Suzuki has a new Swift hatchback, here next month after a two-month gap since the last Swift departed.
The chunky five-door hatchback is its best seller in Britain. Swift and the Celerio and Vitara account for more than 75 per cent of UK sales – which passed 38,000 in 2016. The first four months this year shows a 13 per cent rise. The contributor here was the new Ignis super mini.
Swift sales peaked at 15,000 in 2007. The outgoing model never beat that total and it’s possible the new Swift will also fall short, due to in-house rivalry from Ignis, Baleno etc.
There is also stiff stuff in the revised SEAT Ibiza, Skoda Fabia, Mazda2, Hyundai i20 and new Kia Picanto – plus the big-selling Fiesta, Corsa and Polo, Jazz, Peugeot 208. In fact, much as it has a stout fan base, the Swift is nearly 20th on sales in the class. It’s an also-ran but owners love them.
The Swift is small for the class, in particular falling short on luggage space, said customers. However, they liked its nippy driving manners, its stand-apart looks and reliability.
Good news, then, that the new Swift, though only marginally larger, has 25 per cent more cargo capacity, has lost 120kg weight, gains 35 per cent in its power to weight ratio and reduces CO2 by 10 per cent, with two models out of the five rated under 100g CO2.
Good news, too, in the uncertain future for diesel cars in cities, that both engines are petrol. These are an 89bhp 1.2 four-cylinder and a 110bhp three-cylinder turbo.
Prices start at £10,999 for the 1.2 in SZ3 trim, with air conditioning and most expectations apart from steel wheels – a trick shot which pushes you up £2,000 to the next model, a 1.0 with more power. The 1.2 has enough vigour for general motoring and runs smoothly. Like all new Swifts, it benefits from a new and stronger chassis platform – also used by Baleno and Ignis. Handling is fine, but expect a few jolts on potholes. That’s not unusual in this class. Conversely, it rides over speed bumps without a shudder.
Price for the 1.0 engine open at £12,999 in SZ-T trim, which adds 16-inch alloys, a rear-view camera, smart link for your phone and front fog lamps.
The SZ5 grade (£14,499, or with a six-speed automatic gearbox £15,849) adds navigation, LED headlamps, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and ignition, polished alloys, powered folding mirrors with integral indicators, reach adjust on the steering wheel and electric rear windows.
ALLGRIP 4x4 is offered on the 1.2 model in SZ5 trim. The engine in this model and in the 1.0 SZ5 manual model is fitted with Suzuki’s mild hybrid system which assists when setting off, when accelerating and regenerates electricity when braking. Power gains are minimal, and not quoted by Suzuki.
The Swift’s weight loss brings the kerb weight as low as 890kg. This remarkable slimming has been achieved by using lighter and stronger steel, which reduces the need for added strengthening.
The changes in exterior dimensions are minimal and make the new Swift shorter, wider and lower. Headroom is improved in the back. Its nearest match on size is the Mini.
First impressions are made by body styling. The last generation was, arguably, more distinctive. The new one has lost the sharper body lines. It looks more mature, less sporty, fatter faced with the deep grille which is popular at the moment.
This bold evolution may bring the new customers Suzuki craves. It is now a contender with a more mainstream look.
The equipment is good – all have Bluetooth – and the SZ5 brings safety features rare in the sector. It combines a camera and laser to detect trouble ahead, bringing on the brakes if a crash looks likely. It also has adaptive cruise control which monitors the distance to the vehicle in front. A late departure system vibrates the steering wheel if you leave the lane without indicating (from 37mph). There is also a buzzer alert if you weave around in the lane – maybe because you are getting drowsy, maybe because you are just a bad driver.
The SZ5 is also fitted with high-beam assist which (at speeds over 24mph) switches the headlight beam between high and dipped.
Suzuki does not offer options on the Swift. If you want alloy wheels on the entry model SZ3 they will be a dealer accessory.
Early favourable media comment is already quoted by Suzuki on its website. What it doesn’t say is that the entry price is now higher – but then the car has changed a lot and is all-new. On our introduction in leafy, affluent Cheshire it looked like a car the home help or au pair may drive to and from the gated mansions.
Verdict: Lighter, quicker, roomier, fun to drive with big-car features on the top model.