Car Mechanics (UK)

Suzuki Swift

Ad­vice on buy­ing the best.

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Up un­til 2005, the only rea­son for buy­ing a Suzuki Swift was be­cause it was cheap. Based on a 1988 design, the previous gen­er­a­tion of Swift was a car born out of a col­lab­o­ra­tion with Gen­eral Mo­tors, sold var­i­ously as a Suzuki, Chevro­let, Maruti, Pon­tiac, Subaru, GEO and Holden in a to­tal of 36 dif­fer­ent mar­kets. It was a suc­cess­ful and prof­itable car for both com­pa­nies and was con­structed in 10 dif­fer­ent coun­tries, in­clud­ing Ja­pan, the USA, Canada, China, Aus­tralia, Colom­bia, In­dia and Pak­istan, where it re­mained in pro­duc­tion un­til 2017. From 1992 on­wards, most Swifts sold in Eu­rope were built at the Suzuki Mag­yar fac­tory in Hun­gary, where the cur­rent model is still pro­duced.

The third-gen­er­a­tion Swift – avail­able as a three- or five-door model – made its global de­but at the 2004 Paris Mo­tor Show and had a strong like­ness to the Con­cept S and Con­cept S2 cars pre­vi­ously ex­hib­ited in Tokyo and Geneva. The only thing it re­ally

had in common with its pre­de­ces­sor was its name, plus the fact that it was built in Hun­gary. Both the driv­e­train en­gi­neer­ing and chas­sis devel­op­ment were car­ried out in Eu­rope, with a fo­cus on it be­ing far more ‘sporty’ than its pre­de­ces­sor, bench­mark­ing cars such as the Ford Fi­esta and VW Polo as ri­vals that it needed to meet not only with its dy­nam­ics, but also in terms of per­ceived qual­ity. In ad­di­tion, it was a much safer car, achiev­ing four stars in Euro NCAP test­ing in three-door form.

Sales be­gan in Eu­rope and Ja­pan in early 2005, ex­ceed­ing ex­pec­ta­tions. In Ja­pan, first year sales were twice the fore­cast, in the UK it sold out and sup­ply al­ways strug­gled to meet de­mand, while in Spain, Italy and the Nether­lands it was a run­away suc­cess, and in Ire­land it was named Car of the Year 2006.

The Swift was avail­able with 1.3- and 1.5-litre petrol en­gines, pro­duc­ing ei­ther 91bhp or 101bhp, along with a 73bhp 1.3-litre DDIS diesel used un­der li­cence from Fiat and GM, and more com­monly found in the As­tra and Corsa, as well as the Punto, Panda and Doblo. Trim and spec were straight­for­ward: the en­trylevel GL, only avail­able with a 1.3 en­gine and with elec­tric win­dows and air­con, or the plusher GLX with velour seat trim, elec­tric win­dows all-round, cli­mate con­trol and al­loy wheels.

In Oc­to­ber 2005, Suzuki launched the Sport ver­sion of the new Swift in Ja­pan, named Swift RS, and in Septem­ber 2006 the model was in­tro­duced in most Euro­pean mar­kets. Named Swift Sport, it got a twin-cam VVT four-pot 1.6-litre en­gine with 123bhp, along with stiffer sus­pen­sion, a low­er­ing kit, front split­ter, side skirts, twin ex­haust pipes, Re­caro sports seats, a spoiler, four-wheel disc brakes, 17-inch al­loys and ESC as stan­dard. While it wasn’t a ‘hot hatch’, the Swift Sport was praised for its im­pres­sive driv­ing dy­nam­ics, while its mod­est power out­put meant it was in­sur­able for younger driv­ers, giv­ing it the same kind of cult ku­dos that the Citroën Saxo VTR and MG ZR had achieved be­fore it. It re­mained a pop­u­lar choice with the UK’S youth un­til the range was with­drawn in 2011, re­placed by the vis­ually sim­i­lar but oth­er­wise quite dif­fer­ent fourth-gen­er­a­tion Swift.

To­day, the ear­li­est Swifts are 14 years old and the newest ex­am­ples at least eight, mean­ing they’re in­ex­pen­sive to buy and preva­lent in the small ads. They’re still in pretty de­cent de­mand, though, and the car has an ex­cel­lent rep­u­ta­tion for re­li­a­bil­ity, but that doesn’t mean you should rush in and make a de­ci­sion that’s too, well, swift.


Swifts were sold new with a 10-year an­ti­cor­ro­sion war­ranty and, even now, it’s rare to see one with any re­ally no­tice­able cor­ro­sion, but that doesn’t mean they’re com­pletely im­mune from rust. Also, build qual­ity tends to be vari­able. One of the first places you should check is the front crash bar be­hind the bumper, which isn’t al­ways well rust­proofed and can cor­rode away, with all vis­i­ble rust hid­den be­hind the plas­tic bumper bar.

Other ar­eas to check in­clude the boot floor and the floor­pans where the front seat mount­ing bolts sit. Both of these ar­eas

can at­tract quite advanced rust at this age and lead to ex­ten­sive weld­ing on an oth­er­wise pre­sentable car. It also makes sense to check the MOT his­tory of any po­ten­tial pur­chase, as this will high­light any previous cor­ro­sion ad­vi­sories or sit­u­a­tions where a car has been welded.

On five-door mod­els, the flared area of the rear whee­larch where it meets the sill is in the nat­u­ral fir­ing line of stonechips – some­thing that Suzuki no­ticed early on, with all 2006-on Swifts get­ting a clear sticker applied to the area to af­ford ex­tra pro­tec­tion. If this isn’t there, then the car has pre­vi­ously had some body­work. It’s also far from a fail­safe – even with the pro­tec­tive sticker, we’ve seen pock­marked ex­am­ples.

Oth­er­wise, it’s stan­dard fare: check for mis­aligned pan­els and ac­ci­dent dam­age, es­pe­cially on Swift Sports, and also for loose ex­te­rior trim. Al­loy wheels aren’t the best ei­ther – they’re in­ex­pen­sive rims that are prone to delac­quer­ing and ox­i­dis­ing with age.


We’ve not heard any re­ports of ma­jor faults with Swift cab­ins, although there are a couple of well-known prob­lems that fall into the ‘ir­ri­tat­ing’ rather than ‘se­ri­ous’ cat­e­gories. The most common of these is a rat­tle from the driver’s side elec­tric win­dow, which is caused by the unions in the reg­u­la­tor wear­ing loose over time. In these cir­cum­stances, there’s no real risk of the win­dow pack­ing up or fall­ing off its run­ners – we’re cer­tainly not aware of it be­ing an is­sue yet – but the noise is an al­most per­ma­nent vi­bra­tion, most no­tice­able at low speeds and around town. It’s one of those faults that’s so ir­ri­tat­ing that you’ll want to get it sorted and the only way to do this is to strip the door and fit a new reg­u­la­tor.

A sim­i­lar rat­tle man­i­fests it­self from be­hind the dash­board and is usu­ally due to the dash or in­stru­ment bin­na­cle at­tach­ments get­ting loose with age. You might get lucky if you go around the dash pop­ping off screw cov­ers and tight­en­ing ev­ery­thing up (you’ll need a Torx-head screw­driver) but some­times the dash needs to come out – in which case, it’s def­i­nitely a rat­tle you’ll choose to live with!

Oth­er­wise, there’s very little to re­port. High-mileage Swift Sports oc­ca­sion­ally suf­fer from seat bol­ster wear as a re­sult of the seat­belt scuff­ing their thicker pad­ding, while il­lu­mi­nated SRS lights are of­ten fixed by wig­gling the con­nec­tor blocks un­der the seats.

Run­ning gear

The Swift is no worse than any of its con­tem­po­raries when it comes to run­ning gear faults, but the car’s chas­sis set-up (which is truly ex­cel­lent) does tend to take its toll on front springs and dampers. Frac­tured springs are a common MOT fail­ure point, while the dampers can of­ten show ac­cel­er­ated signs of wear at quite low mileages thanks to the bodyshell’s nat­u­ral stiff­ness. The trade-off is ex­cel­lent dy­nam­ics, es­pe­cially for a su­per­mini.

Clutch wear is common, too. The pedal is light and has very little resistance, so driv­ers who are in the bad habit of rest­ing their left foot on the clutch pedal will wear the drive­plate more quickly than ex­pected. Many Swifts were sold new to el­derly own­ers, who may not have treated them with much me­chan­i­cal sym­pa­thy.

We’ve seen a few re­ports of gear­box fail­ure, es­pe­cially on Swift Sports, though these are in­vari­ably driven much harder than the less per­for­mance­ori­ented mod­els. That said, they seem to let go at 120,000-140,000 miles, and it’s a trend that seems fairly common. Lis­ten for bear­ing noise or a grind­ing sound on the over­run, both of which in­di­cate po­ten­tial trou­ble ahead.

In Swifts built be­fore the end of May 2007, be care­ful to check that re­call work has been car­ried out on the hand­brake, as there was a global is­sue with teeth po­ten­tially break­ing off the ratch­ets. This led to a few in­ci­dents of run­away cars, though we’re not aware any spe­cific cases in the UK.

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 ??  ?? Swift Sport trim.
Swift Sport trim.
 ??  ?? Swift GL trim.
Swift GL trim.
 ??  ?? Op­tional Frank­furt 17-inch al­loys.
Op­tional Frank­furt 17-inch al­loys.

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