Less is more, more or less. It could be the ethos of the 2017 Suzuki Swift GL that arrives in Australia with fewer extras than before, while making greater promises.
Forget expensive hybrid technology, because this new-generation Swift is both one of the cheapest vehicles available, and one of the most fuel efficient. It is also more space efficient inside than previously, with a lighter kerb weight and smaller engine.
If that all sounds like measures of austerity, then don’t fret: Suzuki promises its latest little tike continues to be built with a European-inspired fun-to-drive focus in mind, being both more supple and more dynamic than before.
In short, even this entry GL model grade aims to appeal to both head and heart.
Vehicle Style: Light Hatchback
Price: $16,990 (driveaway)
Engine/trans: 66kW/120Nm 1.2 four-cylinder petrol | five-speed manual
Fuel Economy Claimed: 4.8 l/100km | Tested: 6.0 l/100km
Priced from $16,990 driveaway with a standard five-speed manual transmission, the Swift GL is very well-priced.
At the time of writing a Holden Barina LS is $2000 cheaper, and a Hyundai Accent Sport and Toyota Yaris YR are both $1000 more affordable, however these are certainly not the class leaders. The trio that are – the Mazda2 Neo, Skoda Fabia 70TSI and Volkswagen Polo Urban – retail for exactly the same price as this Suzuki.
The GL does not challenge any of the above rivals with equipment, though. Most notably it lacks a touchscreen with reverse-view camera (included on all bar the Mazda2) and alloy wheels (standard on Barina, Accent and Polo), although a leather-clad steering wheel is thrown in (and is featured in Accent, Fabia and Polo only).
Disappointingly, however, for just $1000 extra buyers can upgrade to the $17,990 driveaway GL Navigator that adds alloys, a touchscreen and camera, as well as foglights, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity.
Why is it disappointing? Because it mandates an automatic gearbox, leaving manual buyers short-changed.
- Standard Equipment: Keyless entry, leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, power windows and mirrors, multi-function trip computer, manual air-conditioning and cloth trim.
- Infotainment: AM/FM radio with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input and two speakers.
- Cargo Volume: 242 litres.
Despite its shortage of standard equipment, the Swift GL is in other ways impressive inside. There is arguably space in showrooms for a model grade that focuses on simplicity and peels off the layers of features and frippery to just excel at the basics.
The Suzuki has excellent, sporty front seats that combine soft and comfortable padding with generous base depth and side support. The driving position is low, too, near-perfectly positioning the driver ideally to grasp the thin-rimmed steering wheel.
Matte-silver-ringed instrumentation, with vertical tachometer and speedometer needles, also hints at a slightly racier drive than the bland hubcaps might indicate.
While the dashboard design appears suitably modern and fit-and-finish is expectedly excellent from a brand renowned for quality, however, the plastics and trim materials haven’t taken a step forward in 12 years since the ‘reborn’ Swift returned in 2005.
Budget plastics might be expected at this end of the market, but in some respects the entry GL takes a few steps backwards from where it once was. Chrome doorhandles have been deleted, for example, and the six-speaker sound system has been cut to just a front pair. Gone are the rear roof grabhandles, as well.
Frankly, the equipment of the Swift GL Navigator should be included, because experience with its touchscreen illustrates how far technology has come since the Swift GL’s retrograde AM/FM radio, CD player and Bluetooth phone and audio unit.
Unlike the Mazda2, there aren’t even rear parking sensors, let alone autonomous emergency braking (AEB) featured in that entry Neo.
As with the front seating, the rear quarters also deserve more. Despite a body length of 3840mm – most rivals are around 4.0 metres long – the Suzuki affords excellent rear headroom and legroom, eclipsing the Mazda2 and Yaris, and challenging the dimensionally larger Accent. The bench could be more shapely, though it is cushy.
And while boot space remains among the smallest in the segment, its volume capacity of 242 litres isn’t far off rivals. A Yaris is rated at 286L, for example.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 66kW/120Nm 1.2 4cyl petrol Transmission: five-speed manual, FWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and torsion bar rear
- Brakes: Ventilated front and solid rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
If the seating and steering wheel set the driver up for a sporty steer ahead, then threading the Swift GL through tight city streets quickly confirms that as its character.
With an 876kg kerb weight – Yaris is 1025kg, Polo is 1052kg – the 1.2-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder feels far more enlivened and invigorated than its modest outputs would indicate. What isn’t also revealed by the 66kW of power produced at 6000rpm, and 120Nm of torque delivered at 4400rpm, is the Suzuki’s tractability.
From low revs in tall gears, the GL pulls energetically ahead as though there is a tiny turbocharger helping it along. The engine spins quickly to redline, yet without an actual turbo forcing the engine to work hard in stop-start traffic, this Japanese light hatchback delivered sterling urban fuel consumption of 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres.
Only at higher speeds on hills is there a – quite desperate – need to row along the delightful, short-throw five-speed manual.
On the steep climb out of Sydney’s Lane Cove Tunnel it was back to fourth gear, then third, to maintain 80km/h. And on freeways the amount of road roar best confirms this as a city hatch, though consumption still lowered to 6.0L/100km.
Actually, quickly skip over the freeway bit to tight and twisty country roads, because the Swift’s suspension deserves to be recognised on lumpy and winding bitumen. Likewise, the fantastically light, fluid and sharp steering, which connects with a light and agile chassis that deftly floats over bumps without actually becoming floaty.
Whether around town or on the open road, there is a great blend of compliance and control that makes even this entry GL feel like a semi-premium offering. Only that road noise betrays the strong body, because otherwise this is no tinny, tiny hatch.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars – the Suzuki Swift scored 32.49 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2017.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS and ESC.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000km.
Servicing: Below-average bi-annual or 10,000km intervals with a capped-price cost of just $175 per service for the first trio, $359 for the fourth, and $175 each for the remaining duo until three years or 60,000km.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Accent, Barina and Yaris are basic, and best as budget base models only. The Mazda2 is smaller than the Swift, even noisier and not quite as fun, though conversely the Fabia and Polo are more sophisticated, smoother and quieter – and surprisingly for European entrants, the Skoda and Volkswagen are terrific value.
Holden Barina LS Hyundai Accent Sport Mazda2 Neo Skoda Fabia 70TSI Toyota Yaris YR Volkswagen Polo Urban
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Rarely is there such a discrepancy between how a vehicle feels inside, and the way it drives. But in the case of the Suzuki Swift GL, it’s below average for the former and well above average in the latter case.
The ethos of this new-generation Swift is spot on, with a light kerb weight paying dividends in performance and fuel consumption, the short body delivering greater cabin packaging efficiency than most rivals, and with sophisticated dynamics to boot.
If the GL had GL Navigator specification, it could add a full star to its score. However, experience with Suzuki’s flawed automatic continuously-variable transmission (CVT) indicates that the GL Navi spec wouldn’t necessarily achieve the same high mark.
The Swift GL is brilliant as a basic model, but the price should reflect this and it needs to either add equipment or become thousands of dollars cheaper. Our tip? Avoid the automatic, but bargain very hard on this lovable light hatchback.
MORE: Suzuki News and Reviews
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