Suzuki Swift hatchback
“The latest Suzuki Swift builds on its predecessor’s appeal, but can’t topple the supermini class leaders”
- Entertaining to drive
- Low running costs
- Appealing looks
- Bouncy ride
- Rivals are more practical
- Disappointing interior finish
There are better known names in the supermini class than the Suzuki Swift, but over the years, the model has quietly built up a loyal fanbase, who like its distinctive styling, entertaining driving experience, frugal running costs and low price.
The fourth-generation model aims to build on these qualities but now faces a vast array of talented rivals in the supermini class, including the Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and SEAT Ibiza, as well as the recently updated Peugeot 208 and Vauxhall Corsa.
It also has to compete with great-value offerings including the Dacia Sandero, Citroen C3, Hyundai i20 and Kia Rio. The Suzuki is arguably more stylish than these, incorporating design elements of the previous generation but with a more muscular look on the lower part of the doors and around the wheel arches, giving it a more sporty appearance. While some rivals have swollen in size, the Swift has also stayed true to its city car roots, making it easy to park and manoeuvre. If you want more power, the range-topping Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch is the most powerful version, which we've reviewed separately.
Like the old model, it’s great fun on a twisty road and, in spite of its limited power, is capable of bringing a smile to the face of an enthusiastic driver. Unfortunately, the downside to the Swift’s keen handling is suspension that's on the firm side, jiggling on the bumpy surfaces common in the UK.
Meanwhile, interior fit and finish lags behind rivals, with the Fiesta, Polo and the Clio all offering more upmarket interiors. The interior design is at least more stylish than before and you can connect your smartphone.
Just two petrol engines have been offered – a 1.0-litre or a 1.2 litre, and only the bigger engine is currently available. It's a mild-hybrid engine, which Suzuki calls SHVS (it stands for Small Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki). This blend of petrol and electric power helps reduce emissions to 113g/km of CO2. Performance is also given a small boost.
In addition, you could previously have your Swift with an automatic six-speed gearbox or ALLGRIP four-wheel drive, but the range has been slimmed down for 2020. The four-wheel-drive system doesn't turn the Swift into an off-roader, but does provide some extra security on slippery road surfaces.
Even entry-level SZ3 cars have manual air-conditioning, as well as DAB radio, Bluetooth, LED running lights and a leather steering wheel. Buyers of the intermediate SZ-T model get alloy wheels and a more modern-looking infotainment system with Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink and Android Auto. Attitude trim adds a body kit that’s reminiscent of the Suzuki Swift Sport, the warmed-up version we’ve reviewed separately. When available, the range-topping SZ5 added sat nav and was the only model of the Swift to get autonomous emergency braking as standard. This supplements its active cruise control, lane-departure warning and auto-dipping headlights.
It’s a real shame that these technologies are absent on less expensive trims, because Euro NCAP only gives the Swift a three-star safety rating without them. Only adding autonomous emergency braking nets the Swift four stars out of five. Reliability is a Suzuki strong suit, even if the general ownership experience isn’t always a bed of roses – although the brand finished well in 8th place out of 30 manufacturers in our 2019 Driver Power customer survey, it slipped to 17th in 2020.
Overall, the latest Swift has evolved sufficiently to retain its following, but we’re not so sure it has the strength to convert buyers from other marques. If fun is your number-one priority, the Suzuki scores strongly, but rivals offer a more polished overall package.