The latest Swift aims to offer more for less. Jonathan Crouch checks out the 1.2-litre petrol model
Ten Second Review
Suzuki's latest Swift will be most popular powered by a Euro 5-compliant 1.2-litre petrol engine. It's true that the new model is difficult to distinguish from the old one but despite the visual similarities, improvements have been made. The latest generation car is lighter, quieter, offers more space and its cleaner engine comes with better economy and lower emissions. Added to this, prices remain low, yet equipment levels are higher.
This Swift is a small car that has really put its brand on the map. A small runabout that's chunkily good looking - a car you'd want to be seen in. None of which is any accident. Suzuki threw away its Japanese ideas when designing this car, instead turning to Europeans to get the kind of quality-driven, style-conscious approach that really works in the West. With today's third generation version, the Suzuki's design team, under the direction of Chief Designer Tetsuya Ozasa, has opted for evolution rather than revolution. Under the skin though, much has changed, not least below the bonnet of the 1.2-litre petrol version that will undergird sales in the UK.
The model's 1.2-litre Euro 5-compliant petrol engine is the one that will attract most attention. It replaces the 1.3-litre unit in the previous model yet despite its smaller size, the improved technology of the engine means that it's more powerful and efficient. 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 unit, along with 118Nm of torque. The 0-60mph trial takes 12.2s and the top speed is 103mph. Despite these impressive figures for a small engine, it did prove a little tardy at low revs requiring frequent use of the gearbox to maintain progress.
Design and Build
Virtually every panel on this Swift is different to the previous generation model. 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.
Market and Model
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. This Swift is available in three and five door bodystyles and three trim levels, SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4. All models get ESP stability control and seven airbags as standard which is very commendable on Suzuki's part.
Cost of Ownership
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 is no longer the case with this 1.2-litre model achieving some outstanding returns at the pumps. The 1.2-litre engine is capable of 56.5mpg on the combined cycle while the emissions are just 116g/km. This is reduced to 113g/km if the Auto Stop Start option is selected.
You can see why Suzuki have high hopes for this Swift model. Now that the 1.2-litre petrol version we've tested here has highly class-competitive fuel and CO2 figures, the overall package is one that rivals will have to take more seriously, good looking, well built, decently equipped and good to drive. Undeniably, there are still more sensible superminis around. Still, sometimes sensible can wait.