"The Suzuki Swift is great to drive, cheap to run and good value for money."
Suzuki may be better known for their motorbikes but the Swift shows that the company can make a brilliant and economical car, too. With two engine choices, either a 1.2-litre petrol or a 1.3-litre diesel, the Swift may not offer as much variety as its better known Ford Fiesta or VW Polo rivals but both engines are more than enough for getting around the city and giving good fuel economy. The Swift also doesn’t scrimp on interior space, with plenty for both front and rear passengers but it may not be the perfect companion for a long weekend away as the boot is quite small. All in all, the Swift offers a sensible alternative to the more obvious choices. If you're looking for something sporty in your next car, the Swift also offers the excellent Swift Sport model.
Both engines available in the Swift - a 1.2-litre petrol engine across the range, and a 1.3-litre turbodiesel in mid-range SZ3 spec- give the car a zippy feel in the city but struggle at motorway speeds, much as you would expect for such small engines. The more expensive diesel is the better of the two, offering decent economy with a good level of acceleration for pulling out of junctions. Both engines are offered with an optional automatic gearbox, which makes the car easier to drive in town but it noticeably slower in feel. The Swift is always a pleasure to drive, in or out of the city. Having its wheels at each corner means it's straightforward to manoeuvre at any speed and easy to park. The steering helps by being precise and reassuringly weighted. Out of town, the Swift feels grippy and does inspire confidence when driving on country roads. In short, only the Fiesta is a rival for the Swift in terms of what it offers the driver.
For a car with such a sporty attitude - especially one that feels so zippy - the ride is pretty good in the Swift. It deals with poor road surfaces easily and smoothes most road bumps to an acceptable level in most circumstances. Only the deepest potholes manage to unsettle the car, sending jolts through the cabin. The noise in the interior is very well suppressed at low speeds and, even when driving out of town, the cabin is a calm place to be. However, at motorway speeds wind and engine noise do intrude, the petrol being noticeably noisier than the impressively quiet diesel. Inside, the car doesn’t carry on the style from the exterior, with some of the materials feeling a bit cheap. The dash is well laid out and solid looking, but it's a gloomy place with lots of dark, cheap plastics.
Inside, the Swift feels like a safe place to be. Switches and buttons are solid and give reassuring feedback, and the dashboard doesn’t have any rattles or squeaks when jarred by large potholes. Unfortunately, the quality is a bit lacking, however. The plastics used throughout are cheap and scratchy, never giving a feeling that they'll last the duration of the car's life. Mechanical reliability for Suzuki is only average, too - a surprise from a Japanese manufacturer. In the 2012 Driver Power survey Suzuki came one place higher than Renault at 26 out of 30 - not an impressive result. Safety in the Swift is better, however, as it scored the full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests and comes equipped with electronic skid control and seven airbags, including a driver's knee airbag.
Space for passengers is very good in the Swift. Four adults fit easily for a car of this size, and even taller adults will find it comfortable in the back over longer distances. Boot space is not so good, however, and only offers 211 litres with the seats in place - which compares poorly with the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa's 288 litres. The rear seats do split 60/40, allowing for more useable space if needed. But they don’t fold completely flat and there's an annoying lip that makes fitting larger items more difficult than it should be. There is a decent amount of storage cubbies and cup holders dotted around the interior to keep all your odds and ends, however.
Value for money
There are three models in the Swift Range, not including the Swift Sport. The SZ2 model is the cheapest and represents great value, being well equipped with electric front windows, heated mirrors and steering-mounted audio controls as standard. It's also usefully cheaper than the equivalent Ford Fiesta. SZ3 models mark the mid-point in the range and add manual air-conditioning and 16-inch alloys. The diesel engine costs another couple of thousand pounds but does offer better economy and would be our choice. It's only available in the SZ3 spec, however, and does without the starter button and cruise control of the flagship SZ4. The SZ4 model also adds automatic air-con, Bluetooth connectivity and tinted glass but probably represents less value for money than other models in the range.
Both engines in the Swift range are cheap to run. The petrol is capable of returning 56.5mpg in fuel economy when paired with a manual gearbox and has CO2 emissions of only 116g/km, which means it falls into a cheap tax bracket, too. The emissions and fuel economy of the petrol suffers noticeably if you combine it with an automatic gearbox, with economy dropping to 50mpg. The diesel is the better engine all round and returns up to 67.3mpg. Emissions still don’t fall into the tax-free bracket at 109g/km, but they're still low enough to make taxing the Swift a less painful experience.