Cheap and cheerful city cars still have a place in this world, an antidote to the ever-increasing presence of SUVs of all types on our roads. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Suzuki Swift, a mainstay of the light-car segment since 1983.
The Swift remains the Japanese brand’s second-best seller, trumped only, ironically, by an SUV – the Suzuki Vitara.
This fourth-generation 'global' Swift ('80s and '90s Swifts as Aussies remember them were called by other names overseas) has been around since 2017, and earlier this year received a mild mid-life update.
Visually, the knife cuts are minor, with a revised front bumper and grille plus new 16-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, all Swift models now get a digital speedometer, auto-up power windows and a beefier sound system (four speakers, instead of the incumbent two).
All bar the base model GL Navigator (sans Plus) also receive a tech boost, with blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic alert, heated door mirrors, adaptive cruise control, and rear parking sensors.
The range-topping Swift Sport adds even more tech and convenience with keyless entry and start, climate control, LED headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with paddle-shifters, sports seats and 17-inch alloys, not to mention a suitably range-topping turbocharged engine.
The Suzuki Swift Series II range starts with the entry-level GL Navigator, priced at either $18,990 plus on-roads for the manual or $19,990 plus on-roads for the automatic.
Next on the Swift rung is our test car, the GL Navigator Plus, that wants for $21,490 (plus on-roads) with automatic transmission, no manual transmission available at this grade. Our tester wears a $595 coat of premium paint, bringing the as-tested price to $22,085 plus on-roads – however, right now, Suzuki has drive-away deals priced at the same rate as the usual pre-on road cost price, saving a couple of grand in the process.
There's no manual transmission option for the next Swift in the range, the GLX Turbo, which wants for $25,290.
That no-manual trend is reversed for the range-topping Swift Sport, which can be had with a third pedal for $29,990 plus on roads or $31,990 for the automatic.
As the second entrant in the range, our GL Navigator Plus competes on price with a slew of rivals including the Kia Rio Sport auto ($22,390 plus on-roads), although is undercut significantly by the segment’s top-selling MG 3 in Excite trim ($18,690 drive-away).
Euro rivals from the same segment include Skoda’s quirky little Fabia 81TSI auto for $21,390 plus on-road costs, while its twin under the skin Volkswagen Polo asks for $23,390 plus on-roads in Comfortline spec with an auto transmission.
|2020 Suzuki Swift Series II GL Navigator Plus|
|Engine||1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power and torque||66kW at 6000rpm, 120Nm at 4400rpm|
|Transmission||Continuously variable transmission|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||4.8L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||7.4L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||242L / 556L|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 stars (2017)|
|Warranty (years / km)||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Kia Rio, MG 3, Volkswagen Polo|
|Price as tested (excl. on-road costs)||$22,085|
The equipment levels in the Swift GL Navigator Plus are about what you’d expect for a city car at the lower end of the range ladder. The headlights are halogen, although the daytime running lights are more modern LEDs. The air-conditioning is manual although adaptive cruise control is a nice addition.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen anchors the infotainment and features in-built satellite navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, and smartphone mirroring for Apple and Android devices.
Inside, the GL Navigator Plus is trimmed in cloth – and a sea of hard plastics. It’s basic but serviceable, although storage options are conspicuous in their absence. There’s no centre console, for instance, merely a small tray forward of the gear lever and a pair of cupholders. The door pockets do cater for bottles, though.
A single USB point and 12V outlet up front keep devices topped up, although there are no such luxuries in the second row, par for the segment.
Suzuki’s infotainment interface is simple enough to navigate, if a little dated now. The rear-view camera isn’t the last word in high-definition while the embedded satellite navigation works well, even if the display is a little basic.
Using Apple CarPlay proved a little glitchy too, in terms of both connecting (slow, sometimes requiring multiple attempts) and in maintaining connection, sometimes dropping out altogether and requiring a reset.
The second row offers a fair amount of space, even if access can be compromised for little kids, thanks to the Swift’s high-mounted door handles painfully close to the roofline. It’s fine for adults, but little ones – such as my 6-year-old – can’t open the doors for themselves.
There are no amenities back there other than a single cupholder located behind the manual handbrake boot. There are ISOFIX child seat mounts on the outboard seats as well as three top-tether points on the seat backs.
The back seats fold in 60:40 split fashion to free up cargo space in the boot which is on the small side for the class – 242 litres with the back seats being used by people, expanding to 556 litres with the seats stowed away. There’s a space saver spare under the boot floor.
The Suzuki Swift GL Navigator Plus is powered by a 1.2-litre (1242cc) naturally-aspirated inline four-cylinder petrol engine. It’s good for a modest 66kW at 6000rpm and 120Nm at 4400rpm.
Drive is sent to the front wheels through an automatic, continuously variable transmission (CVT). It’s not the most thrilling combination but it’s better than it reads on paper.
Moving away from standstill is brisk enough, perky even, despite the meagre outputs on offer. No doubt, the GL Navigator Plus's svelte 900kg kerb weight helps in this regard. It feels light and nimble, and a little sprightlier than it should.
The confines of city streets are its happy stomping ground, and around town the Swift performs well. The CVT is commendable in this application, neither slurry nor whiny at city speeds.
It’s the same story when pushing on the motorway, the Swift eager to get up to freeway speeds. The little 1.2-litre engine is well-suited to the lightweight Swift, although having max torque not available until 4400rpm requires a heavy right foot to get up to 100-110km/h.
Once there, the Swift settles into its stride, maintaining speed with something resembling poise. The cruise control (regular, not adaptive) does a decent job too, of maintaining its set speed.
There is some noise inside the cabin, as you’d expect from a car like this. Tyre roar is noticeable, although not overly intrusive, while the ride on the softly setup suspension is commendable.
Around town, the Swift remains composed and compliant, absorbing minor lumps and bumps with ease. Speed humps and larger road scars are similarly negotiated without too much fuss, the little Swift settling quickly on its haunches.
Thanks to its diminutive and lightweight dimensions, the Swift remains an ideal runabout for urban dwellers.
The steering is nice and light, and with a turning circle of just 9.6m kerb-to-kerb, the Swift is easy to manoeuvre in tight laneways and easy to park in even the smallest of spaces.
Suzuki claims the Swift will need just 4.8L/100km of regular unleaded on the combined cycle.
Our week with the car, in a predominantly urban environment, encompassing stop-start traffic and the regular run-of-the-mill urban grind, returned a reading of 7.4L/100km. In mitigation, longer stretches on the freeway should see that number come down drastically, closer to the Suzuki’s claim.
The Suzuki Swift GL Navigator Plus wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating awarded back in 2017, although those tempted by the entry-level Swift navigator should be aware it only carries a four-star safety rating, the safety body marking it down for an absence of advanced safety tech such as lane-keep assist, autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring. They’re not even available as an option on the base Swift.
Those technologies are standard on the rest of the Swift range, starting with the GL Navigator Plus, hence ANCAP awarding those higher-specced models a five-star safety rating.
In terms of crash protection, the GL Navigator Plus scored a commendable 14.39 out of 16 for frontal offset, and 15.74 out of 16 for side impact. A full suite of airbags – front, side and curtain – protect occupants.
Suzuki covers the Swift with its standard five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, par for the course these days.
Servicing is required every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first and will set you back a total of $1465 over the first five years or 75,000km. Reasonable.
The Suzuki Swift makes a good case for consideration, certainly at that circa-$22,000 price point. As a city car, the GL Navigator Plus delivers on its promise, a light and agile runabout with decent room in the second row for adult occupants, even if boot space is on the low side for the segment.
The absence of advanced safety technology in the entry-level variant could be a turn-off for some buyers, but Suzuki appears to have hedged its bets on a youthful demographic, prioritising smartphone integration and digital technology.
If the safety technology matters to you, then the GL Navigator Plus, tested here, might be a better option. It's the one we'd recommend as a starting point.