What Car? says...
Chocolate bars. Mobile phones. Affordable homes. In today’s world, so many things seem to be getting smaller. Cars, though, seem to be swelling – except, that is the Suzuki Swift.
While rivals have grown over the years, the Swift retains its compact dimensions and is priced to offer value for money. It's closer in price to the Dacia Sandero and undercuts comparable alternatives such as the Peugeot 208, the Skoda Fabia and the VW Polo.
Don’t assume that the Swift’s affordable pricing means you don’t get much for your money, though. Three different trim levels mean that you have plenty of choice and the one engine option, a mild-hybrid petrol, helps to keep things efficient and should mean low running costs.
So, by promising competitive running costs and an enjoyable driving experience, is the relatively low list price enough to put the Swift ahead of the best small cars? Read on to find out...
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The Suzuki Swift is powered by a 1.2-litre Dualjet petrol engine, which gets a small amount of assistance at low speeds from a mild-hybrid system (which consists of a small battery and electric motor). In total it produces 82bhp, and the Swift is so light that it's more than enough power for driving around town and motorway speeds.
Since the Swift does without a turbocharger to bolster performance, you do need to make use of the engine’s revvy nature to get the best out of it and you can’t let the revs drop too far if you want to make smooth, confident progress when joining roundabouts or motorways.
Pretty much all the Swift’s rivals are effortlessly quicker, but there is an element of fun to the Swift’s revvy engine, especially when you work the entry-level car’s five-speed manual gearbox. The top two trims come with a CVT automatic gearbox instead, and are the fastest versions, sprinting from 0-62mph in 12.2 seconds.
Suspension and ride comfort
Although you wouldn’t call the Swift downright uncomfortable, if you drive it on the kind of decaying roads that are all too common in a typical British town, you’ll feel plenty of bumps jostling you around.
Things improve as speed increases, and motorway expansion joints don’t send too much of a thud through the car. If you value comfort, rivals such as the VW Polo can deal with patchy UK road surfaces more competently, isolating you from them better.
Keen handling is the happy consequence of the Swift’s rather unsettled ride. If you throw the Swift into a few twists and turns, you’ll find the steering is quick, nicely weighted and makes placing the nose of the car easy.
Body control isn’t as impressive, and the Swift leans a fair amount through corners. There’s loads of grip on offer, but the Seat Ibiza is more enjoyable to drive. If you do strive for performance, the Suzuki Swift Sport is the Swift’s warmer alter ego.
Noise and vibration
The 1.2-litre Dualjet rarely sounds strained, even when being revved hard, and it sends very few vibrations through the pedals and steering wheel.
The stop-start system works unobtrusively too. However, you will encounter a fair amount of road noise, along with plenty of whistling from around the door mirrors and door seals.
We like the entry-level car’s manual gearbox the most out of the Swift’s options, due to its precise shifts and its short and positive throw. That’s not to say that the CVT automatic isn’t good, it's just not as refined and causes the engine revs to soar every time you put your foot down.
Strengths Precise manual gearbox; quick steering; decent handling
Weaknesses Lots of wind and road noise; rivals are quicker; unsettled ride
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Although all its major controls fall to hand and the gearlever’s location feels natural, getting comfortable behind the wheel of the Suzuki Swift isn’t quite as easy as you might think.
All models offer plenty of movement in the driver’s seat and steering wheel, with height adjustment for both. Annoyingly, though, only the range-topping SZ5 model that comes with reach adjustment for the steering wheel, something that most of the Swift’s rivals get as standard across the range.
Even so, the driving position itself is fundamentally sound, lining you up with the steering wheel and pedals nicely. No matter which version you go for, you don’t get digital dials, like you do in the Peugeot 208, but we much prefer the Swift’s conventional dials, because you look at them through the wheel instead of over it, like you do in its French rival.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Forward visibility is good thanks to the Swift’s tall windscreen and slim front pillars, but the view over your shoulder is hampered slightly by its narrow rear side windows. Overall, the VW Polo is easier to see out of, because it has thin pillars all round and larger rear windows.
You still won’t struggle to park the Swift, though, thanks to all versions getting a rear-view camera and the two top trim levels adding rear parking sensors.
Sat nav and infotainment
All versions of the Swift have a 7.0in colour touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. The smartphone mirroring allows you do display your smartphone’s sat-nav apps on the car’s screen, which is handy because only top-spec SZ5 trim has built-in sat-nav.
Even if you do have the built-in sat-nav, you’ll probably want to use the smartphone mirroring, because the standard infotainment system is awkward to use.
What’s more, the system’s graphics look dated and are of a low resolution, and many of the on-screen icons are small and tricky to read and aim for accurately while driving. The response to commands is slow too.
Interior quality has never been one of Suzuki’s strong points and the new Swift does little to change things there.
Everything inside is solidly screwed together, but the plastics are all hard, shiny and unattractive. Sure, hard plastics are common in this class, but we’ve come to expect more appealing textures and soft-touch surfaces at common contact points, such as the top of the dashboard.
Strengths Feels solidly built; comfortable driving position
Weaknesses Outdated infotainment system; no steering wheel reach adjustment on most models
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Small on the outside and big on the inside is what Suzuki was aiming for with the Swift and, up front, at least, they have succeeded.
You’ll not be uncomfortably close to your front-seat passenger, and tall drivers can move their seat back a decent amount and lower it enough to have decent head room.
Storage is pretty much standard fare for the class. The door pockets are big enough to carry a 500ml bottle upright and the glovebox is a decent size. You also get a pair of small cupholders, a smartphone-sized shelf and a tray behind the gear lever that’s perfect for loose change.
The Swift isn’t class-leading for rear space, but it can handle a pair of adult passengers with room to spare. A six-foot tall passenger can sit behind a driver of similar height without issue.
Thanks in part to the Swift’s tall roofline, adults can sit with their heads some distance from the ceiling, and with their knees free of the front seatbacks. Add a third passenger, though, and things get rather more cramped. The rear windows are rather narrow, too, and restrict passengers’ view out.
Every Swift has five doors, and the rear doors open wide to allow very easy access to the rear seats. Compared with a Fiat 500, the Swift is more accommodating in the back, but rivals including the Skoda Fabia do an even better job of ferrying rear passengers.
Seat folding and flexibility
Don’t expect anything special from the Swift here. The rear seats split and fold 60/40 as standard, but that’s about as flexible as it gets.
The rear seatbacks don’t recline to offer a more comfortable seating position or to increase boot space, and, once folded down, the rear seats leave a fairly pronounced step in the boot floor.
While every Swift has a height-adjustable driver’s seat, none offer adjustable lumbar support for either driver or passenger.
The Swift has a 265-litre boot. That’s big enough to fit in four carry-on suitcases or your weekly shop, but many small cars offer more space, including the Fabia which can swallow six of the same cases.
The Swift’s rear seats split 60/40 and fold down easily to create a larger load area for bigger items, but there is an annoyingly high lip at the entrance, making it harder to load heavy items.
Given the Swift’s fairly pronounced boot lip, it’d be useful if Suzuki had included a boot divider or adjustable boot floor, which would offset the inconvenient step that’s formed when you fold the rear seat down.
Strengths Plenty of front space; decent rear space for two adults
Weaknesses Smaller boot than most rivals; high load lip
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
No matter which trim you go for, the Suzuki Swift looks good value as a cash purchase, costing more than the Dacia Sandero but less than all of its other main rivals in equivalent trims, including the Seat Ibiza, the Skoda Fabia, the Peugeot 208 and the VW Polo.
However, the Swift is predicted to depreciate faster than those rivals, so make sure you check out our new Suzuki deals to get the best purchase price.
While the Swift’s servicing costs are about average at this level, it’s worth pointing out that insurance costs are unusually high. In fact, it’s nine groups higher than the Fabia and six higher than a Citroën C3 (insurance experts rate the Swift as more expensive to repair than its rivals).
Equipment, options and extras
Every version of the Swift comes with a decent amount of standard kit, with even entry-level SZ-L getting 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, electric front windows, automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, electrically adjustable and heated wing mirrors. It’s the one we’d go for.
If you want the CVT automatic gearbox, you’ll have to pay a little extra and go for the mid-spec SZ-L trim. That’s not a bad thing, though, because it also adds quite a lot of extra safety kit.
Top-spec SZ5 trim comes with an impressive amount of kit, including keyless entry and start, electric rear windows and automatic air conditioning. The thing is, it pushes the price to around that of the Fabia SE L, making it harder to recommend.
When it comes to reliability, the Swift should be a safe bet. You see, it topped the small car table in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey beating all of its closest rivals by some way.
Better still, Suzuki as a brand performed impressively, too. It managed to place fourth out of the 32 including car makers, placing it below Toyota but above comfortably all of its other rivals – the closest being Dacia down in 11th.
Such proven dependability is good news when Suzuki’s three-year, 60,000-mile warranty is nothing to write home about – it’s a match for that provided by Skoda and VW, but can’t match Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited mileage cover or Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile policy.
Safety and security
Entry-level SZ-L get Isofix mounting points as standard, as well as airbags, hill hold control and automatic emergency braking (AEB) – a system that can automatically apply the brakes if it senses a hazard ahead of the car. Disappointingly, that version scored only three stars out of five when it was tested by Euro NCAP.
SZ-T models and above increase that star rating to four, thanks to them getting extra safety equipment, including high-beam assist, lane-departure warning and road-sign recognition. Looking at the Swift's results in more detail reveals that reasonable protection scores for front-seat passengers, but far less protection for those in the rear, be they adult or child.
It’s hard to compare that safety rating with rivals including the Fabia, due to the Swift being tested in 2017 and that rival in 2021 with more stringent tests, but it can be inferred that the five-star Fabia will keep you safer in an accident.
Strengths Good value for money; plenty of standard kit; great reliability
Weaknesses Poor safety rating; depreciates faster than rivals
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If you’re after a small car that’s a good city runabout with a decent interior and is good value for money, the Swift is a good option if you stick to the entry-level trims.
SZ5 trim sits at top of the normal Swift range or you can go for the Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch if you fancy more performance. Both come with lots of equipment, but the Swift Sport gets a different engine with more power.
|RRP price range||£17,199 - £24,270|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||50.4 - 59.7|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£848 / £1,393|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,697 / £2,786|