Suzuki Swift review

The current car has been a mainstay for Suzuki with two million sales since its launch in 2005, so a major overhaul of the light car is reserved for the mechanicals and chassis. The visual style is a modern interpretation of the previous model. The base price is also based on the previous model: at $15,990 it is the same as the 2005 model cost.

VALUE

The new Suzuki Swift is a mainstay of Suzuki Australia's operations. The company has sold 65,000 of the existing model cars and is Suzuki Australia general manager Tony Devers says new model, with the catchline "More Swift", will account for a 10 per cent sales boost.

The base-model GA (there's no model-specific badging on any Swift model, so pick them by look) comes with steel 15-inch rims, plain door handles and side mirrors, power windows and mirrors, a four-speaker sound system with USB and iPod connectivity, a five-speed manual transmission and drum rear brakes. It also packs seven airbags and electronic stability control into the mix.

Step up $700 to the mid-spec GL there's 15-inch alloys, a body-coloured door handles and mirrors, mirror-mounted side indicators, a leather steering wheel with audio controls, and a six-speaker sound system. There's also a tacho, which will be more important for manual owners than those who spend the extra $1700 for the optional four-speed automatic.

The top-spec GLX costs $18,990 and adds all-round disc brakes, 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity, a steering wheel that adjust for reach and height, keyless entry and start/stop button and front fog lamps.

TECHNOLOGY

The "New Swift" is more, and in some cases less, of the same. And that's good for buyers. The engine has been downsized from 1.5 to 1.4 litres, but the new powerplant is lighter, helping to offset the drop to 70kW and 130Nm, from the 1.5's 74kW/133Nm. The flip is petrol use is down from 6.3 litres/100km to 5.5, which puts the Swift at the top of the class on fuel use. CO2 emissions are 132g/km.

All cars now have the electronic throttle control previously reserved for the sporty Swift S model. The chassis is lighter and stronger and the MacPherson strut front and torsion beam rear have been overhauled.

Cruise control isn't a option, yet. Devers says he's aware how important it is in Australia "and the company is working with us", suggesting it will be an option sooner rather than later. All cars come with iPod/USB connectivity.

STYLING

An Italian interpretation on the original design led to the latest look for the Swift. Suzuki sent two teams to Europe (one to France and one to Italy), to conceive a new style for the Swift and it was the Italian-based team's modern approach to evolving the design that won.

The result is a glass profile that progressively narrows from the front windows the rear, a bigger front grille, front and rear lights that now sweep around the top side edges of the car and a much smarter interior.

Silver highlights help break up the black dash and while the plastics aren't at Euro-touch softness, they look durable and the fit and finish is typical Suzuki standard. And the front dash pockets may help break up the lines, but I wouldn't be putting anything heavy in them ...

SAFETY

The Swift is a safe bet. There are seven airbags (the driver picks up a knee bag in addition to the dual front, side and curtain units), ABS brakes with brake assist and brakeforce distribution, stability control and front seatbelts with pretensioners and force limiters. It is a five-star car and the 40mm wheelbase spurt in size gives rear seat passengers more legroom.

DRIVING

Hairpin turns with short straights are made for cars like the Swift. That explains why Arthur's Seat is the launch venue, the chassis/suspension are in their element on the tight bends and bumpy roads.

The ride is firm but not harsh and it sits flat and composed under acceleration or brakes. The light and low weight means it holds its line in turns and responds to throttle or brake if the driver's overcooked it.

Uphill runs expose the engine's lack of torque and the four-speed auto's lack of ratios. The pair work OK around town, but won't be the enthusiasts' choice, especially as there's no option for manual shifts.

The five-speed manual's extra cog helps get the most out of the engine, like most Suzuki units, this 1.4-litre will happily rev at the top of the tacho and the mid-range is strong, so work ing the manual can result in reasonably quick runs.

The GLX undoubtedly has the better brakes, bu the rear drums on the GL didn't lock up once and will be more than good enough for most owners.

Rear seat room will encourage you to pack adults in for a short trip, they'll moan, but survive, and pre-teen kids won't complain at all. Boot space is tight, but at 210 litres to the bottom of the windows you can fit the weekly luggage in. A removable tray covers a smaller compartment, and the space saver spare, below, but I'd ditch it for the extra boot depth.

The Swift is chasing sales off the Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 and the first impressions are the extra interior sophistication will earn it more fans. Enthusiasts will have to wait until next year for the 1.6-litre S model.

VERDICT

A good car done better. Price and build quality are on the money.

SUZUKI SWIFT

Price: from $15,990
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder
Power: 70kW at revs
Torque: 130Nm at revs
Body: Five-door hatch
Seats: Five
Suspension: MacPherson strut front; torsion beam rear
Brakes: Disc fronts, drum rears (GA and GL), disc rears (GLX)
Fuel use: 5.5 litres/100km; (auto 6.3 litres/100km)
Fuel tank, type: 42 litres, regular unleaded
CO2 emissions: 132g/km; 147g/km 

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