What is it? The Suzuki Swift is the third-generation version of the brand’s best-selling supermini.
Key features: Lighter, more powerful and efficient, more technology.
Our view: The new version of the Suzuki Swift takes the model a significant step forward – Suzuki’s confidence in increasing sales should not be misplaced.
Type of review: First drive.
The Suzuki Swift is a very important car to the Japanese brand. Since a model name dating back to the 1980s was revived in 2005 on the brand’s first ‘global car’, the supermini has sold 5.4 million across the world. One million of these have been in Europe and 127,000 in the UK – in both continent and country it is Suzuki’s best seller.
The current, second generation Swift peaked at 13,300 UK sales as recently as 2015 and was still selling more than 11,000 last year despite the imminent arrival of the new one, so there is no doubt that the third-generation model’s arrival in June is eagerly awaited by Suzuki fans.
Exterior and interior
The latest Swift grabs the attention on first sight, and not just because a newly introduced exterior colour, ‘Burning Red’ is a head-turning, saturated shade. The not unattractive exterior of the previous model has been made bolder – Suzuki dubs the look ‘more emotional’ and it certainly makes a statement with a wide, aggressive grille, muscular arches and a very distinctive shoulder line.
Clever blacking out of the entire windscreen pillar, and similar treatment to a portion of the rear screen pillar (in which the rear doorhandles are placed) make a height reduced by 15mm look even lower, enhancing the purposeful appearance of the car.
To add the final touch, cars available to journalists on the European test launch event in France are to top GLX spec, equivalent to SZ5 in the UK, and so include distinctive LED light signatures on both the front and rear.
As well as that reduced height, the car is 40mm wider than its predecessor (and notably 40mm wider than Japanese-market Swifts), but also 10mm shorter. Suzuki’s latest ‘Heartect’ platform allows a 20mm longer wheelbase, freeing up more interior space including a boot enlarged by 54 litres to 265 litres. It also sees the overall weight of the car cut by some 100kg, good for both handling and efficiency.
On slipping inside both your correspondent and his driving companion immediately comment on the cossetting plushness of the seats – notably this upholstery is standard throughout the range, not just on top models.
The cabin is spacious and well finished, the dash functional with the overriding theme one of circular binnacles, giving a sporty look. A touchscreen infotainment system dominates the centre console, fitted to all bar entry-level models and on this range-topping version including full-colour satellite navigation as well as MirrorLink, Andorid Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.
The screen is neatly angled gently towards the driver but I admit to still finding it the least user-friendly aspect of Suzuki’s cars, sliding such items as volume controls on the screen is less than precise while the navigation too often fails to keep up with the driver.
There is a second display on the instrument panel between the two main dials, mono on lower models and full colour on our test car, where it acts as a guide to which way power is flowing between the engine and the battery of the mild hybrid assist system fitted to our 1.0-litre Boosterjet model.
Powertrains – on the road
The Boosterjet engine, with its 111hp, will be the big seller of the range. Its turbocharged output is 21hp more than the larger capacity 1.2-litre Dualjet unit, making the smaller-engined car faster to 62mph by 1.3 seconds, yet it returns 61.4mpg and 104g/km in standard form, just 3mpg and 6g/km behind the 1.2. Add in the SHVS hybrid assist and the Boosterjet matches the 1.2 on fuel economy and is a shade better on emissions.
More than that, it is a very willing engine – it pulls strongly from low down the rev range like a petrol engine shouldn’t, which proves a boon on a launch event test route that includes a series of hairpin bends climbing and descending the mountainous roads between Nice and Monaco.
Suzuki claims to have carried out extensive testing of their car for Europe on the roads of Europe, or more specifically in the UK and Germany, starting in January 2016. We’ll hold out on a firm view until we get to try a right-hand drive version on the uniquely challenging road surfaces of Britain, but first impressions are good.
The car rides well and smothers the worst bumps, particularly the vicious ramps entering and leaving villages, though extended lengths of uneven surface can make it a little skitty. Its cornering performance is excellent – the Swift turns in exactly where aimed and maintains its poise with good feedback from the wheel, and little body roll.
UK Swifts will adopt Suzuki’s usual format of SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5 trim levels. The former base market SZ2 grade has gone, as has a three-door body option, because nobody buys three-door small cars these days.
Equipment is impressive – entry-level cars include such niceties as Bluetooth connectivity, air conditioning, DAB, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and a leather steering wheel.
Suzuki expects as much as half of all Swift sales to be of the mid-range SZ-T version, particularly as you can’t buy a SZ3 with the Boosterjet. Specification add-ons include a rear-view camera, the touchscreen with Smartphone integration, 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lamps.
Range-topping SZ5 versions, meanwhile include auto air conditioning, a layer of polish on the alloys, satellite navigation, keyless entry and start, electric windows all round, LEDs on front and back, adaptive cruise control and six speakers instead of four.
These cars are also fitted with the top safety specification, the Advanced Forward Detection System. This combines a laser sensor and a camera to provide autonomous emergency braking, lane departure control and an assist function to the high-beam headlamps. Its DSBS – Dual Sensor Brake Support – can run through the options from warning the driver of a collision risk to initialising brake assist to increase braking force if the driver panic brakes, or even full autnomous braking in a final attempt to avoid an impact.
Suzuki tells us an all-wheel-drive variant will also be available on SZ5 grades, though the brand is not revealing yet whether like its predecessors the new Swift will spawn a performance pitched Swift Sport model – we think it quite likely.
The other big unknown is price – these will not be announced until the end of April, just over a month before the car hits UK roads. With there now being no base, three-door option the former £9,000 entry point is likely to be nearer £11,000. But Suzuki is just as likely to maintain the value-based pricing structure which has seen its most recent release, the Ignis, selling at 50 per cent above expectations.
On this basis, the brand’s aspirations towards putting the Swift in the supermini top 10 by swelling annual sales to 20,000 or more may well be realistic. Aside from the less than stellar touchscreen infotainment, the new Suzuki Swift is an impressive package and a definite step forward.
Suzuki Swift – key specifications
Models Tested: Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS GLX (equiv SX5)
On Sale: June 2017
Range price: TBA
Insurance groups: TBA
Engines: Petrol 1.0, 1.2.
Power (hp): 90, 111
Torque (Nm): 120, 170 (160*)
0-62mph (sec): 11.9, 10.6
Top speed (mph): 111, 121 (118*)
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 65.7, 61.4 (56.5*, 65.7**)
CO2 emissions (g/km): 98, 104 (114*, 97**)
Key rivals: SEAT Ibiza, Kia Rio, Skoda Fabia.
Test Date: March 2017
* = with auto transmission. ** = with hybrid.
All figures for 2WD models.