Suzuki Swift hatchback (2010 – ) expert review

By James Richardson and Ivan Aistrop, 18th October 2010

The verdict

The Suzuki Swift looks good, it's affordable and it's great fun to drive, and for many buyers, that's enough. Yes, the car has its flaws, but the fun factor alone makes it worthy of your consideration.

Interested in this car?

View new Find used

Expert rating:

3.7

Pros

  • Great fun to drive
  • Funky styling
  • Engines are pretty economical

Cons

  • Refinement isn’t great
  • Automatic gearbox is best left alone
  • Boot is small and awkward to access

Full Review

1. Exterior

Supermini buyers, by and large, are a very style-conscious lot, so it’s a good job that there’s a lot to like about the way the Suzuki Swift looks. The front end is dominated by the big, angular headlamps, while the rakish roofline and curvy rear haunches lend it a sporty feel. Bear in mind that the cheapest SZ2 versions don’t come with alloy wheels, but the rest do. Range-topping SZ4 models also have privacy glass, while the 4×4 models have wheelarch extensions and underbody protection.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The Swift’s cabin doesn’t have the outright quality of some rivals’, because most of the plastics on display are hard to the touch and a little lacking in tactility. That said, they look a lot smarter than they feel, so the cabin still has a reasonable air of sophistication. The interior design is simple, so although there’s less design flair than you’ll find in rivals, it does mean that finding and using all the various knobs and switches is easy. All models get a height adjustable driver’s seat, too, but most models only have a height adjustable steering wheel – you have to climb up to top-spec SZ4 trim for rake adjustment.

Our rating: 3

3. Practicality

The Swift’s high roof means there’s ample headroom in every seat, but tall passengers won’t be thrilled with the rear legroom. It’s just about sufficient to cater for most adults, but rivals offer more room to stretch out. The boot is also quite small at 211 litres, and the access to the space is quite restricted by the shape of the tailgate. However, all models come with a split-folding rear bench that allows you to boost your cargo-carrying capacity, and there are loads of little storage areas dotted around the cabin to put your bits and pieces in.

Our rating: 3

4. Ride and handling

The Swift is great fun to drive, with good grip, excellent body control and impressive balance. The responsive steering also makes the car keen to turn into corners, adding to the Swift’s up-and-at-’em nature, but it could do with a little more weight and there isn’t much feedback through the wheel. Granted, there’s a firm edge to the ride that won’t be to all tastes, but many drivers will forgive it thanks to the Swift’s sporty character. There’s also a 4×4 version which is only available in SZ3 and SZ4 trim. While this is never going to be a hardcore off-roader, the extra traction and ride-height on offer does allow it to traverse more tricky terrain than its front-wheel drive sibling.

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

The best-selling engine is the entry-level 1.2-litre petrol with 93bhp. It doesn’t have a great deal of pull low-down, so you have to work it really quite hard to extract a decent level of acceleration. When you oblige, however, you might be surprised by how quick it feels, and it all adds to the Swift’s sporty nature. The Swift Sport has a 134bhp 1.6-litre engine, which has the same rev-hungry character, but the pace it delivers gives the Sport true junior hot hatch status. There’s also a diesel choice, a 1.2 (although Suzuki calls it a 1.3) with 74bhp, but we haven’t tried this version yet. A five-speed manual gearbox is standard on all models except the Sport, which gets a six-speeder. Both ‘boxes are satisfyingly slick, but models with the five-speeder are irritating on the motorway because the engines buzz away noisily. You hear a fair amount of wind and road noise, too. A four-speed automatic gearbox is available with the 1.2 petrol, but it stifles the performance somewhat.

Our rating: 3

6. Running costs

The Swift is competitively priced when compared with its rivals, and although resale values aren’t the strongest in the class, they’re not bad, either. The Swift’s fuel economy is competitive, too. The 1.2-litre petrol model averages 56.4mpg and emits 116g/km of CO2. The automatic version is less efficient, at 50.3mpg, and that also makes it more expensive to tax. The diesel is the star performer, with figures of 72.3mpg and 101g/km. Some rivals are cheaper to insure, but the gap isn’t vast.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

Suzuki has a good reputation for reliability, and that’s backed up by the company’s impressive performance in Warranty Direct’s manufacturer standings – it currently sits very near the top. The Swift doesn’t have as high a reliability score as other Suzuki models, but the score it has is far from disgraceful. The Swift certainly gives the impression that it is solidly made, while engines and gearboxes all have a polished, well-developed feel.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Swift achieved the maximum five-star rating in Euro NCAP crash tests, keeping pace with most of rivals. All versions of the Swift are fitted with seven airbags and electronic stability programme as standard, along with the expected anti-lock brakes.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

In comparison to some manufacturers, Suzuki’s line-up seems a little barren. However, that makes it simple to choose a version that suits you. There’s simply SZ2, SZ3, SZ4 and Sport. We’d urge you to go for at least an SZ3 version, as from here up air-con and alloy wheels are standard. Saying that, all models get electric front windows, a stereo with USB connectivity and a nice steering wheel with controls for the stereo on it. SZ4 models are then loaded with equipment including cruise control, automatic headlights, Bluetooth connectivity and even rear privacy glass.

Our rating: 4

10. Why buy?

Low running costs and a competitive purchase price will lure buyers into Suzuki showrooms, but we reckon the Swift will impress folk even more once they get it out on the road. For driving fun, it gives its established rivals a good run for their money.

Our rating: 4

Expert review 3.7stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior3
  • Practicality3
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance3
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment4
  • Why buy?4

Our recommendations

Pick of the range:

Swift 1.6 Sport 3dr

A genuine junior hot hatch for an affordable price – great fun

Most economical:

Swift 1.3 DDiS SZ4 5dr

Diesel engine is capable of returning more than 72mpg

Best avoided:

Swift 1.2 Auto SZ4 5dr

Expensive to buy and automatic gearbox hampers performance and efficiency

The Swift is great fun to drive, with good grip, excellent body control and impressive balance. The responsive steering also makes the car keen to turn into corners, adding to the Swift’s up-and-at-’em nature