SUZUKI is vying for B-segment light-car leadership with a completely redesigned and re-engineered Swift, growing in size, performance, efficiency, safety and value. But has the stylish Japanese supermini lost any of its predecessors’ sporty charm as a result?
WHAT IS IT
Aimed at the sportier and more style-focused end of the B-segment, against the likes of the Mazda 2, Volkswagen Polo, the Swift has long been the keener driver’s choice, though at the cost of back-seat and luggage space. But now Suzuki hits back with a more rounded proposition that should give even mundane rivals like the Toyota Yaris something to fear.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Suzuki cars have been a rollercoaster ride in terms of comfort, refinement and driver appeal, but the Swift has long been a constant, rising above the dross to mix it with the class best. For this all-new version, the Japanese giant is eyeing both critical and sales leadership, and has pulled out all stops to achieve that. Can’t wait to see how it turns out.
THE WHEELS VERDICT:
Suzuki’s third interpretation of the 21st Century Swift is, in almost every sense, appreciably better than its predecessors, especially in terms of interior space, available safety, multimedia technology, powertrain efficiency and overall comfort. It now rests among class leaders alongside the Volkswagen Polo, Mazda 2, Skoda Fabia and Renault Clio. However, the company must be careful to not squander the good will this nameplate has worked hard to win among enthusiasts with no AEB availability on the sole manual version (the cracking base GL) and – more alarmingly – auto-only for the punchy 1.0-litre turbo.
PLUS: Increased space, slick and pacy powertrains, refinement, value, handling
MINUS: No AEB availability on 1.2 manual, turbo manual or digital speedo
THE WHEELS REVIEW
CORPORATE Amnesia. Striking Peugeot in the 2000s (when it forgot how to make beautiful and dynamic cars) and latterly threatening to similarly infect Ford, the fear is that Suzuki might be next after two generations of stylish and sassy Swifts. Everything hinges on how good the latest one is. Deep breath in.
And exhale. Chief engineer Maso Kobori revealed that honing ‘fun and sporty’ was his team’s strident aim when work commenced on the AZ series in 2013, ahead even of the usual noble pursuits of improved efficiency, refinement, safety and driveability.
Longer and wider than before, with a lower ride height and ceiling, the latest Swift sits on an all-new architecture shared with the bigger Baleno, though the suspension (struts up front, torsion beam behind) and steering are tuned for European tastes. Despite hailing from a previous engineering regime, Ford’s ageing Fiesta was deemed the dynamic benchmark.
Aided by a circa-20 percent lighter, yet stronger body (boasting triple the amount of ultra high-strength steel), the upshot is a more solid and firmer footing at speed, with better noise isolation to boot. While still quick and crisp, the helm isn’t as nervous as before through faster turns, while bumps neither upset nor divert this Suzuki’s trajectory like they might once have. Progress.
Aside from a hint of rack rattle (admittedly while carving up through craggy corners with gusto and control), the Swift steers, handles and rides like a larger and more sophisticated car. Phew!
On paper, the introduction of a 66kW/120Nm 1.2-litre atmo four as the standard engine might seem like a backward step from the predecessor’s 4kW, 10Nm and 200cc stronger unit. But a 100kg-plus weight drop (76kW versus 70kW per tonne), combined with excellent economy and an infectious propensity to bounce off the 7000rpm cut-out, means this gem’s feisty can-do urge perfectly suits the chassis’ dynamic integrity. Just don’t spare the revs! And fine as the smooth, reactive, and mercifully lag-free CVT is, the five speeder pairing is bliss. All driving schools should switch to Swift manuals this instant. Auto-only drivers don’t know what they’re missing.
Except, of course, that Suzuki is a gun at terrific turbos, and the GLX’s 82kW/160Nm 1.0-litre Boosterjet turbo triple/six-speed torque-converter auto combo (rated at 90kW/tonne) can certainly flex some muscle, fixing another fresh feather in the Swift’s cap due to its spirited off-the-line vigour and energetic mid-range acceleration. Sounds pretty pleasing too. Volkswagen’s Polo no longer has the cultivated supermini niche cornered.
That feeling of quality and class transfers inside what is palpably a roomier as well as quieter cabin than in any previous Swift. The attention to detail is pleasing, from the dashboard’s chic three-spoke wheel, racy analogue instrument dials and colourful multimedia screen to the nicely angled backrest and plentiful storage areas.
But where’s the digital speedo? The colour choices are humdrum. And rear vision is hampered by a surprisingly fat C-pillar (with that dubiously located door handle – the 1990s are irrefutably back), especially as there are no reverse sensors or camera offered in the GL manual.
This segues nicely to the issue of value. Choosing to change gears yourself means also forgoing the camera, central touchscreen with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, sat nav and alloys featuring in the auto-only GL Navigator for just $1000 extra at $17,990 driveaway. Additionally, AEB (part of a $1200 Safety Pack that also brings Lane Departure Warning and adaptive cruise on the latter, but standard in GLX) isn’t available on manual either. Pity.
Atmo versus turbo. Manual versus auto. This truly is a tale of two Swifties. Whichever, all variants provide a stylish and stirring alternative to the class leaders. Thankfully Suzuki hasn’t forgotten its mojo after all.
Model: Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo
Engine: 998cc 3-cyl, dohc, 12v turbo
Max power: 82kW @ 55500rpm
Max torque: 160Nm @ 1500-4000rpm
Transmission: 6-speed auto
Fuel economy: 5.1L/100km
Price: $22,990 (driveaway)
On sale: Now