Suzuki Swift review
by David Finlay (26 July 2013)
If I were Suzuki - and of course I’m not, too much else going on, not enough hours in the day as it is - but supposing I were, I think I’d be rather satisfied with the Swift.
While it’s unlikely to be the first hatchback to spring to the mind of anyone who doesn’t already own one, and although there are a couple of things that could usefully be improved (luggage room possibly, rear visibility absolutely), it’s not at all a bad alternative to the better-known superminis.
Suzuki may be of much the same opinion, judging by the fact that the Swift hasn’t changed enormously in the last seven years. The revised model introduced in late 2010 wasn’t so very different from the one that first came on the UK market four years earlier, and the 2013 update is one of the least comprehensive I’ve ever seen. There doesn’t seem to be much urgency to change what is already the company’s most successful model in this country.
Most of the changes are cosmetic. There’s a new grille and front bumper, along with a high-level brake light at the back. The design of the seat fabric is new too.
As before, most Swifts have a 93bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine or a 74bhp 1.3-litre turbo diesel. (Those capacity descriptions, official though they may be, are misleading. There’s only 6cc difference between the two. The 1.2 has a 1242cc engine, the 1.3 a 1248cc engine. Strictly speaking they’re both 1.25s.)
In this review from 2012 I said that the diesel was too noisy, and although I haven’t driven one since then there’s nothing in this year’s update to suggest that it will be any better. It’s been tinkered with, though, and now has official combined fuel economy of 72.4mpg and a CO2 rating of 101g/km.
100g/km would have been better, but at 101 the car requires you to pay just £20 a year in Vehicle Excise Duty rather than nothing at all. Not such a big deal, surely? And following the lowering of the threshold for London congestion charge exemption, you’d still be paying that either way.
The three trim levels are called SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4. No change there, then. SZ2s have seven airbags, ESP, electric front windows, heated and electrically adjustably door mirrors, a radio/CD/MP3 player with a USB port and steering wheel-mounted controls and 15” steel wheels with a new design of plastic cover.
The SZ3 comes as standard with manual air-conditioning, a higher-spec audio system with music streaming facility, 16” alloy wheels and - a new one, this - front foglights.
At the top of the regular range, the SZ4 gets LED daytime running lights, powered folding door mirrors with integrated indicators, automatic air-conditioning, electric rear windows, rear privacy glass (on five-door models but not three-door ones), keyless start, automatic headlights, cruise control and one-touch closing of the driver’s door window.
In three-door form the SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4 cost £10,799, £12,119 and £13,439 respectively. Five-doors cost £500 more, and if you want four-speed automatic rather than five-speed manual transmission it brings the price of the five-door SZ4 (the only version on which it’s offered) up to £14,949.
There’s still a 134bhp 1.6-litre Sport, described here in an article published last August. Very little has changed except that it’s now available in both body styles, the new five-door being, at £14,249, £500 more expensive than the three-door.
The only really major change to the line-up is the introduction of a new 4x4 petrol model. UK journalists had access to a German-market car back in 2011, but for complicated industrial reasons it has taken until now for such a thing to go on sale here.
Apart from the increase in the number of driven wheels, the 4x4 is distinguished by having a ride height one inch greater than that of other Swifts, which proved to be very helpful on a desperately potholey track chosen by Suzuki for demonstration purposes.
The 4x4 also has front and rear skid plates, black wheelarch extensions and black side skirts, though Suzuki acknowledges that these are more for style than for protection. Still, they might help in the event of a minor scrape.
The extra transmission gubbins at the rear means that the 4x4’s fuel tank is smaller than normal (40 litres rather than 42). The gearing is also slightly different, and there’s a 65kg weight penalty. This and the added mechanical drag, and to some extent the inferior aerodynamics caused by the greater ride height, take the combined fuel economy from 56.5mpg to 51.3mpg and raise the CO2 emissions from 116g/km to 126g/km - enough, unfortunately, to send annual VED payments from just £30 to £105.
On the road the 4x4 handles quite well, and most people would be hard-pressed to tell the difference between it and any other non-Sport Swift. The first example I drove felt very slow, but that may have been partly because it had done only 730 miles and presumably still had a tight engine. Another one, with over 1100 miles on the clock, felt considerably perkier.
As to whether a 4x4 supermini is a car worth building, there are those who are sure it isn’t. Not enough demand, they say. But I’ve met people who want exactly such a thing, and as far as I’m concerned it’s a useful addition to the range.
The 4x4 is being offered in SZ3 and SZ4 manual five-door forms only, priced at £13,819 and £15,739. Note that Suzuki has a “VAT free” price deal running until the end of September 2013, bringing the price of most models down by over £2000 from anything quoted above.