I always liked the outgoing Suzuki Swift, which combined sporty looks with good value for money and decent performance. I especially liked the Sport model, but as Suzuki only had 100 to sell, the model didn’t doo too much for local brand building.
For years, when asked which small car I’d buy on a budget, I always recommended the Swift as offering the most for the money. I even managed to convince a friend or two to buy one. A few years down the line I was still recommending it, but adding two riders: ‘If you don’t mind the dated interior’ and ‘if you don’t like the i20’.
For a car sold in SA since 2008, it says a lot that it is still highly rated among newer competitors in a segment that reinvents itself very quickly. Key rivals include the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20, Renault Clio and Honda Jazz, each of which could make a strong case for your money.
What then makes the newest Swift stand out from this crowd and get noticed by the Most Popular Car Magazines? In designing the car the philosophy seems to have been ‘more Swift’. Essentially what this means is tracing the old Swift and updating some of the dowdy bits, including adding 16-inch alloys as a range standard. For a new car it is remarkably similar to the old one, bar a few headlight swishes and a higher boot line. It’s a touch bigger on the inside too, but the small boot is still a shortfall.
Under the bonnet, the old 1.5-litre mill has been swapped for a 1.4-litre which is fractionally more CO2 efficient at 132g/km, but disappointingly down on power at 70kW and 130Nm (versus 74kW/133Nm). It’s hardly noticeable though, and in manual form the Swift is nippy off the mark, claiming 10.9 seconds for the sprint to 100kph. In-gear acceleration is pretty decent, though overtaking at higher speeds requires a good run-up and a clear view ahead. Hard to get away from the fact it’s only a 1.4.
The interior is a big improvement, and on the high spec GLS version you get the full array of electrically assisted controls, plus MP3 compatibility and a USB slot. The dash has been revised and the radio and centre unit look more modern and this century. That said, while the cabin is stylish and well finished, it doesn’t really set the standard in the rival set. The plastics are a little scratchy, though seem durable – a key attribute in this segment.
The overall drive of the Swift hasn’t changed all that much. By making the car stiffer and lowering the centre of gravity it has allowed the Suzuki engineers to dial in a slightly softer suspension. The more compliant ride doesn’t detract from the fun factor the car provides when nipping about town. In addition, the gearshifts are nice and short and easily found and the clutch is light with the bite point in the right place, making for less jerky pull-offs. My view? New Swift doesn’t break through any of the segment’s boundaries, but once more pushes itself back to the top of the pile.