2020 Suzuki Swift review

The new-generation Suzuki Swift packs a lot of driver appeal into a short, lightweight hatchback. Most Swifts make a lot of your smartphone, and auto braking is available.

2020 Suzuki Swift range review
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Good to drive
  •   Auto braking available
  •   Swift Sport a great affordable hot hatch
Not so much
  •   Hard interior plastics
  •   Road noise

What stands out?

The new-generation Suzuki Swift packs a lot of driver appeal into a short, lightweight hatchback, bringing some fun to your commute and handling country drives capably. Most Swifts are very well equipped and make a lot of your smartphone and autonomous emergency braking is available across the range.

What might bug me?

That short children can’t get into the back without help – the exterior door handles are mounted almost at roof level. And once inside, the panels that house the handles make it harder to see out.

Wishing you had longer arms in the GL Navigator models because the steering wheel doesn't have a reach adjustment.

Driving at 80km/h on your space-saver spare tyre, until you can fix your full-sized flat.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback only. (Camouflaged rear door-handles make it look like a three-door.)

The Swift drives its front wheels, and it is classed as a light car, lower priced.

What features do all Suzuki Swifts have?

A 7.0-inch touchscreen, a reversing camera, and built-in satellite navigation. The screen can play movies from the USB port or an SD card, and there is support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which let you display smartphone apps on the touchscreen and control them from there (or by voice).

A sound system with AM, FM and digital (DAB+), Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and phone calls, and six speakers.

Daytime running lamps are illuminated by extremely long-lived, and energy-efficient, LEDs. Hill-hold control makes it easier to take off on uphill slopes, by operating the brakes automatically.

Aluminium alloy wheels – which do not need plastic trim.

A sound system with a radio, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and phone calls, and six speakers.

Height adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel, from which you can operate the cruise control, the audio system, and your phone (via Bluetooth). Height adjustment for the driver’s seat.

Air-conditioning, and power-adjustable door mirrors. Power windows on all four doors

Daytime running lamps, which make it easier for other drivers to see you. Windows tinted against sun penetration.

A space-saver spare wheel, with speed and distance restrictions.

Six airbags. Anti-lock brakes, and electronic stability control – which can help you avoid a skid. (For the placement of airbags, and more on Swift safety features, please open the Safety section below.)

The Suzuki Swift is covered by a five year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

Two fresh engines arrived with this model, neither of which consumes much fuel. On the official test, the 1.2-litre, direct-injected, four-cylinder petrol that powers the less costly Swifts is a narrow winner, using 4.8 litres/100km in auto form.

This is an engaging, revvy little engine that works beautifully in the lightweight Swift.

The alternative engine is a 1.0-litre, three cylinder, turbocharged petrol, available only in the Swift GLX Turbo. It offers you about 30 per cent more grunt in most driving conditions, while consuming about five per cent more fuel on the test.

In the real world, you can expect the 1.0-litre GLX Turbo to just about match its official figure. WhichCar reviewers averaged 5.5 litres/100km over a week of mainly suburban driving.

The 1.2-litre engine is available with an extremely well matched five-speed manual transmission (in the Swift GL) or a CVT auto (Swift GL Navigator). The 1.0-litre engine comes only with a six-speed conventional auto.

A CVT (continuously variable transmission) adjusts the gear ratio steplessly to the conditions and your demands, rather than relying on the fixed ratios of a conventional auto. In principle, a CVT improves acceleration and saves fuel.

The Swift Sport hot hatch is powered by a 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine taken from the Suzuki Vitara. While relatively modest in terms of power compared to rivals such as the Volkswagen Polo GTI, its performance is aided by the Swift’s light weight. It comes with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The manual is particularly delightful to drive.

The boost in performance doesn’t have a dramatic impact on fuel economy, with an official combined fuel-consumption of 6.1 litres, though this is likely to be higher in real-world conditions if driven in the spirit with which it is intended.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Swift, the GL Navigator, comes with fabric covered seats, manually controlled air-con, a manual gearbox as standard, and the 1.2-litre engine described above.

Spending more will get you get CVT auto transmission as standard, and a Safety pack that brings you Adaptive cruise control – it will slow you to the speed of a car in front on the highway, resuming your pre-set speed when the way is clear. In addition, the Safety pack provides you with three active driver aids: autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, and a weaving alert.

Spending more again for a Swift GLX Turbo gets you the more powerful, turbocharged, engine, and a six-speed conventional auto gearbox. Climate-control air-conditioning maintains a set temperature, and you can unlock the car and drive away without removing the smart key from your pocket or bag.

The steering wheel adjusts for reach as well as height. Headlights use very bright LEDs, which light up by themselves when it’s dark, and switch between high and low beam when required. Tyres are slightly wider and lower again in profile, for more grip and sharper steering. And the GLX Turbo comes with all the features of the GL Navigator, as well as those of the Safety pack.

Upgrade to the Suzuki Swift Sport and you gain a huge boost in performance and handling thanks to the more powerful 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, improved suspension and electronic power steering over the conventional mechanical rack and pinion set up.

It is styled accordingly with a sports body kit, bolstered sports seats, bigger 17-inch alloy wheels and a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel.

The air-conditioning can be set to maintain a particular temperature.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The Swift Sport loses some of the features in the GLX Turbo including active cruise control, dusk-sensing headlights, and it has a tyre repair kit instead of space-saving spare wheel available in the other Swifts.

The Swift comes standard in white. Other external colours cost extra.

How comfortable is the Suzuki Swift?

The new Swift brings a sporty feel to the cabin, seating the driver behind a mildly flat-bottomed, three-spoke steering wheel and big round dials for the major instruments. They comprise an analogue tachometer (which lets you know how fast the engine is spinning) and speedo, placed either side of a small display that can show the time, the temperature outside, current fuel consumption, and your range till you need to refuel.

Storage for odds, ends, and drink containers has been nicely thought through, and in general the cabin feels classy (for the price), if somewhat monochromatic. Big ventilation outlets dominate the top of the dash in the centre. Below them is the media interface (a colour touchscreen on all but the manual-gearbox GL), with ventilation controls under that.

This Swift rides on a 20mm longer wheelbase than its predecessor, allowing a bit more space for those in the back, but it is also wider and has a lower roofline. There is more space than previously between the front seats, and these have been placed lower in the car to keep tall people out of the roof lining. So you have more space, but the Swift still feels cosy – in a good way.

The ride is on the firm side of cushy but on the flipside there is enough control that you feel well looked after, with nippy steering that nevertheless remains reassuring.

The 1.2-litre engine and CVT auto in GL Navigators supply plenty of can-do urge at suburban speeds with no obvious quirks, working hand-in-glove with the all-new chassis to endow this cheery little car with a sense of integrity.

What about safety in a Swift?

Every Swift comes with anti-lock brakes, stability control, six airbags, pretensioners on the front and outer rear seatbelts, and daytime running lamps (which help other drivers see you). It is a safety package that emphasises your control of the car, and your protection in a collision.

There are airbags in front of the driver and front passenger, and another two immediately outside the driver and passenger to protect you at chest level from side impacts. In addition, a curtain airbag on each side extends past both seat rows at head level, protecting all outer occupants from side impacts.

Optional on the GL Navigator, and standard on the GLX Turbo, are auto cruise control (which can reduce fatigue on long journeys) and three other active driver aids: Autonomous emergency braking, Lane departure warning, and a Weaving alert.

The auto braking uses laser and camera sensors to monitor the road ahead, and Suzuki says it is effective at speeds up to about 100km/h. If it recognises a collision risk – typically because a car ahead has slowed suddenly – it will trigger a warning buzzer and an alert on the dashboard. If you ignore the warning and it concludes a collision is imminent, it will apply the brakes automatically, with the aim of avoiding the crash or reducing your speed at impact.

The lane-departure warning monitors your position in relation to highway lane-markings, looking for signs you are drifting into another lane without indicating (possibly from distraction or fatigue). It attracts your attention with a visual warning on the dash, and by vibrating the steering wheel.

The weaving alert looks specifically for signs you might be falling asleep, comparing how steadily you are steering the car over time. If your behaviour indicates you are weary, it will trigger audible and visual warnings.

The GLX Turbo (only) also looks after the headlights for you when you are driving at night. Its self-levelling LED headlights switch themselves on in poor light, and at speeds over 40km/h will switch to low-beam where there is street lighting, or where there is a risk they might dazzle a driver you are following or someone driving towards you.

Forward vision is very good in a Swift, but the design of the rear doors (with high-mounted handles) and rear roof-pillars expands the usual blind spot when checking over your shoulders for nearby cars behind.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Swift GL Navigator and GLX Turbo five stars for safety, its maximum, in September 2017. The least costly Swift, the GL, received four stars. The GL was rated lower only because it had too few of what ANCAP calls safety-assist features: for example, unlike the other Swifts it did not have a reversing camera.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes you can expect to enjoy the Swift, and in whatever form you elect to accept it. The GL Navigator's five-speed manual mates so blissfully to the free-spinning engine that some might feel sorry for those going auto.

Except in stop-start conditions, of course, which the GL Navigator CVT (continual variable transmission) makes light of.

Neither transmission lets you command exciting levels of thrust from the 1.2-litre engine, and brisk overtakes at highway speeds will require planning. But either of the less costly Swifts spins along happily while you take in the scenery, helped by Suzuki’s trademark low weight – the new car is lighter by a passenger and a half than the car it replaces (it is lighter also than most near alternatives), and it slips through the air more easily too.

It is becoming something of a cliche to say of new-generation cars about this size that they hold the road like a bigger car, and to say so captures only part of the point. The Swift still drives like a very small car – compact and lightweight and easily mastered. What you can say more precisely is that it rides and handles like a more expensive car, with better and more attentively tuned rolling-chassis bits than have been the norm in the past. The Swift still points crisply into corners but it holds a line more serenely than its predecessor, allowing a less watchful attitude to heaves and lumps in the road.

The GLX Turbo pulls about 30 per cent harder when you press down on the accelerator. That is more go than you need around town, but it is welcome once outside city limits, giving you more opportunities to exploit the Swift’s biddable nature. The Turbo generates progress in a more relaxed fashion, reserving some muted but effervescent commentary for when you loosen its leash.

You can’t get the GLX Turbo with a manual gearbox, but shift paddles mounted on the steering wheel give you some manual control over its six-speed convention auto.

The true driver’s car among Swifts is the Sport, which provides spirited acceleration and less body roll, while also serving as a relaxing daily driver around town. The manual gearbox is the pick for driving enthusiasts, but the six-speed auto shifts well and comes with paddle shifters for a little hand-on gearing.

How is life in the rear seats?

Suzuki says it has added about 20mm of knee room for rear-seat passengers, expanding the tight dimensions of model it replaces, and it has also lowered the seat to add about that much headroom. A pair of adult passengers could sit comfortably in the back.

There are lap-sash belts for three rear passengers.

It is likely you will have to help small people open the rear doors, as the handles are positioned very high near the top of the window frames. The consequent shrinking of the rear windows also constrains the ability of rear passengers to see out.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The boot on the new Swift is bigger than on the car it replaces, offering 240 litres behind the rear seats. That is still a little on the small side for a light hatchback – it is about as much space as you get in a Mazda2 – and you can squeeze a lot more into a Kia Rio or (especially with the rear seats tucked away) a Honda Jazz.

The rear seats on the Swift fold 60-40, which adds flexibility for carrying long objects, but they do not fold flat with the boot floor.

In-cabin storage extends to bottle-holders front and rear, and a pocket behind the front passenger seat.

Where is the Swift made?

Swifts sold in Australia are made in Japan.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Possibly some extra help when changing lanes or backing out of a parking spot. Some Mazda2s, for example, supply a blind-spot alert, which lets you know when an adjacent vehicle is travelling near your rear corner – in a place that your mirrors don’t cover. They also have a rear cross-traffic alert, which looks behind you to either side when you are reversing – reducing the chance you will back into the path of a crossing vehicle.

The Mazda2 and some other light cars such as the Kia Rio also offer rear parking sensors, which help you judge how close you are to hard objects behind you.

More versatility for carrying cargo. The champ here in a car of similar size is the Honda Jazz.

Among other light cars you might consider are the Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio, Toyota Yaris, and Hyundai Accent. Suzuki also makes a very small SUV, called the Ignis.

The Suzuki Swift Sport is more in the realm of the Volkswagen Polo GTI, Ford Fiesta ST and Renault Clio RS and matches them for driver enjoyment despite the lower price tag.

Are there plans to update the Swift soon?

This Swift arrived as a new-generation car in June 2017, with the performance-orientated Swift Sport added to the range at the beginning of 2018.

The sparsely equipped Swift GL was deleted from the range in October 2018 and replaced by a manual version of the better-equipped GL Navigator. This means all Swifts now feature touchscreen infotainment, reversing camera and a 5-Star ANCAP rating.

Suzuki upped its warranty from three years/100,000kms to five years/unlimited kilometres for all cars registered from October 1, 2019.

Updated Series II versions are expected in 2020 including the Swift Sport Series II that's due in May with a slight facelift and additional active safety features including blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, plus a handy digital speedometer. It will launch with an eye-catching new orange/black two-tone colour option.

Suzuki is yet provide details or an arrival date for the updated Swift GL and GLX versions.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

It's hard to single one version out as they all have a lot to offer depending on your budget and driving tastes.

For an affordable, feature-rich, all-round good drive, with auto transmission for easy progress in heavy traffic, the GL Navigator is the value bet. This is also available with the safety pack for an extra $1000 or so, which is worth considering for the additional peace of mind and active cruise control.

For keen drivers, the GL Navigator manual and the stirring and well specified GLX Turbo satisfy – albeit in different ways, and at divergent prices.

The Swift Sport takes that driving pleasure another step, with genuine, but affordable hot hatch performance.
Score breakdown
Safety, value and features
Comfort and space
Engine and gearbox
Ride and handling
Things we like
  •   Good to drive
  •   Auto braking available
  •   Swift Sport a great affordable hot hatch
Not so much
  •   Hard interior plastics
  •   Road noise


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