New Swift design is an evolution of old formula, but it still works well
Stiffer chassis pays dividends and the performance is usable
Cabin is all-new, but surfaces are still hard
What is it?
It doesn’t look like anything more than a brief encounter with some design software but this is actually a ground-up new generation of the Suzuki Swift.
Time saved in the design department has been put to good use elsewhere. A 93bhp all-alloy 1.2-litre petrol engine resides under the bonnet and an all-new platform that uses MacPherson struts at the front and torsion beam at the rear forms the underpinnings. The result of all the improvements are headline figures of 116g/km and 56.5mpg, but in practice there are many more significant and tangible improvements to the new Swift.
The first and most significant change is the refinement. Aided by the quieter engine and more effective cabin insulation the Swift is now as refined as you would expect of a small petrol hatchback. Engine noise is quite hushed, particularly at normal town speeds, but even at higher motorway speeds it is wind flutter past the A-pillars that intrudes more than engine buzz.
Performance is also much better. A 0-62mph time of 12.3sec is very competitive and, as you’d expect, the 1.2 motor needs some working through the five-speed gearbox but responds well further up the rev range and is an easy unit to plunder.
It’s also a fun engine to plunder, thanks to Suzuki’s determination to keep the Swift’s short, wide footprint and the immediate handling that you get as a result. There are very few cars out there in any class that you can wring 100 per cent out of in a thoroughly entertaining, non licence-threatening way on a regular basis, but this is one of them.
Turn-in is sharp, there’s grip to spare and body roll is progressive enough that it’s not something you ever worry about. The only slightly disconcerting element is the steering, which is quick enough but becomes very light and disconnected for a moment after turn-in before it weights up.
In truth the Swift’s handling abilities will be of less concern to any buyers than its around-town usefulness and cabin quality, and it certainly doesn’t disappoint there. The ride quality is much improved in terms of its bump absorption over bigger intrusions in the road, and is just as well resolved as many in the class. Only a tendency to fidget slightly over the constant ridges and dips in many normal town roads puts it behind the class-leaders in this respect.
The cabin still shows signs of cost-cutting but in general it’s a pleasant place to be. There’s enough space to sit four adults in reasonable comfort and you get seven airbags, USB input and ESP as standard across the range.
Our top-spec SZ4 test car added to that steering-wheel audio controls, cruise control, Bluetooth and automatic headlights. The digital readout for the radio is very old-school, but that’s hardly likely to be a deal-breaker for any buyers.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. Suzuki has pinpointed the most flawed areas in the previous Swift and near-enough eradicated them while retaining all the really good bits. That’s an extremely practical and effective way to evolve an already successful model, and the result is an extremely practical and effective supermini.
The Swift now feels more grown up and less like a budget option next to its classmates, but it is still good value, fun to drive and an unpretentious, usable hatch. Few could want more from a £12k car.
Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 5dr
Price: £12,245; Top speed: 103mph; 0-62mph: 12.3sec; Economy 56.5mpg; CO2: 116g/km; Engine, type: 4cyl, petrol, 1242cc; Power: 93bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 87lb ft at 4800rpm; Gearbox: 5spd manual