the ‘mid-spec’ GL Navigator which adds a CVT auto and (as the name suggests) touchscreen navigation and a few other exterior touches like alloy wheels and fog lights.
Both are powered by a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre petrol engine which although smaller than the class-average is barely burdened by the Swift’s super-light kerb weight.
The range-topper for now is the GLX Turbo, which adds a few extra luxuries inside like climate control and push-button start, as well as a more powerful 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine and a six-speed automatic.
GL Navigator buyers can add a safety pack that includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, fatigue monitoring, high beam assist and adaptive cruise control - making it the only car in Australia under $20k to feature adaptive cruise control. The safety pack is standard of the GLX Turbo.
Pricing starts at an approachable $16,990 driveaway for the GL manual, but really hots up for the GL Navigator auto from just $17,990 driveaway and an extra $1200 ($19,190 driveaway) for the GL Navigator with safety pack. The GLX Turbo is available for $22,990 driveaway.
- GL: Black cloth seat trim, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, manual air conditioning, cruise control with speed limiter, rear privacy glass, power windows, tilt-adjustable steering column, 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps
- GL Navigator: Front fog lights, reversing camera, 16-inch alloy wheels (see Infotainment for more)
- GLX Turbo: Single-zone climate control, LED headlights and fog lights, Pearl white and chrome interior accents, tilt and reach adjustable steering column, power folding mirrors, LCD instrument cluster display, adaptive cruise control, 16-inch polished alloy wheels
- Infotainment: Push-button headunit, AM/FM/MP3, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth connectivity (GL) plus 7.0-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto Connectivity, and satellite navigation (GL Navigator, GLX Turbo)
- Cargo Volume: 242 litres to rear seats, 918 litres maximum to front seats (at roof)
Suzuki has opted to give its small SUVs bright and colorful interiors with high levels of customisation, but the Swift treads a more traditional path without the ability to mix-and-match trim parts to brighten things up.
While the basic design is pleasant to look at, the black-on-black colour scheme doesn’t quite declare its youthful exuberance in the same way as the searing orange inside an Ignis would. To its credit though the Swift does look suitably contemporary.
There’s some design cues borrowed from Audi, most obviously in the design of the steering wheel and the dash-top vents, but in terms of materials Suzuki has stuck it out with hard plastics for the dash and doors. The interior is well finished and should be durable, but it isn't as plush as the premium feel of something like a Volkswagen Polo.
Space is also another area where the Swift slays in competition. Overall the Swift is shorter than a Mazda2, but where the Mazda crams its rear seat passengers in, the Swift has decent rear legroom, and with a tall and boxy roofline makes the most of available headroom too.
As with most of Suzuki’s recently introduced models the Swift GL Navigator and GLX feature a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system packed to the gills with satellite navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with a clear and simple user interface that puts many more expensive systems to shame. The base GL kicks it old-school with a traditional push-button head unit and does without a reversing camera too.
All Swift models get the same black cloth trim inside, with a leather wrapped steering wheel, cruise control and speed limiter, power windows and privacy tint all included GL models feature halogen headlights and manual air conditioning, with upmarket items including climate control, LED headlights, and keyless entry and start reserved for the GLX Turbo.
Boot space is up over the previous model, with 242 litres of cargo volume, or 32 litres more than the old model and a boot floor that’s 50mm longer. In-cabin storage spots are also readily available with two front and one rear cupholder, bottle holders in all four doors, map pockets for the front doors and enough space under the centre stack for your keys, wallet and phone.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 1.2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol, 66kW @6000rpm, 120Nm @4400rpm (GL, GL Navigator) 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 82kW @5500rpm, 160Nm @1500-4000rpm
- Transmission: Five-speed manual (GL) CVT automatic (GL Navigator), six-speed automatic (GLX Turbo), front wheel drive
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front discs, drum rear (GL, GL Navigator), solid rear discs (GLX Turbo)
- Steering: Electric power steering, 9.6m turning circle
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the new Swift is its weight - somehow Suzuki’s engineers have managed to pare it down to as low as 870 kg. That pays off in a number of ways, a smaller engine can be used lowering fuel consumption without sacrificing performance and handling becomes more agile with less weight.
Raw engine specifications for the entry-level Swift GL are at the lower end of the light car class, with a non-turbo 1.2-litre four-cylinder engine dealing out 66kW and 120Nm but that’s still strong enough to get the Swift away from green lights smartly thanks to its low weight.
The GL comes with a five-speed manual and the step up to GL Navigator brings a CVT automatic transmission and the auto version is a fine example of how a CVT should work, able to keep engine revs low at a steady speeds, resistant to ‘droning’ most of the time, and providing simulated gear changes at times to make it feel more like a traditional auto.
In the case of the Swift Turbo a turbocharged 1.0-litre three cylinder ups outputs to a more perky 82kW and 160Nm making for a more spirited drive - those figures may not quite match the 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta turbo, but put the Swift closer to the class average for engine outputs as well as giving it a better torque-to-weight ratio than the outgoing Swift Sport.
Suzuki ditches the CVT for the GLX turbo and uses a sweet-shifting six-speed auto instead, making the drive experience a little more traditional. The Turbo’s extra torque can certainly be felt too, making the GLX the more nimble around town, and the better choice if you plan on adding extra passengers on a regular basis.
Ride quality with two occupants aboard was hard to fault. The Swift feels right at home in town, dealing with inner-Melbourne’s speed humps, mismatched tarmac, and tram lines with barely a problem and out of town the stable steering and settled ride make for a confident cruiser.
Both variants are impressively smooth and quiet at idle, the 1.2 litre cars in particular which are nearly silent in most situations, drive hard and engine noise picks up though never gratingly. While engine and wind noise are quite well subdued tyre noise is the only refinement black mark, and it’s noticeable from suburban speeds on some road surfaces.
The lack of punch from the 1.2 litre engine reveals itself on the open road, where there’s not too much in reserve for overtaking or bounding uphill, in which case the step-up to the Turbo is well worth the extra outlay.
ANCAP Rating: The Suzuki Swift has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety Features: The GL comes with six airbags (dual front, front seat side, and curtain), electronic stability control, ABS brakes, front and rear outboard load-limiting seatbelt pretensioners, and 2x ISOFIX child seat mounts. The GL Navigator adds hill hold and a reversing camera.
The GLX Turbo (and GL Navigator safety pack) also includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, weaving alert (fatigue detection), auto high beam assist, and adaptive cruise control.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km
Servicing: The Swift sticks to short six-month or 10,000km (whichever comes first) service intervals, where many rivals offer 12 months between dealer vists. Service pricing is set low at $175 per serive for the first three services, a step up to $359 for the 1.2-litre and $429 for the 1.0-litre turbo, back to $175 for service number five, six, and seven, then $399 for the 1.2-litre and $469 for the 1.0-litre turbo.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
The beauty of the Swift lies in its relative simplicity, although it may not be filled with soft touch plastics like a Volkswagen Polo it’s robust enough inside to deal with bumps and scrapes if your friends are a little bit careless and still come up looking good.
It may not be as powerful in base-trim as something like a Holden Barina, but with a low weight it simultaneously sips less fuel as well as being far more entertaining to drive - even if keen dynamics aren’t a major drawcard in the segment.
It is disappointing to see that the base GL misses out on something as simple as a reversing camera, but the small step up to the automatic GL Navigator with better infotainment solves that problem and while Suzuki’s first appearance of autonomous braking is welcomed it isn’t standard across the range yet.
Despite this, the Suzuki Swift is a little charmer, from its eager-to-please facial expression, to its surprisingly roomy interior it’s a car that may have you wondering why other light hatches are so dull and lifeless, though it may be simple the Swift’s lack of complications and cohesive packaging only add to its charm.
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