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The Top Gear car review: Suzuki Swift
For:Spirited driving for modest money
Against:A lack of general cabin refinement
1.2 SZ3 5dr
Finally, a reason to buy a Swift during the winter months. But do us a favour, Suzuki, and fit a bigger engine
Is this the new hot hatch of choice? Sam Philip investigates…
Not a car likely to impress snobby mates, but an honest and enjoyable one at a good price
Exactly what a small hot hatch should be – fun to drive fast, well-built, and good value. A winner.
What we say:
The latest Swift is a fine all rounder: not the most refined, but able and amusing
What is it?
The arrival of the new Swift in 2005 promised to usher in a new era for the budget Japanese brand. Here was a car with fantastic styling, unexpectedly entertaining driving characteristics and solid build quality, all for a rock-bottom price. Sadly, Suzuki hasn’t made such inroads in the UK in any other area, with lacklustre products like the SX4 hatch and Alto city car failing to make an impression.
But hey, there’s still nothing wrong with the Swift, now into its second generation (even though it doesn’t look it): there’s even now a replacement for the Sport, now better than ever. An ideal alternative to the Mini you can’t quite afford?
The Swift is blessed with that rarest of things in the supermini class these days, lightness, and as such feels ridiculously easy to hustle along. Sharp steering and a decent chassis set-up also mean it responds accurately to driver inputs. There is a decent trio of engines to choose from; the 1.2-litre is the pick of the bunch, but even the little 1.3 diesel is good over longer journeys. Suzuki even now offers a 4x4 version, for extra grip in wintry conditions.
It’s no picnic though – perhaps the main drawback of these light underpinnings is a shortage of sound deadening. Coupled with the 1.2-litre that needs working hard, general vibration and tyre roar during out of town driving, it can get pretty exhausting.
On the inside
This is not the Swift’s principal selling point, to say the least. Suzuki doesn’t really do luxury, not even a tissue-thin suggestion of it, and the Swift’s cabin is a hard, brittle plasticky affair. That said, it does appear to be solidly made and hard-wearing, and the overall design is clean, logical and modern. So it’s not posh, but it doesn’t feel all Happy Shopper either.
In terms of comfort, it’s worth remembering that the Swift is one of the smaller cars in its class and although room upfront is fine, it’s very cramped in the rear. And that issue with sound deadening warrants another mention. The cabin is far more noisy than we’d like.
The Swift is well made and reliable. It should also be fairly cheap to maintain and certainly the best-selling 1.2-litre unit currently on offer will be frugal around town and pretty cheap to insure. Again, the diesel is the engine to get if fuel bills are a worry for you.
Brands like this never hold their value as well as the posher, more desirable offerings out there, but the Swift can be bought and run cheaply enough to make it an immensely shrewd purchase from start to finish.