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Review: Suzuki Swift range

The latest Swift stays true to the design of its successful predecessor. Steve Walker reports.

There must have been a moment, just after Suzuki whipped the covers from its latest Swift supermini, that some people thought an error of massive proportions was unfolding before them.

It looked as though somehow, someone had put the old Swift under the ceremonial dust sheet and here was the world media, relocated to Suzuki’s Hungarian production facility at great expense, rapid firing their flashbulbs at a car that had been in dealerships for over five years. No such foul-up had taken place, of course. It’s just that the latest Swift does look spookily like the old one.

The Swift that Suzuki launched in 2005 can only really go down as a huge success for the company. At a time when its supermini rivals were getting larger and more sophisticated in attempts to achieve what’s often referred to as ‘that big-car feel’, the Swift stayed simple, compact and fun. Its cute, curvy lines looked a little like those of the MINI, which also helped, and the Swift sold strongly without ever threatening at the very top end of the sector’s sales charts.

Today’s Swift is the third generation model but it looks like Suzuki’s designers may have been a little daunted by the task of improving on the popular second generation car. Intent on not messing things up, could they have stumbled into the Status Quo school of car design, merely rehashing the last hit and giving customers more of the same? There’s nothing inherently wrong with such a policy but Suzuki insists that the Swift changes amount to more than first impressions suggest.

"the modern Swift is larger and more efficient"

We have two engines for customers to choose from. The Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine was carried over from the old Swift. With its 75bhp and meaty torque output it’s a tried and tested engine that usually works well in small cars but it’s the 1.2-litre petrol engine that will attract more attention. Thanks to an advanced variable valve timing system that controls the intake and exhaust valves on each cylinder to optimise performance, it’s reassuringly high-tech. It also produces some 93bhp which is a lot for a 1.2-litre engine, along with 118Nm of torque. The 0-60mph trial takes 12.2s and the top speed is 103mph.

Virtually every panel on this Swift is different to the previous generation model, just not very different. Established Swift design features like the curving bonnet and the blacked-out pillars that create a ‘floating roof’ effect remain but car has expanded in size while also growing lighter and stiffer. The use of higher strength steel in the chassis meant less metal had to be used and weight was shaved while the whole structure gained in rigidity. At 3,850mm long and 1,695mm wide, it still isn’t one of the larger superminis but it is 90mm longer than the previous Swift, with 50mm of that gain in the wheelbase.

Cabin space is improved but the designers couldn’t work miracles, so this is one of the less generous superminis with regard to rear-seat occupant space. The cabin design has been edged upmarket but the sturdy simplicity that helped the old Swift stand out has been lost in favour of a design that apes other supermini products. The quality remains strong but many of the plastics feel less upmarket than they look.

Affordability has always been a Swift strength and like so much else, that hasn’t changed with the latest car. Price-wise, it’s positioned at the lower end of the supermini market and even looks attractive next to some city cars from a value for money point of view. All models get ESP stability control and seven airbags as standard which is very commendable on Suzuki’s part.

While the Swift has always been cheap to buy and reliable, its fuel economy and CO2 emissions tended to let the overall cost of ownership down a little. That’s no longer the case, with the latest model achieving some standout returns at the pumps. The 1.3-litre diesel engine is capable of 67mpg on the combined cycle while the 1.2-litre petrol engine comes up with 56.5mpg. Emissions for the two engines are 109g/km and 116g/km respectively.

Anyone expecting a bold and innovative design direction from the latest Suzuki Swift will come away disappointed. The car looks much as it used to in previous generation guise but Suzuki’s care not to tinker too much with one of its more successful cars in recent memory is understandable. As it is, the modern Swift is larger and more efficient with the attributes that made it a low key hit in the competitive supermini market still intact.

The Swift should continue to do the business for Suzuki at the lower end of the supermini sector and may even pinch sales from some of the more expensive city car options in the class below. It’s improved in a number of key areas and while it’s one of the less adventurous model launches we’ve seen recently, business as usual will probably suit Suzuki just fine.

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