Ewan Kennedy reviews the 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Suzuki Swift as a used buy.

Suzuki Swift is a stylish Japanese small car that's been popular in Australia since its re-introduction in February 2005. It's a tough little critter that's well regarded for reliability and long life. It's popular on the Australian used-car scene and holds its value well. Indeed, dealers sometimes complain to us that they can't get their hands on enough used Swifts.

Swift has a better sorted suspension and steering than most cars in its class and is appreciated by keen drivers. Good throttle response from the engines is another fun factor.

A major model change in June 2011 retained the same cheeky look as the 2005 model, but is a little larger, with a bit more space in the back seat. Obviously the Swift doesn't have room space for four large adults in the cabin, being aimed a singles, couples and young families. The front seats have a good spread of fore-and-aft adjustment and the driver's seat can be raised and lowered.

Boot space is good for a car of this size, there's the option of folding down the seat back in various configurations.

Power comes from a twin-cam petrol engine with a capacity of 1.5 litres in most models (more about a major exception in a moment). The engine size was reduced to 1.4 litres in the heavily revised 2011 Swift. That new-design engine provides similar performance, uses less petrol and creates fewer emissions than the discontinued 1.5.

Many Swifts in Australia have a five-speed manual gearbox, there's also the option of a four-speed automatic transmission. The auto doesn't take too much away from the performance of this relatively light car.

The first series Swift Sport came only as a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. The latter isn't as sluggish as you might imagine as the cars are relatively light. Nevertheless many competitors provide better autos.

There's better than average underbonnet space for a car of this size so you can do your own basic servicing.

Unlike many so-called 'sports' models, the Suzuki Swift Sport does have better engine and suspension performance than the standard Swifts. It has a larger engine, at 1.6 litres, to back up its firmer suspension, a good looking body kit and sportier interior design. While the Sport isn't a hot-hatch it gives you plenty of driving pleasure for a modest financial outlay.

There were no imports of the Swift Sport from June 2011 until February 2012 when the new series was introduced, with a six-speed manual 'box or a CVT auto, the latter has seven preset ratios so drivers can make their own choices.

There is a reasonable number of Suzuki dealers in Australia, though they tend to be concentrated in the metropolitan and major country cities.

We have heard of no real problems with spare parts supply and the prices aren't too bad for a fully imported car.

There's better than average underbonnet space for a car of this size so you can do your own basic servicing without too much bleeding from the knuckles. Buy a workshop manual before opening that bonnet, though. Leave anything that could affect safety to the professional mechanics.

Insurance costs are towards the lower end of the scale and we don't know of any companies that charge significantly more for the Sport versions.

What to look for

Look for body damage and/or signs of it having been repaired. Wrinkles in panels and paint overspray are signals of a bingle. Look over the car in strong light to make this easier so see.

Be wary of a Swift that has been modified in as it may had a hammering by a crazy driver. Big, noisy exhausts are a reason for caution.

Check that the engine starts within a second of you turning the key, even if it's completely cold in the morning. 

If the engine hesitates on acceleration or during hard cornering there may be some water in the fuel rails causing a misfire.

Manual gearchanges should be light, easy and quiet. If not there may be gearbox troubles, or it may be the clutch needs adjusting.

Make sure the sound system work correctly. If there's no life from it there's a good chance it has been stolen in the past and the PIN security system has shut it down.

Fuel filler hoses and clamps were the subject of recalls in March and May 2012. Give a Suzuki dealer a call with the Swift's VIN and they can advise if it has been modified.