Keep in trim
Lightweight Swift city car combines safety and style
Meet the city hatchback with technology once reserved for luxury brands.
The Suzuki Swift is the first sub-$20,000 car in Australia with radar cruise control, automatic emergency braking — with pedestrian detection — and lane wander alert.
The Suzuki’s radar and camera will prevent a crash below 50km/h — and reduce the impact of accidents between 50km/h and 100km/h by slamming on the brakes.
Suzuki says it has been surprised by initial interest in the safety and technology pack and has had to order more cars so equipped in future shipments from Japan. It had anticipated there would be greater interest in the infotainment.
All but the base manual variant (which accounts for 5 per cent of sales) come with built-in navigation as well as Apple Car Play and Android Auto in the touchscreen.
Suzuki has gone all-out with the new Swift because it’s making up for lost ground.
The previous Swift had to soldier on for an extra two years while Suzuki froze spending along with the rest of the automotive world during the global financial crisis.
But now the brand is back doing what it does best: fun, affordable hatchbacks.
It might be a niche brand in Australia but Suzuki is in the big league in Japan, ranking third behind Toyota and Honda — and comfortably ahead of Mazda, Nissan and Mitsubishi, among others.
The brand punches above its weight in Australia once you strip out rental cars and fleet sales from rivals’ statistics.
When it comes to people putting their own money down on a new car, Suzuki ranks a close second behind only Mazda in the city-car class.
The new Swift is poised to boost waning sales of small hatches as other brands are likely to lift their game.
It’s not cheap, though. The GL automatic is $17,990 driveaway, $2000 more than the previous model’s run-out price. Adding the technology pack (radar cruise control, AEB, pedestrian detection and lane wander warning) takes the price to $19,190 drive-away.
In addition to built-in navigation, Apple Car Play and Android Auto, standard fare includes a rear view camera, sports-style flat bottom steering wheel, tinted rear glass, 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and LED tail-lights.
The flagship GLX — which has the technology and safety pack as standard — jumps to $22,990 drive-away with auto.
It gains LED headlights, polished 16-inch alloys, pushbutton start, digital climate control and a perky 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo versus the 1.2-litre four-cylinder in the GL.
The auto’s $17,990 driveaway starting point puts the Swift in the middle of a scrap between the recently facelifted Toyota Yaris and new Kia Rio (both of which are $17,490 drive-away) and the updated Mazda2, which is currently $18,990 drive-away. ON THE ROAD The new Swift is slightly shorter than before but wider and lower — and has a bigger footprint.
In practical terms it has a roomier cabin and bigger boot (242L, up from 210L). The turning circle, at 9.6 metres, is among the best in the class.
The GL’s smaller engine (a 1.2-litre four-cylinder replacing the previous 1.4) is matched to a
continuously variable transmission. Suzuki has slashed 135kg from the body, so there’s less weight to shift.
In the GLX, the 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo drives via a six-speed auto. It requires premium unleaded whereas the GL can run on regular.
Both variants perform impressively, not that they’re race cars. There is little difference between them in a 0-100km/h dash: we timed them at 10.6 seconds for the GL and 9.8 seconds for the GLX.
The difference is most apparent from rest to 60km/h because the 1.2’s CVT tends to drag on a bit versus the turbo GLX’s conventional six-speed automatic.
Brakes differ: the Swift GL has smaller front discs than the GLX — and gets less effective drum brakes at the rear, compared with discs all around on the GLX. In our testing this equated to a difference of about 1 metre in an emergency stop from 100km/h.
The GLX comes with a height and reach adjustable steering wheel, whereas the GL has reach adjustment only.
Apart from these differences both models drive the same. The wheels are identical but one has a polished finish and the other is painted. Bridgestone tyres, in identical spec for each, have good grip in dry or wet conditions.
The Swift is relatively quiet for a car in this class. It’s comfortable over bumps yet sure-footed in corners.
The seating position is lower than before but the driver’s seat has a height adjuster if you prefer a taller view rather than a go-kart feeling.
Inside are seven cup holders, two Isofix child seat mounts and three top tether points.
In the boot is a space-saver rather than a full-size spare.
There’s no auto-up driver’s window and a digital speed display would be welcome, as they’re becoming the norm in the class.
A sun visor that extends on its arm would block side glare. As it is now, because the windscreen is so upright, the sun visor doesn’t reach far enough to give any screening from late afternoon sun.
There’s also no reversing camera on the base model manual, while the new car goes without the knee airbag of the previous model. The Swift scored four stars in the European crash test with the safety pack, although European testing procedures are more stringent than here. VERDICT The Swift brings brains and good looks to the city-car class.