Initially, when I set out to purchase a new car, I had, at least what I considered to be, a fairly generous set of criteria. But as it turns out, if you’re after something that’s small, exciting and (hopefully) reliable over the long term, the shopping list becomes incredibly short. So, from the few contenders still standing, I settled on a 2018 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo.
One of the factors that led to this decision was that (with the exception of the reverse-TARDIS that is the Mazda 2) no manufacturers offer a well-specced small car with a manual transmission. I could go on and on about how much this in itself infuriates me, but I digress...
As far as self-shifters go, the Swift has what I consider to be the lesser of evils: a six-speed torque converter. I was fully prepared to develop a passionate hatred for this aspect of the car, but I’m happy to report that it’s actually quite agreeable and easy to live with on the day to day.
One of the things that continues to impress me is the CVT-like smoothness with which it shifts. Occasionally, the second-to-third change is a bit slushy, but for the most part shifts are nice and crisp. Something else I’ve noticed is that the ‘manual mode’ seems to be more of a suggestion than anything else… The car will still shift up on its own well before redline, even when using the paddles. But hey, at the end of the day it’s an automatic transmission; I just leave it in drive and let it do its own thing.
For me, the most impressive aspect of the car is the engine. The GLX is fitted with a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbocharged ‘BoosterJet’ petrol engine. I’ve had a few cars in the past with sub-1500cc engines, but the BoosterJet blows them out of the water in terms of both performance and economy. As far as a three-banger goes it’s extremely refined, bar the slightly gruff idle that puts you in the mind of an old parallel-twin motorbike, and the gravelly exhaust note that sounds not dissimilar to a Jack Russell in the throes of a tug-of-war.
When you’re not exploring the upper limits of the rev-band, however, everything feels very relaxed. Peak torque comes on from under 2000rpm and there’s hardly any turbo lag to speak of. While the engine itself delivers fairly modest power figures, the fact that the whole car weighs less than 950kg means that it’s more than adequate for day-to-day duties.
Using such a lightweight platform in a car also means that you end up with fairly good economy figures. In fact, without really trying I’ve been able to match Suzuki’s claimed 5.1L/100km on a tank of combined driving. That’s pretty good, full stop, let alone in a car with a highly strung, downsized, turbocharged engine. (That’s a genuine figure calculated from litres used vs kilometres travelled, in case you were wondering.)
Another area where you notice the Swift’s weight or, er, lack thereof is in the corners. It just feels light… The steering doesn’t have a whole lot of feel, but it is fairly direct, and the ride is what I’d consider fairly firm. It’s by no means a sports car in this respect, but it handles the day-to-day stuff just fine and feels very planted on the road.
I know a lot of people seem to have issues with the quality of Suzuki interiors. But because I’m not the kind of person that spends their Saturday mornings fondling door-cards and dash-tops, this isn’t really an issue for me. Sure, the texture of materials used doesn’t feel as ‘luxury’ as, say, a VW Polo, but everything that you touch is wrapped in leather, so it really isn’t that bad.
Aside from this, the interior space is fantastic for something so small. I’m 6ft 2in and find that I have plenty of knee and head room, even in the back. The seats are also quite soft yet supportive, and I have no problems finding a comfortable position. In fact, I’ve not had to adjust the seat since the day I picked the car up.
As far as technology goes, the Swift GLX is equipped with most of the goodies that you want. It has all the usual ‘2018 model’ stuff like sat-nav, CarPlay et cetera, as well as AEB, lane-departure warning, auto high beam and radar cruise control.
There are a couple of curious omissions from the spec sheet that would’ve been nice to see, like blind-spot monitoring and reversing sensors. The feature that I miss the most coming from my previous car, however, is automatic wipers. I know it’s only a small thing, but nonetheless it makes for a slightly nicer driving experience in drizzly conditions.
On the whole, the aforementioned driver aids work well. Thankfully, I’ve never had the chance to experience an AEB-assisted stop, but the radar cruise control is an extremely handy feature, especially for congested motorway journeys, and seems to keep a steady distance from the vehicle in front, without being too kneejerk in its speed adjustments.
There are only a few issues I’ve encountered with the Swift’s tech, and these all stem from the infotainment screen. For one, the screen itself gets this funny rainbow-like effect when viewing it through polarised sunglasses. Secondly, the system seems to need a good 15 seconds or so to ‘boot up’ when you start the car, otherwise it’s fairly laggy. The rest of the system works well, though. Everything’s quite straightforward to use, including the inbuilt sat-nav, and Android Auto seems to work perfectly the few times I’ve plugged my phone in.
Even with the few issues mentioned above, I'm thoroughly enjoying my foray into Swift ownership, and can see myself owning this car for a good few years to come.