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First Drive: Suzuki Swift – Small cars can still be fun to drive and cheap to buy

As big names axe their superminis, you might think these cars were unpopular. But not Suzuki as it launches a new Swift. James Batchelor has driven it

The new Swift will use a 1.2-litre petrol engine with mild hybrid technology.
The new Swift will use a 1.2-litre petrol engine with mild hybrid technology. The new Swift will use a 1.2-litre petrol engine with mild hybrid technology.

What is it?

The Suzuki Swift for 2024 is completely new. It also is a class leader for driver engagement.
The Suzuki Swift for 2024 is completely new. It also is a class leader for driver engagement. The Suzuki Swift for 2024 is completely new. It also is a class leader for driver engagement.

Small cars aren’t hot property right now. That’s certainly the view of carmakers who are concentrating their time on other projects, with some preferring to follow the large profits on offer from SUVs, while others are going all-in on electric cars. But not Suzuki.

The Japanese firm feels there’s still a huge need for small, light, efficient, and well-priced small cars, and with rivals such as Ford, Kia and Nissan abandoning this market it thinks customers are being ignored. It estimates some 250,000 Brits have bought a supermini in the last three years but won’t be able to buy another due to a dwindling range of models on offer. So, it’s launched a brand new Swift to appeal to this rather sizeable group of people.

What’s new?

The design, interior and engine are all new. Suzuki has started afresh with the Swift.
The design, interior and engine are all new. Suzuki has started afresh with the Swift. The design, interior and engine are all new. Suzuki has started afresh with the Swift.

This is a completely new supermini. While some car manufacturers are tweaking their older models to keep them on life support until an electric replacement arrives sometime in the future, Suzuki is starting afresh.

The design, though similar to previous Swifts, is new, the interior is new and just when carmakers are cancelling the development of new petrol engines, Suzuki has crafted a totally new one. It’s only really the platform that’s not shiny new as it’s a development of the old model’s.

What’s under the bonnet?

The new Swift comes with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that also has a 12V mild hybrid system.
The new Swift comes with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that also has a 12V mild hybrid system. The new Swift comes with a 1.2-litre three-cylinder petrol engine that also has a 12V mild hybrid system.

Let’s talk about that engine then. It’s a 1.2-litre unit with three cylinders, replacing the old four-cylinder unit, and has a stout 81bhp and 112Nm of torque. It comes as standard with a five-speed manual gearbox – yes, you read that right – or for £1,250 more you can have it with a CVT.

The engine also comes with a 12V mild hybrid system to help with efficiency – speaking of which, at 64.2mpg, it’s right at the top of the tree for fuel economy, and the cleanest by coughing out just 99g/km of CO2. Suzuki is even offering a four-wheel drive version with a 25mm increase in ride height – it arrives later this year.

What’s it like to drive?

The Swift has always been a fun car to drive and this new model is no exception.
The Swift has always been a fun car to drive and this new model is no exception. The Swift has always been a fun car to drive and this new model is no exception.

Suzuki certainly knows how to build engines as the little 1.2 spins sweetly, and despite three-cylinder units characteristically being a little on the rough side, it’s smooth. There’s more than enough punch in the low end of the rev range meaning it’s ideal around town, while the gearbox is a delight – it’s light and precise to use.

The old Swift always had a slightly overly firm suspension set-up, and though engaging to drive, it was always outshone by a Fiesta. This new one is quieter on the move, it’s slightly softer and deals better with bumps and potholes, and with the Fiesta being no more, the Swift is arguably the class leader for handling – the fact that the car is very light (it weighs under 1,000kg) certainly helps here. It’s a very enjoyable car to drive and a lovely contrast to often overly heavy EVs.

How does it look?

The design is completely new, but with some carry-overs from previous Swifts with a ‘floating roof’ design.
The design is completely new, but with some carry-overs from previous Swifts with a ‘floating roof’ design. The design is completely new, but with some carry-overs from previous Swifts with a ‘floating roof’ design.

The design is completely new, but there are some clear carry-overs from previous Swifts such as the ‘floating’ roof, tall front headlights, and the neat rear end. There are some very noticeable differences, though, such as the wide, open-mouthed grille now without the Suzuki badge, and the crease that wraps around the whole of the car.

This line is most noticeable at the front as it forms the leading edge of the clamshell bonnet, but sadly it has the look of the bonnet not being closed properly. It’s still a handsome car, though, and looks distinctive from its rivals.

What’s it like inside?

Inside is all new and features a nine-inch touch screen infotainment system.
Inside is all new and features a nine-inch touch screen infotainment system. Inside is all new and features a nine-inch touch screen infotainment system.

You can tell where some of the weight has been saved when you sit inside because the interior is covered in hollow, cheap-feeling plastics. A Renault Clio or a Skoda Fabia have more tactile materials for the dashboard and doors, but the Swift’s interior feels well screwed together, looks good and we’d bet it won’t fall apart.

The high-mounted nine-inch touchscreen doesn’t have the most attractive software around, but as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come as standard you won’t be using it that much. Happily, Suzuki hasn’t followed some rivals by burying the heated controls in the touchscreen as there’s a row of buttons for that, and there’s even a manual handbrake.

Space in the rear is good with decent head and kneeroom, and two people will be comfortable. At 265 litres (expanding to 980 litres with the seats folded), boot space is about right too.

What’s the spec like?

The new Swift is very well equipped with just two trim levels. Even the entry-level model comes with Sat-Nav and LED headlights.
The new Swift is very well equipped with just two trim levels. Even the entry-level model comes with Sat-Nav and LED headlights. The new Swift is very well equipped with just two trim levels. Even the entry-level model comes with Sat-Nav and LED headlights.

The Swift is surprisingly very well-equipped and keenly priced. There’s just a simple two-model line-up, with entry-level Motion getting 16-inch alloys, LED headlights, sat-nav, rear parking sensors and camera, adaptive cruise control, wireless smartphone connectivity, heated seats and a whole host of safety equipment. It starts at £18,699 and undercuts a number of rivals including the Fabia, i20, 208 and Corsa.

Ultra, from £19,799, tops the range and gets polished alloys, automatic climate control and electric folding mirrors. The four-wheel drive Swift will cost £21,049 when it arrives later this year.

Verdict

The new Swift is a well packaged small car, that should win over a lot of buyers.
The new Swift is a well packaged small car, that should win over a lot of buyers. The new Swift is a well packaged small car, that should win over a lot of buyers.

A brand new supermini with a petrol engine and a manual gearbox may sound like an anachronism in 2024, but the Swift will appeal to a whole host of buyers in the UK.

Its keen pricing and frugality will be enough to win over most buyers, but this is also a well-packaged small car that is brimming with character thanks to an eager engine and sharp handling.

  • Model as tested: Suzuki Swift 1.2 Mild Hybrid Ultra manual
  • Price as tested: £19,799
  • Engine: 1.2-litre, turbocharged three-cylinder mild hybrid petrol
  • Power: 81bhp
  • Torque: 112Nm
  • 0-62mph: 12.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 103mph
  • MPG: 64.2
  • CO2 emissions: 99g/km