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Suzuki Swift 2021 review

Series II Suzuki Swift intended to stoke sales success with a swag of safety stuff.
EXPERT RATING
7.1
The Series II Suzuki Swift is here, with a bare bones entry-level right through to a turbo-powered 1.0-litre. The big news is that the GL Navigator Plus and turbo GLX both have a swag of new safety equipment to level up with Mazda and Kia.

For almost thirty years, Australians could stroll into a number of dealerships and have their pick of cars - obviously small ones - for under twenty grand. And I mean twenty grand in the modern sense, not the early '80s Mitsubishi Sigma GL with no power steering or...you know, seats that didn't give you a third-degree burn in summer.

We had a golden age, kicked off by the Hyundai Excel and, arguably ended with the demise of the by-now underwhelming Hyundai Accent. One by one, carmakers are leaping out of the sub-$20,000 market.

Suzuki is hanging in there, along with Kia and, oddly, MG. But I'm not here to tell you about the Swift Navigator because, frankly, I don't think you should buy it. It's not the best-value Swift and for the same money you can get a better-loaded Kia, the top-of-the range Picanto GT. Not far over the $20,000 mark, though, is the Navigator Plus which makes a lot more sense. As part of the Series II Swift updated which arrived in September, The Plus in Navigator Plus has taken on a whole new meaning. 

Suzuki Swift 2021: GL Navi
Safety rating
Engine Type1.2L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency4.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$19,990

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Down at $18,990 is where Swift range starts with the GL Navigator manual, adding $1000 for the CVT automatic. For Series II, the base model picks up rear speakers over the old spec, 16-inch alloys, air-conditioning, reversing camera, cruise control, cloth interior, remote central locking, auto-down power windows and a space-saver spare.

For $21,490 the Navigator Plus has a lot more to offer than the GL Navigator. Which makes sense, given the Plus, but I'm no marketing genius.

For your money you get power folding and heated mirrors, reversing camera, active cruise control, sat nav and leather steering wheel as well as a bunch of extra safety features over the GL Navigator.

Annoyingly there's only one "free" colour and it's white. For any other colour, it's another $595. Annoyingly there's only one "free" colour and it's white. For any other colour, it's another $595.

The GLX Turbo builds further on the lower specs with a six-speaker stereo, gear-shift paddles, LED headlights and the 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder. That car lands at a fairly sturdy $25,290 but is not without its own unique charms.

All Swifts share the 7.0-inch screen that's in almost everything with a Suzuki badge and has the same basic software that isn't all that flash but more than makes up for it with a built-in sat nav in the Navigator Plus and GLX Turbo (I'm assuming a certain demographic buys this car and insists on it) as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

Annoyingly there's only one "free" colour and it's white. The rest of the colours (Super Black Pearl, Speedy Blue, Mineral Grey, Burning Red and Premium Silver) whack you another $595. By contrast (see what I did there?), you can choose from five free colours on a Mazda2 and the three premium colours are $100 cheaper.

For $21,490 the Navigator Plus has a lot more to offer. For $21,490 the Navigator Plus has a lot more to offer.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Ah, this is where things get interesting. The Swift is such a cracking-looking car, even though it hasn't changed a great deal over the past three generations. But that's how good the Swift's rebirth was sixteen years ago. The details have, obviously, been refined but it really does look brilliant.

The Navigator Plus, when you get close, does look a bit cheap here and there, but plenty of far more expensive cars have weird cheap details, like the odd textured plastic chrome on the tail-lights of the Lexus LC.

The Swift is such a cracking-looking car, even though it hasn't changed a great deal over the past three generations. The Swift is such a cracking-looking car, even though it hasn't changed a great deal over the past three generations.

Inside is a but more in keeping with its price point than the Swift Sport. There's nothing especially eye-catching in the cabin apart from the fetching new patterned inserts on the seats and the nice leather steering wheel which is, oddly, flat-bottomed.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

If you're in the front seats, you're golden. Apart from being slightly too high for my liking, they're very comfortable and the previously-mentioned upholstery is very pleasant. You get two shallow cupholders and a tray not quite big enough for a larger-sized phone but fine for standard-sized ones.

As with the front, rear-seat dwellers get a pair of small bottle holders in the doors and not much else apart from a seat pocket in the left-hand seat. Common with the front seat, there's no armrest which is a shame because the back seat is so flat that there is nothing but your seatbelt to stop you clattering into your neighbour in the corners. There is a squared-off cupholder between the front seats which would be hard to reach for smaller folk.

  • If you're in the front seats, you're golden. If you're in the front seats, you're golden.
  • Three across the back is obviously a distant dream for adults. Three across the back is obviously a distant dream for adults.

Three across the back is obviously a distant dream for adults, but two back there are in reasonably good shape with plenty of headroom and surprisingly good knee and legroom if you're roughly my height (180cm) behind someone else of similar height.

The boot is predictably tiny at 242 litres, which is a little below the standard for the segment, with a seats-down capacity of 918 litres. The Swift Sport's boot is slightly larger at 265 litres because it doesn't carry a spare, but weirdly, has the same seats-down capacity as the other versions.

With three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points, you're covered for baby or child seats.

  • The boot is predictably tiny at 242 litres. The boot is predictably tiny at 242 litres.
  • With seats down, the capacity is 918 litres. With seats down, the capacity is 918 litres.
  • The Swift Sport's boot is slightly larger at 265 litres because it doesn't carry a spare. The Swift Sport's boot is slightly larger at 265 litres because it doesn't carry a spare.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   6/10

The non-turbo Swift's very modest 66kW and 120Nm comes from its 1.2-litres and four-cylinders. It is not a lot of power, even with variable valve timing. To make the most of these figures, Suzuki fits a continuously variable automatic transmission, or CVT, to send power to the front wheels. The manual is $1000 cheaper, a five-speed unit that you'll only find in the $18,990 GL Navigator.

The non-turbo Swift's very modest 66kW and 120Nm comes from its 1.2-litres and four-cylinders. The non-turbo Swift's very modest 66kW and 120Nm comes from its 1.2-litres and four-cylinders.

Step up to the Turbo GLX and you get a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo with healthy power outputs of 82kW and 160Nm, with a six-speed torque converter auto, unlike the lesser versions' CVT.

Thankfully, the Swift weighs next to nothing in modern car terms, so even the 1.2 offers reasonable pace without having to thrash it.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

The official combined cycle figure on the sticker is listed at 4.8L/100km. The dash display indicated I was getting 6.5L/100km and to be fair to the Swift, it had almost no highway running during my time with it, so it's not too far off the 5.8L/100km urban figure.

With its small 37-litre fuel tank that means a real-world range of around 500km and probably another 100km if you're cruising the motorways.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Navigator Plus' Series II safety upgrades add blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert and you get forward AEB with both low and high speed operation, forward collision warning, lane keep assist, lane departure warning as well as six airbags and the usual ABS and stability controls.

These features are also on the more expensive, turbo-powered GLX but not on the down-spec Navigator, which is one of the main reasons for me telling you in the intro that this is the better car.

The Swift features three top-tether points and two ISOFIX anchors for fitting child seats.

In 2017 the base GL scored four ANCAP stars while the other grades, offering things like forward AEB scored five stars. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   8/10

Suzuki offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive.

Worth noting is the fact that the 1.2-litre's service intervals (12 months/15,000km) are a little more generous than the turbo's (12 months/10,000km). The 1.2 will cost $239 for the first service and then $329 for the next three. The fifth service is $239 or, if it's travelled over 90,000km, climbs to $499. If you stick to "average" mileage, that means a five-year service bill of $1465, or just under $300 per service. Not bad, although a Yaris is cheaper than that by quite some margin while a Rio is about double that (however it has a longer warranty).

Suzuki offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive. Suzuki offers a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is competitive.

If you go up to the GLX turbo, along with shorter intervals by distance, you'll pay $1475 or $295 per service, which again, is quite good and cheaper than the Rio and Picanto GT's servicing by quite a margin. The turbo triple obviously has more complex servicing needs and if you go over the expected milage, the final service will cost anywhere from $299 to $569, which is still reasonable.

What's it like to drive?   7/10

Luckily I drove two cars for this review. The first was the one I think most people will end up buying, the 1.2-litre Navigator Plus. One of my favourite things about Suzukis - including my Vitara Turbo long-term test car - is the decent tyres fitted to all but the cheapest of their cars. 

What that means is when combined with a very impressive suspension tune which delivers an excellent ride and handling balance (especially for such a small car) it's also fun to drive, if that's your thing. If it isn't your thing, it's comfortable and feels good on the road.

The steering is perhaps a little slow for my liking which I found a little odd. The spec sheet says it has variable rack steering which means you get more steering angle at a faster rate the more you turn the wheel, but it seems to only accelerate usefully when you're parking or moving around at low speed. It always felt like it need another quarter-turn or so for the same effect compared to most other small cars I've driven. Most owners probably won't mind, I just think it would be even better if the steering was a bit quicker.

The steering is perhaps a little slow for my liking which I found a little odd. The steering is perhaps a little slow for my liking which I found a little odd.

The dreaded CVT makes the most of the 1.2-litre's limited power and torque, which is what CVTs are good at. I dread CVTs - and this is purely personal - because I don't think they're very good in most of the cars fitted with them. This one can whine a bit as you're driving along, but I'll take that because it has a good strong take-up from standstill that feels almost like a good dual-clutch transmission. Some CVTs are far too soft off the lights and you end up getting swamped by delivery riders on pushbikes.

Moving up to the turbo GLX, the main difference is the extra power and torque. When I first drove it I thought, "Why wouldn't you buy this one?" While the extra oomph is welcome, it's really not a deal breaker and really not worth an extra (almost) four thousand dollars unless you're really wedded to the idea of a turbo or LED headlights. Both of which are good things.

Verdict

It was a tough call, but I did settle on the Navigator Plus as the pick of the range. For an extra $1500 over an automatic GL Navigator, you get all that extra equipment and a subtle lift in spec that would be well-served with the inclusion of the GLX's LED headlights.

All Swifts are good to drive, with a supple chassis tune, acceptable performance through to quite good from the 1.0-litre turbo and a good after-sales package. I do think, however, that Swifts are a tad over-priced, especially considering the big jump to the GLX. But if you want a Japanese-built hatch with a bit of character, fantastic looks and a good mechanical package, the Swift hits all three.

Pricing guides

$23,490
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$17,990
Highest Price
$28,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GL (qld) 1.2L, ULP, CVT AUTO $18,990 2021 Suzuki Swift 2021 GL (qld) Pricing and Specs
GL Navi 1.2L, ULP, CVT AUTO $19,990 2021 Suzuki Swift 2021 GL Navi Pricing and Specs
GL Navi (qld) 1.2L, ULP, CVT AUTO $19,990 2021 Suzuki Swift 2021 GL Navi (qld) Pricing and Specs
GL Navi Plus 1.2L, ULP, CVT AUTO $21,490 2021 Suzuki Swift 2021 GL Navi Plus Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.1
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality7
Engine & trans6
Fuel consumption7
Safety7
Ownership8
Driving7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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