Suzuki Swift 2008 Road Test

Fri, 17 Oct 2008

The Suzuki Swift 1.5GLX surprised me. I’d driven a Swift before at an SMMT test day and not been particularly impressed. But maybe that’s because I drove twenty other cars the same day. I really liked the 1.5GLX Suzuki sent me this week.

I knew readers had the hots for it because of all the e-mails I received from the Suzuki Swift fan club. So I thought I’d better make a longer acquaintance with the car.

The 1.3 and 1.5 petrol engines are chain-cam, Toyota Yaris derived. We’ve got the 1.5 in our Vios in Thailand, where it develops a bit more power and plenty of torque that matches its long (automatic) gearing very well.

The Swift 1.5 has plenty of low down grunt too. You can row it along economically like a diesel, not needing high revs. And it’s an eager little thing, like an excitable Pug puppy.

The steering is light, but with plenty of feel. With a wheel in each corner and quite wide track it feels well ‘planted’. And it grips like a Pit Bull Terrier. Just doesn’t want to let go at all. On our video test, my ‘assistant’ dropped her camera and complained it was like a ride at Thorpe Park. We got some excellent footage of her feet.

That eagerness translates to a bit of harshness on the motorway. It only pulls about 22mph per 1,000rpm in 5th, and you get some road roar. But that’s the natural penalty of its eager, dodgem car ability. It actually feels more like a Mini than a MINI. And nips at the ankles of the Mazda 2 for sheer ability, though isn’t as refined. 42.5mpg wasn’t bad either, considering the mix of use I put it to, including filming a video.

The 3-door is only a 4-seater (the 5-door has seats for 5), yet there’s stacks of headroom in the back and the seats are very comfortable. You can fold down the seatbacks very easily and they make an almost level, carpeted floor. The boot floor itself has space underneath and cleverly folds into two, then slots in behind the back seats if you want to leave the space open. The seats a re quite high, like a Yaris, which always suits more elderly drivers.

ABI Thatcham reports that poor bumper design means that a minor Suzuki sandwich crash could cost £4,600 to repair, yet they still awarded it Groups 4 - 6. But this is the sort of information that can creep into a road test when a car has been on the road for 3 years, putting the Swift at an unfair disadvantage against an all-new car in which problems have not yet emerged.

There were a few “issues” over the three years the car has been on UK roads, happily now resolved. One was a rattle behind the dash, that only seemed to affect 2005/2006 models. The other was excessive rear tyre wear. It seems that early car rear suspension was not welded together properly aligned and the only cure was a new rear torsion beam. But this can also happen if it has been jacked up by the rear suspension, which a big yellow sticker warns you not to do. For the last year feedback has been all good, apart from minor criticism of some of the terminology used for the controls, such as "Illumi Cancel" for the dashboard dimmer.

Readers also report generally good, helpful dealer service.

So the Swift gets the thumbs up. It’s a really likeable little car, sensibly priced, and a worthy competitor to the Yaris, Fiesta and Mazda 2.

For prices, specifications, engines, transmissions, dimensions and performance figures, please click the tabs.

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