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Used test: Hyundai i20 vs Suzuki Swift

The Hyundai i20 and the Suzuki Swift are two sparkling small cars, but which one makes the most sense when bought used? Read on to find out...

Used test: Hyundai i20 vs Suzuki Swift

The Contenders

Hyundai i20 1.0 T GDi 100 Turbo Edition

List price when new £13,275

Price today £8500*

Available from 2015-2020

The i20 is comfortable, roomy and well equipped, with an upmarket interior.

Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet SHVS SZ5

List price when new  £14,499

Price today £7500*

Available from 2017-present

The Swift is good to drive, well equipped and cheaper to buy here than the i20.

* Price today is based on a 2017 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

Suzuki is a manufacturer that has always understood value for money; all of its models offer generous equipment at competitive prices. The Swift is no different, coming well equipped and with plenty up-to-the-minute safety and infotainment features as standard. Indeed, in the four years this latest version’s been out it’s impressed us many times with its combination of keen driveability and sensible affordability, and anyone now looking for a nimble and small hatchback at a bargain-basement price could do a lot worse than cast a glance at a used example.  

But lurking in the shadows is the recently replaced, second-generation 2015-2020 version of the Hyundai i20, a car that sits in the same class as the Swift and one we’ve always greatly admired.

So, what we’d like to know is, can a used example of one of our favourite small cars cut it against the chirpy Swift? Well, there’s only one way to find out, so here we’re pitting a range-topping SZ5 Swift against Hyundai’s i20 in Turbo Edition trim. Both cars are four years old, have a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine and come with an impressive list of standard equipment.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

Hyundai’s engine is completely conventional, but Suzuki’s features a mild hybrid system. This doesn’t allow for you to drive the car on electric power alone but instead aids the engine at low revs to improve performance.

New Suzuki Swift vs Hyundai i20

It works, too, because the Swift feels gutsier than the i20, proved by the fact that it accelerates up to speed more quickly from low revs in the higher gears. That said, work both engines hard on the open road and the Swift isn’t noticeably faster; indeed, it pipped the i20 by less than 0.5sec in our 0-60mph test. So, both cars are comfortable sprinting down motorway slip roads and overtaking slow traffic on B-roads.

The Swift’s engine sounds more restrained, although at higher speeds that would-be peace is spoiled by too much wind flutter. The i20’s engine generates more noise and vibration when accelerating, but it’s the quieter car at a steady 70mph cruise, its manual gearshift is more precise and its clutch and brake pedals are more positively weighted.

New Suzuki Swift vs Hyundai i20

Hyundai and Suzuki both fit 16in alloy wheels to these trim levels, and both cars do a decent job of smoothing over bumpy roads, but don’t expect quite the comfort you’d get from the Skoda Fabia. The i20 has a firmer ride over smaller ruts and bumps but keeps its body better controlled than the Swift’s over large obstructions, such as speed bumps and potholes, and the i20’s suspension always goes about its business more quietly.

Being the firmer car also helps the i20 to stay more upright through tight corners, so it’s a shame that the way its steering weights up feels rather artificial. The Swift has lighter steering, which is handy around town, but it’s also more precise. And despite exhibiting a little more body lean in corners than the i20, the Swift is actually the more enjoyable to drive. Neither delivers the sharp, rewarding handling of top rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, though.

 Next: What are they like inside? >>

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