Three-year-old city car finds new direction with facelifted nav-equipped version for less.
A switch from Thailand to Japanese production has been marked by the introduction of this facelifted Suzuki Swift, which is designed to re-energise the three-year-old city hatchback along with more equipment and lower prices.
Car-spotters will pick the exterior changes, which are limited to new trim around the foglight recess, new hubcaps, and mirror-mounted side indicators. The introduction of the $17,490 Suzuki Swift GL Navigator makes it the cheapest car on the market with satellite navigation standard (as the name suggests).
It builds on the equipment standard on the GL, which has replaced the GA as the entry-level grade, yet costs an identical $15,990. That’s despite the addition of a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, tachometer with trip computer, and six-speaker audio with Bluetooth phone connectivity. The GL Navigator also adds foglights, though it maintains the GL’s daggy 15-inch steel wheels with hubcaps.
The Suzuki Swift is now one of the best-equipped cars in its class, with one of the lowest sticker prices. Five-door competitors include the $15,690 Toyota Yaris YR (which lacks cruise control), $15,790 Mazda 2 Neo Sport (which gets alloys but forgoes Bluetooth), and $15,825 Ford Fiesta Ambiente (which matches the Swift feature-for-feature).
Although the Yaris only gets a 1.3-litre engine, the second generation of ‘new’ Suzuki Swift was also downsized from a 1.5-litre (matching the Mazda 2 and Fiesta) to a 1.4-litre displacement. At the same time the Swift grew slightly – from 3.7 metres long to 3.85m – though commendably it lost 25kg, with a base kerb weight of 1025kg.
With 70kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 130Nm of torque (at 4000rpm), the Swift GL Navigator is down 4kW/3Nm on the older-generation model. It claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.5L/100km with a five-speed manual or 6.3L/100km with the $2000-optional four-speed automatic tested here.
The previous Swift had one of the best four-cylinder engines available, being both tractable down low and rev-happy up top, and with a great growl to boot. This new one is quieter but feels noticeably more hollow down low, slower to rev and breathless up top.
The auto, combined with modest outputs, provides merely adequate acceleration and driveability. The Swift feels sluggish in the first movements of the throttle, and large gaps between gears means it often drops into torque holes that are covered by six-plus-speed rivals, such as the Fiesta, and the more expensive Volkswagen Polo Trendline and Renault Clio Expression. Even urban-based Swift buyers will feel a big improvement stepping up to those models.
Where the Suzuki Swift GL Navigator scores is inside. Hard plastics are expected at this price point, but the Suzuki’s are nicely textured. There are also neat touches such as chrome doorhandles and a silver-outlined speedometer and tachometer that help it feel a cut above.
The navigation system isn’t the easiest to operate, and the Bluetooth connectivity proved fiddly, but both perform decently when asked to route to an address, find a contact or play a song. Still, we’d save $1500 and just buy the standard GL, which still scores Bluetooth connectivity but without the touchscreen and nav.
Quality cloth trim cloaks front and rear seats that are among the most broad, comfortable and supportive in the class. Especially worthy of note is the rear bench. In addition to good legroom and plenty of toe room under the front seats there are nifty touches unexpected at this price point, such as a curry hook, rear door pockets, and rear map lights.
Road noise is as similarly subdued as engine noise, making the Swift one of the quietest cars in its class, its only weakness being coarse-chip roads that throw up plenty of roar from the wheelarches.
It’s especially noticeable if the 60:40 split rear backrest is folded to utilise all 533 litres of available boot space, up from the class-average 210L capacity available in the rear compartment when the rear seats are utilised.
The suspension convincingly balances occupant comfort and driver enjoyment. The Suzuki can feel a little soft at times, such as when striking a speed hump around town, and it rolls more in corners than the sharper Mazda 2 or Fiesta, for example. But there’s fun to be had once accustomed to the roll, because (as with the previous-generation Swift) the chassis is well balanced. The steering, although a little on the slow and vacant side, is well judged for weight and smoothness.
All models also come standard with electronic stability control, so if you happen to come off the throttle in the middle of a corner you’ve entered too quickly, it will step in to rein in a rear end that loves to get taily – great for keen drivers, less so in a city car context. If things do go wrong, the Swift provides seven-airbag protection, including dual front, side, curtain and driver’s knee ‘bags, contributing to a five-star ANCAP safety rating.
Although one of the cheapest cars in the city car class, the Suzuki doesn’t offer the cheapest servicing. It requires check-ups every six months or 10,000km, and to three years or 60,000km costs $1284. A Mazda 2 costs a bit more ($1833) but the Toyota Yaris and Ford Fiesta ask less - $780, and $1140 (over 60,000km) or $765 (if three years comes up first) respectively.
If you can’t stretch to a Polo or Clio, the Suzuki Swift GL and GL Navigator specification are quality options in the cheaper end of the small car class, particularly if you value interior ambience and equipment for the money. We’d strongly recommending choosing the manual, however, because the small engine/four-speed auto combination fail to show this car in its best light.