From £11,4846
Supermini adopts mild-hybrid tech, but its value billing is threatened by a near-£20,000 price in top-spec form

What is it?

Even against some of the milder facelifts rolled out over the last few years, the Suzuki Swift’s mid-life update is distinctly undramatic in terms of changes to the Suzuki supermini’s styling.

There’s a new chrome strip across the grille and LED lights at each end but by and large little to set the enhanced version of the fourth-generation Swift apart from the one we first saw in 2017. 

More significant are the changes to the 1.2-litre Dualjet petrol engine, which becomes the only available powerplant for the non-Sport car (following the phasing out of the 1.0-litre Boosterjet) and is now paired exclusively with a 12V mild-hybrid system for reduced emissions.

The electrickery itself is upgraded over that which became available as an option in 2017, with the battery capacity boosted from 3Ah to 10Ah for enhanced energy recovery under deceleration.

The Swift also gains a CVT automatic gearbox option for the first time, while manual cars continue to be available with the Allgrip permanent four-wheel drive system - a rarity in this segment. Suzuki claims that it’s “an ideal choice for customers living in rural areas who may need additional mobility across rougher terrain or for crossing slippery surfaces during winter months without owning a more conventional SUV sized vehicle”.

With all of the above comes a £2000 price hike across the board, which pushes the Swift into the realm of distinctly plusher, bigger-selling rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo

Suzuki has bolstered the standard kit list for all trim levels and ushered in a new entry-level SZ-L trim from £14,749, but we’ve tested the top-rung SZ5 car, equipped with the five-speed row-your-own gearbox and four-wheel-drive.

Every Swift comes with a rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control and LED lights, but head to this end of the range for 16in alloy wheels, automatic air conditioning, keyless entry and electric windows all-round. Just be prepared to pay upwards of £18,749.

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What's it like?

It can often be quite fun to wring every last ounce of power from a small-capacity, low-output petrol engine, and we would usually use words like fizzy, nippy and playful to describe the shifting character of a frugal city runaround when you let it loose on twistier, emptier roads. It’s a shame, then, that such adjectives have little place in a discussion about the Swift’s propensity to excite. 

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Soldiering on with a naturally aspirated lump while its contemporaries (save the Mazda 2 and Fiat 500 Hybrid) flock en masse to turbochargers will heighten the Swift’s appeal in the eyes of a select few purists, but the driving experience does rather serve to highlight the benefits of boosting. Accelerator response is inhibitively lacklustre and a satisfying pace is achieved only by nudging the redline in every gear. This might serve to inject a hint of verve into otherwise ordinary driving situations were it not for the intrusive and none-too-enjoyable din emitted by the Dualjet motor. 

It’s particularly noticeable on sliproads and during overtakes, and all the more so because a significant rise in decibels doesn’t necessarily arrive, frustratingly, alongside the speed increase you were hoping for. Even at a cruise, the engine reverberates through the cabin to the extent that the car feels like it’s working overtime to keep up with others, especially when faced with an incline.

A side-effect of this sluggishness is that your necessarily exuberant driving mannerisms will cancel out one of the Swift’s saving graces: efficiency. Suzuki claims an average of 51.7mpg, but we didn’t see more than 45mpg during a 100-mile mixed-road route, so heavy did our right foot become over the course of the journey. The front-wheel-drive manual car, by comparison, musters an official 57.2mpg, courtesy of its lighter drivetrain.

As you might expect, things are better in and around town, where the Swift’s still-diminutive stature and impressive manoeuvrability help it claw back some lost ground. The lack of straight-line gusto is less of an issue in this environment, and the sheer ease of use wrought by its compact form and array of driver aids earn it some much-needed green ticks.

It rides well, too, excepting the odd crash over larger obstacles, and the slightly raised driving position inspires confidence next to SUVs and buses. Were it not for the SZ5’s telescopic steering wheel adjustment, we might have found ourselves contorting into sharp turns, but there’s enough movement in the seat to get comfortable in lower-spec cars.

It’s much easier to make use of the hybrid system in urban environs, too, if you take every opportunity to coast in gear and make allowances for the slightly grabby nature of the regenerative deceleration. Drive carefully (and turn off the air-con to let the stop-start function do its business) and you will soon see the official MPG figures roll onto the digital cluster.

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Unfortunately, however, irrespective of how you’re using it, there’s no escaping the fact that the Swift’s interior brings none of the refinement or polish of its European rivals, even in this near-£20,000 SZ5 guise. The plastics are thin and scratchy, the dashboard is devoid of stylistic enhancement and nearly every control is placed somewhere other than where you would want it.

Adjusting the volume, for example, is carried out using an unresponsive touch scroller at the side of the infotainment screen, rather than by - heaven forfend - a knob, and the phone, voice control and lane-departure buttons are housed on unconventional lobes that protrude from the back of the steering wheel. 

That wouldn’t matter so much were the infotainment system itself slightly more intuitive, responsive and well-rendered, but the facelifted Swift does, at least, come with smartphone compatibility, so the vast majority needn’t bother with Suzuki’s system anyway.

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Should I buy one?

In lower forms, especially the new SZ-L grade, the Swift continues to make sense in a world where even the Ford Fiesta costs nearly £17,000 in its most accessible form. It’s easy to imagine paying £14,749 for a Swift and not feeling short-changed if you spend most of your time nipping about town and care little about getting away from the traffic lights first. 

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At nearly £19,000, however, this SZ5 model is less justifiable. The four-wheel-drive system is equal parts unnecessary weight and occasional boon (how often does it snow properly in the UK?), and most of the top-rung trim’s niceties are standard on lesser versions of its rivals.

If we were specifying a Swift, we would plump for front-wheel drive, the manual ‘box and the cheapest trim level. And that would do just fine, so long as we steered clear of the motorway.

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Felix Page

Felix Page
Title: News and features editor

Felix is Autocar's news editor, responsible for leading the brand's agenda-shaping coverage across all facets of the global automotive industry - both in print and online.

He has interviewed the most powerful and widely respected people in motoring, covered the reveals and launches of today's most important cars, and broken some of the biggest automotive stories of the last few years. 

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Zeddy 11 November 2020

Wrong engine?

I always thought that the boosterjet engine was the more modern one?
Were its emissions worse?

Oh well. Suzuki need full electrification and quickly to justify their new pricing structure.

xxxx 11 November 2020

And another thing

Did I say even with all those performance downgrades it now has poor mpg for something so small, light and slow.  I posted before about the old Suzuki Sport and the same applies here, buy the old stock while you can

Bimfan 11 November 2020

Three stars oversells it!

I don't understand how this boring, poorly finished, expensive car can get three stars. Surely it is a two star car.

How can Suzuki make an interesting car like the Ignis and this awful version of the Swift (anything but in reality) at the same time?

Since they now seem to be taking models from Toyota and rebadging them, it's time to pinch the Aygo and Yaris as well.