Review: Suzuki Swift

A low-cost supermini that's entertaining to drive

24 Aug 15 Tim Barnes-Clay

Pros

  • Great value for money

  • Sharp handling

  • Quirky looks

Cons

  • Small boot

  • Interior can feel chip

  • Steering feels too light

Our expert rating

The Suzuki Swift has progressively earned itself a reputation as a value-for-money low-cost supermini that's entertaining to drive. For many years the Swift was popular for being cheap and nothing else. However, it's become a lot more than that, and today it's one of the best small cars you buy.

Performance

The Swift is good fun to drive, and considering how inexpensive it is new, let alone used, there aren't many motors that trounce it. The steering is a tad too light, but the manual transmission is slick and effortless to use.

Black Suzuki Swift

Ride and handling

The Suzuki Swift delivers nimble handling, thanks to a wide track and short wheelbase. It has a tenacious grip, as well as excellent body control and composure. The ride is firm, though, and larger bumps thump into the cabin. What is really impressive is that the car makes you feel confident and safe on the road. This is due to a range of safety technologies only found in bigger cars once upon a time.

These include an anti-lock braking system and electronic braking-force distribution. Passive-safety features include a light, reinforced, energy-absorbing body in which front crumple zones help to absorb impact energy and direct it away from the cabin. But the most notable advance in terms of protection in the Swift from around 2010-2011 is that it has seven airbags as standard - front, side, curtain, and driver’s knee airbags.

The back of the Suzuki Swift

Interior space

Inside, things get even better. The Suzuki is like the TARDIS from Doctor Who – with plenty of space for a small family. A top of the range SZ4 five door model from, for example, 2011, will give you automatic air conditioning, a Bluetooth integrated audio unit, electric rear windows, push button keyless start, automatic headlamps, rear privacy glass and cruise control as standard.

The Japanese made car is packed with user-friendly functionality while the fabric seats feel supportive and look hard-wearing. Overall, Suzuki has pulled out all the stops to make the cabin feel upmarket.

Suzuki Swift interior

What to know before you buy

The Suzuki Swift hasn’t always proved durable. The quality of paintwork seems prone to chips and scratches and the front tyres can wear unusually quickly. Get down and check the tyres when you examine your potential buy and make sure you view the car in daylight when it’s not raining so you can give the paintwork your full attention.

The Swift’s brakes can also grind or squeal. This will be obvious on a test run, as will gearbox problems. If you notice a stiff gear change then walk away, as it’s an early warning sign of expensive trouble ahead.

Suzuki Swift and Honda Jazz

Alternative cars

The Swift’s main rivals are the Mazda2, the Honda Jazz and the FIAT 500. The Mazda 1.3TS2 version is a hoot to drive. The Jazz is very practical and used versions will be a bargain at the moment as a brand new model is being launched this summer. It is also a good time to buy a secondhand FIAT 500, as the car has just undergone a facelift for the first time since coming back onto the scene in 2007.

Overall verdict

The Suzuki Swift is a great car to nip around town in, and it has more than enough potential to travel further afield, although I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular long distance commuting motor.

The Swift doesn’t have the largest boot in the world either and getting more than one pushchair in as well as the family shopping will be a challenge. Otherwise this offering from the Japanese automotive manufacturer is a good choice for anyone who wants a compact, nippy, city motor, with big car technology.

Expert review

Performance

Reliability

Space & comfort

Running costs

Value for money

Overall