What is it?

Suzuki’s long overdue replacement for the popular Swift. The $64,000 question is whether it can take up where the previous model left off. The latest figures show it’s doing all right, but not nearly as good as its predecessor. Last month it just scraped into second spot in the closely fought light car segment, but was still outsold two to one by the runaway leader Hyundai Accent. In terms of the year so far, it’s running fifth, behind Accent, Mazda2, Toyota Yaris and the VW Polo – but it’s only been on sale since June.

What’s it cost?

Prices start from $16,990 driveaway for the manual GL, rising to $17,990 for the GL Navigator, or $18,990 for the Navigator with safety pack. The GLX with everything is $22,990 driveaway. Not all Swifts are created equal however. GL comes with a naturally aspirated 1.2-litre four cylinder engine, while the GLX features a pumped up 1.0-litre, three cylinder turbocharged unit. Though smaller in size it actually offers more power and torque than the 66kW 1.2, with 82kW and 160Nm – the latter much lower in the rev range making it more relaxed to drive. The CVT in the 1.2 also makes way for a real 6-speed auto with the GLX, complete with steering wheel mounted gear change paddles for better control and more spirited performance. Pulling the gear lever one stop lower than drive (which is easy to do accidentally) engages manual mode which is also a kind of sport mode if you don’t change gear – but it’s too frenetic for extended use with the revs hovering around 5000rpm.

What’s it go like?

We drove the cars back to back. While the 1.2 goes okay, you’d take the turbo every time if money was no object. Not only does it offer more power but in our experience provides better fuel consumption too – at 5.3 versus 5.8L/100km. The thing is the turbo promised to improve on this figure, with only 330km on the trip meter by the time we handed it back. We’re not big fans of zoomy-feeling CVTs with some exceptions, but they are in theory capable of delivering superior fuel consumption, as the continuously seek the optimum balance between power and economy. The auto in the GLX is however preferable and the harder you drive the car, the better it actually feels. But left to its own devices, it quickly slips back into a lazy, unresponsive 1250rpm – presumably in the name of better fuel consumption. 

What we like?

  • Unpretentious
  • Solid reliable engineering
  • Comfy, wide fit seats
  • Easy to drive
  • Getting in and out is easy too
  • Larger boot than its predecessor
  • More rear legroom too but still not terrific
  • Concealed rear door handles give it a sportier look
  • Handles and sits on the road securely, with a comfortable ride
  • GLX adds proper auto with gear change paddles
  • Gear change paddles Hi-end adaptive cruise control with GLX
  • Apple CarPlay and Android Auto included (but with satnav already fitted it doesn’t offer any major attractions)

What we don’t?

  • No leather (no option either)
  • No safety rating yet (in Euro tests it scored only 3 stars)
  • No auto wipers or self adjusting rear view mirror in GLX
  • Sun visors too small and no shading between them
  • No digital speedo
  • Drum rear brakes don’t cut it
  • No auto up for the driver’s window
  • No grab handles in the GL so nowhere to hang a coat
  • Touchscreen is hit and miss – sometimes it responds, sometimes it doesn’t
  • No camera warnings or speed limits with navigation
  • Aircon blows hot and cold without rhyme or reason
  • Lane assist and auto braking, but no blind spot warnings
  • Lots of false alarms from auto braking system (it actually slammed on the brakes as we rounded a curve when it picked up a pedestrian on the walking on the verge)

The bottom line?

It’s not as funky as the smaller Ignis and not quite the little cutie we’ve come to know and love, but still recognisable as a Swift. It offers plenty of value for money at the lower end and you’d be crazy not to pay the extra grand for the GL with nav and a CVT. Top of the range GLX brings rear discs and some of the latest safety features like auto braking, but the higher price also brings it within cooee of plenty of competitors – that could be a problem.

 

Suzuki Swift, priced from $16,990 driveaway
  • 7/10
    Looks - 7/10
  • 7/10
    Performance - 7/10
  • 6/10
    Safety - 6/10
  • 7.5/10
    Thirst - 7.5/10
  • 8/10
    Practicality - 8/10
  • 7/10
    Comfort - 7/10
  • 7.5/10
    Tech - 7.5/10
  • 7.5/10
    Value - 7.5/10
7.2/10

Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.