The Suzuki Swift, even in its most basic form, has previously had a reputation for being one of the sportiest superminis. That’s not just because of its lively and energetic top-of-the-range Sport model and its success in junior rallying, but regular models have had pleasant, revvy engines and an eager chassis.
The latest Swift is a far more grown up hatchback, it’s more spacious and practical, it comes with a whole load of gadgets to keep you in your lane, maintain a constant distance between the car in front and stop you crashing, it can be equipped with a mild-hybrid system, an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive.
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Still, mostly thanks to a light kerb weight, some of that old Swift-style enthusiasm does shine through. It can’t quite cope with some harder driving, but it’s composed and enjoyable when you’re just making good progress.
The same can be said for the new Swift Sport, too. It’s packed with technology and is certainly more grown up than its predecessors, but it doesn’t like to be hustled – not the attitude you want from a hot hatch. Sadly, some odd steering – no feel and inconsistent weight – means that it’s not that entertaining to drive in a more relaxed manner, either.
Suzuki Swift in detail
Engine, gearbox and technical specs > There are three engines available across the range, plus hybrid versions
Performance and 0-60 time > You might not believe it, but the Swift (not just the Sport) feels fast
Ride and handling > A low kerb weight for all models makes them enjoyable, up to a point
MPG and running costs > That light weight also has its benefits when it comes to how expensive the Swift is to run
Interior and tech > A little drab and dated, but simple and high quality
Design > Recognisably a Swift, yet the Sport has a more distinctive look than ever
Prices, specs and rivals
The Suzuki Swift range starts with the SZ3, the sort of simple and cheap car you’d expect as the entry point for a small supermini. It costs £11,999, has a 1.2-litre naturally aspirated engine, and comes with a five-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive. Mechanically simple, perhaps, but there’s a good number of toys as standard; Bluetooth connectivity, DAB radio, air conditioning and LED automatic headlamps are all included. The next step up, the Swift SZ-T for £13,999, has even more equipment with a central touchscreen, a rear-view camera, 16-inch alloys and fog lamps. It also comes with a smaller, three-cylinder engine, but thanks to a turbocharger it makes 20bhp more with a maximum output of 109bhp.
The next model up, the SZ5 has even more standard equipment, including: auto air conditioning, a collision warning system with auto emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and a lane departure warning system. But unlike the lesser models, there are some significant options you can add to your SZ5: a mild-hybrid system, four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox.
The top of the range – the hot hatch of the line-up – Swift Sport is much simpler as there are no options. For £17,999 you get a 1373cc four-cylinder turbocharged engine with 138bhp and 170lb ft of torque, plus the same cruise control and driver assistance systems as the SZ5, even though that’s hardly what a hot hatch needs.
Because of its size, the Swift doesn’t easily fit into a clear category. For instance, it’s not quite as big as a Ford Fiesta, but it’s larger than a VW Up. The base Swift is also cheaper than the entry-level Fiesta that starts at £13,715, but more expensive than the basic £9605 Up. The Swift, despite its many charms, doesn’t quite have the same sense of joy that the Up or Fiesta exhibit. Yes, it’s more grown up, but all those driver assistance systems and an extra layer of refinement mask some mechanical feel and make it just a little less fun.
A similar criticism can be levelled at the Swift Sport, too. It might be more powerful, more expensive and better equipped than the VW Up GTI, but the Up’s robust and taut chassis, although far from perfect, is a hoot all the time and on any road, and it makes the Swift feel stodgy and soft. It’s closer, in terms of price, to the Fiesta ST (£18,995), but the Swift has a 59bhp power deficit and feels inert compared to the lively Ford.
The car that’s closest to the Swift Sport – in that it has a similar spec and is also slightly disappointing – is the Vauxhall Corsa GSi. Both have 1.4-litre turbocharged engines that put out within 10bhp of one another and both cost within £1000 of each other. The Swift feels faster, and it is, beating the GSi’s 0-62mph time by 0.5sec, but the Corsa’s chassis is more engaging.