► Shorter, lower, roomier inside
► Class-competitive in all areas
► Now running a mild hybrid
Rather like telegraph poles and Bond films on Bank Holidays, most of us probably take the Suzuki Swift for granted. It’s doing a fine job unobtrusively – and the world would be a worse place without it. Suzuki hopes that the third generation of the rebooted (in 2005) Swift franchise will up the excitement ante somewhat, and build on the success of its predecessors in the process.
It has a tough act to follow. Since 2005, 127,000 Swifts have been sold in the UK, out of more than a million sold in Europe. Globally, it’s a big player, too, outselling some big name superminis such as the Renault Clio. So, is the new Swift up to the job?
What will get you excited?
More efficiency should. It sits on the new Heartect platform shared with the Ignis and Baleno, and that means the Swift has certainly shed kilos. These underpinnings are 30kg lighter than before, contribute to an overall 120kg reduction in kerbweight of between 890-980kg. It’s shorter, too, although the wheelbase is longer, promising increased passenger space.
The Swift comes in three- and four-cylinder forms – the 1.2-litre naturally aspirated version is the entry-level option, with the 1.0-litre Boosterjet triple topping the range. Both engines offer the mild hybrid SVHS system (a class first), which is built around a 0.37kWh lithium ion battery used to harvest braking energy to spin the starter/generator in stop/start traffic and briefly boost power by 2kW under acceleration.
The overall effect is that it improves fuel consumption to the tune of 4.3mpg and knocks down CO2 emissions to 98g/km in the 1.0-litre version. On that, we won’t see a replacement for the dismal previous-generation diesel version - a very on trend move.
Styling has been cleverly evolved, too. Although the grille shape has more than a hint of 1960s BMC 1100 about it, the rest of it is identifiably a Swift. The black A-pillars and floating roof remain, but they are dressed up with pretty new LED DRLs and tail-lamps, carefully contoured flanks, and a matching C-pillar with hidden door handle. That goes some way towards addressing the lack of a three-door model.
That’s all well and good but will the drive move me?
On the whole, yes. There was never much wrong with the way the old Swift drove. But this one has taken a significant leap in a number of areas. We’re testing the top-of-the-range version, which is largely equivalent to the SZ5, when it arrives in the UK in June. With 109bhp and weighing in at a modest 925kg, you’d be right to expect warm hatchback levels of driving fun – and on the whole, you won’t be disappointed.
Suzuki’s engineers will tell you that they worked hard at making this new car sporty. And we’d say that the 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine is a gem, stacking up on score. Considering it’s a three-pot, it’s spookily refined at low revs, idling in near silence. Around town, it’s unobtrusive, but when you rev it hard, it pulls beautifully, accompanied by a never loud version of the increasingly familiar off-beat thrum you get with triples.
It pulls well from low revs, which means that you will not need to use the sweet-shifting five-speed gearbox too often to keep up with the flow. That’s almost a shame, as swapping gears in this car is a well-oiled pleasure, even if the ratios are on the wide side. It’ll pull happily from walking speed up to the legal limit – just in third gear. But although there’s no need to extend it beyond 4000rpm, if you enjoy driving, you’ll provably do it for the hell of it.
It cruises happily on the motorway, with a little wind noise to dampen its overall refinement. In town, the light, well-weighted controls, combined with good visibility, mean its pleasant to wend its way through traffic.
Finally a word about its handling and ride. It’s good. Not quite Fiesta good, but certainly not far off. The ride quality is more than acceptable, with only the deepest potholes and road ruts upsetting the equilibrium. Damping is supple, rounding off the worst of the edges, while overall cornering is of the agile variety. The steering is noteworthy for its quick rack and lightness – although like nearly all the competitive set, you trade-off road feel for overall weight and accuracy.
What’s it like inside?
The dimensions don’t lie: the new Swift is roomier than before. So you get more legroom, and thanks to lower-mounted seats (and a consequently improved driving position), there’s also more headroom front and rear. The boot capacity is 264 litres, which is 54 litres up from before – in that, it’s no class leader, and it has a high loading lip, which makes putting heavy objects in more difficult than it needs to be.
Build quality is typically Suzuki - good, but not quite the best in terms of material feel. It’s functional, too, if not quite as stylish as some rivals. It’s also tightly screwed together, all the controls have a chunky feeling, and you know it’ll feel that way for years to come.
The control layout is simple and effective. The heating/ventilation system is operated by simple centrally mounted knobs, and all of the rest of the control set is utterly conventional in its positioning.
And the infotainment system? Although it’s well-featured, the screen is small, the touchscreen is unresponsive, and clunky in its response. It feels aftermarket – and compared with the slick systems offered by its rivals, it’s hard not to conclude it’s a disappointment.
Suzuki deserves to do well with the new Swift. In terms of class performance, it’s there or thereabouts. Positives are that it’s fun to drive, handles well, and it should be well equipped for the money. Reliability is also a given.
On smooth French roads, it’s impressive, but we’ll wait until we get one in the UK before calling a definitive verdict. But the early signs are that Suzuki has done well here, building on the old Swift’s good points – it’s roomier, more economical and stylish - and carving out a few new ones, too. The signs for the next Swift Sport are looking good.
Click here to read CAR's review of the outgoing Swift Sport