Suzuki Swift

Another great product from Suzuki, the Swift is a cracking and likeable supermini

Overview

What is it?

It’s the all-new Suzuki Swift MkIV and this is very good news if you’re a regular follower of Top Gear, because the Swift Sport has always been one of our favourite everyday performance champions. No Sport to tell you about yet, sadly (although after a bit of gentle torture a Suzuki PR person did admit “the Sport is definitely on the way”), but there’s enough in the make-up of the regular hatchback to make us a bit excited about the forthcoming warm version of the Japanese supermini. More on that in a moment.

First, however, we probably need to clarify Suzuki’s range for you, as you’re no doubt wearing a puzzled expression, while possibly uttering the words ‘but I thought Suzuki already had a supermini, in the form of the Baleno?’ You’re right. But Suzuki would not be alone in offering a multitude of small cars of varying shapes that all seem to be of the same denomination. Look at Vauxhall, for instance: it has the Adam, the Corsa and the Viva. Ford similarly has the Ka+ and the Fiesta, as well as the EcoSport. Seems you just can’t get away with one supermini-sized offering any more, so Suzuki is hedging its bets and banging out three of the blighters, in the form of the Baleno, Ignis micro-SUV and this Swift, its longest-serving hatchback.

The Swift therefore fulfils a function whereby it provides a more chic and compact supermini as a counterpoint to the spacious-but-bargain Baleno, which is perhaps a more (how can we put this?) rational car. So you get some classic Swift design features, like the wraparound windscreen and the sloping roof, plus distinctive C-pillar treatment that now has a ‘floating roof’ effect. Even the light clusters front and rear aren’t that much different to the old car’s units, although the ‘smiling mouth’ lower front grille is not going to meet with universal rapture.

Nevertheless, the Swift is smaller (10mm shorter, 15mm lower, although 40mm wider) and considerably lighter than its predecessor, and it sits on the company’s ‘Heartect’ platform, used for the Baleno and Ignis. But a 20mm-stretched wheelbase means there’s plenty of space within and a boot that’s bigger by 54 litres than the old car’s cargo bay, standing at 265 litres with all seats in situ. That’s some clever packaging work.

Two engines, the 1.2-litre Dualjet normally aspirated four-cylinder petrol and the much more charismatic 1.0-litre Boosterjet three-cylinder motor do the donkey work and both of them can be mated to the Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS) system; this doesn’t add anything in terms of outright torque or performance, but it does marginally cut the emissions and gives the combined economy a little tickle upwards. The 1.2 SHVS is also an Allgrip 4×4 model, while the 1.0 SHVS is the only Swift that comes with the option of an automatic transmission. So, with all this in mind, what’s it like behind the wheel?

Driving

What is it like on the road?

So far, we’ve only driven the 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS manual, which was in range-topping SZ5 trim. This little Swift churns out 109bhp at 5,500rpm and 125lb ft from 2,000- to 3,500rpm, all going to the front wheels via a five-speed manual gearbox. Performance is punchy enough to have us excited at the prospect of the Swift Sport, which will most likely use the 138bhp/162lb ft 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine, as the 1.0-litre’s 0-62mph time of 10.6 seconds and 121mph top speed feel like entirely believable claims. It’s a really perky little operator, the 1.0 SHVS, and while there’s the pleasing aural thrum to the way the triple goes about its business of sweetly piling on the revs, there are also no vibrations or shudders to report back as you get quicker.

No problems with the motive power, then, and no real problems with the rest of the dynamics, because – with the entire range weighing less than a tonne and even as little as 890kg – the Swift feels lively and alert. The steering lacks for feel and the rack is controlled by a wheel that has a strangely thin rim, but there’s a distinct lack of understeer, well-managed body roll and a real eagerness to flick-flack through direction changes. That speaks of purposefulness that’s at odds with the Swift’s cutesy face.

The ride is comfortable, and there’s little to report in terms of wind, engine or tyre noise when you’re on a steady-state cruise. We wouldn’t say the 1.0 is an absolute firecracker to drive, or anything that should be on someone’s bucket list, but as a really cultured, appealing supermini, this Suzuki mild hybrid is a little corker that’s up there with the best in class.

On the inside

Layout, finish and space

Less impressive, as the Swift seems to take after the Baleno School of Dashboard Finishing, rather than graduating from the same academy as the Suzuki Ignis. There’s a token effort at funkiness, in the form of contrast fillets of trim on the dashboard and running around the door handles, while the pattern of the cloth seats seems to be some sort of subliminal marketing ploy to encourage you to trade up to a Mercedes one day. Other than that, it’s lots of sturdy, charcoal-grey plastics and fairly simple dials and surfaces.

So it’s not exactly breathtaking inside, but it is all well laid-out and intuitive, and there’s plenty of space on board for four adults, although five might be pushing it; the back seats aren’t quite as commodious as those in the Baleno, but they’re still better than some other rivals’ efforts in this sector. Furthermore, like any self-respecting Suzuki, the equipment levels on the Swift are generous almost to a fault. Even the base SZ3 has air conditioning, six airbags, DAB radio and Bluetooth as standard, while SZ-T enjoys smartphone link infotainment, a rear-view camera and other items like 16-inch alloys and front fog lamps. SZ5, close to what we drove, gains climate control, satnav, rear electric windows and adaptive cruise control, among much more.

About the only gripe on kit is that heated seats will not be offered in the UK, even as an option; they’re fitted on left-hand-drive cars only. Yet the switchgear to operate them is down next to the handbrake and so the piece of dash trim to accommodate this feature wouldn’t have to be changed from left- to right-hand drive markets at all. Most odd.

Owning

Running costs and reliability

Prices of the Swift will be confirmed at the end of April, with the first cars appearing in dealerships in mid-May ahead of the 1 June on-sale date. Thus, Suzuki is being a little coy about precisely how much the Swift will cost. Suzuki has dropped the three-door model entirely due to slow UK sales, leaving just the five-door soldiering on. Repeated queries for a rough estimate on the Swift’s windscreen sticker were met with polite refusal of a price, although it was at least said to sit ‘about midway between the Ignis and the Baleno’. Around the £11,000 mark, then.

No Swift emits anything more than 114g/km and two drivetrains – the 1.2 Dualjet manual and this 1.0 SHVS manual – dip below 100g/km, the Boosterjet’s 97g/km being the best figure of the range. While that might not make a huge difference under the 2017 VED laws any more, it does help with Benefit-in-Kind taxation, at the least. Fuel economy ranges from 56.5mpg on the 1.0 Boosterjet Auto, up to 65.7mpg for the 1.2 Dualjet and the 1.0 SHVS. Impressive parsimony across the board, we’re sure you’ll agree.

Verdict

Final thoughts and pick of the range

The latest Swift is a fine all rounder: able and amusing
Good news all round here, as we’re thoroughly impressed with what we’ve seen of the fourth-generation Suzuki Swift so far. It’s neatly styled and really intelligently packaged, what with its weight loss programme and small dimensions teaming up with improved cabin space, while the fabulous 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine with the mild hybrid assistance leads to a Swift that admirably lives up to its name. You don’t have to work this Japanese hatchback hard to get it to build up a good head of steam and, once the corners start coming thick and fast, it’ll hang onto as much of its pace as possible, thanks to a limber chassis with an excellent set-up.Of course, it still works if you operate it more sensibly, as most superminis are driven in the real world, because it’s more than comfortable enough and easy-to-use too. Factor in the competitive pricing it will no doubt have once the announcement of costs is made at the end of April, Suzuki’s munificence when it comes to interior equipment, and it’s clear the Swift should be on many supermini buyers’ shortlists. Which means (and we know we keep banging on about this, sorry) that what we’re really looking forward to now is the Swift Sport. Until that arrives, probably sometime in 2018, you’ll have to make do with the 1.0 SHVS, but that’s ok, as this is a fantastic little car from a company that’s becoming fast known for such things.

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