Long ago a little blue Suzuki Swift stole my heart. It was the first car I ever reviewed on video for CarsGuide, I still had long hair and deludedly believed I was still young. I looked like a man oblivious to his impending middle age, but the Suzuki had no such delusions about itself.
Always cheap, honest transport, the Sport was fun on a (development) budget and still commands crazy money second-hand, because it's so good. Sure, it was missing a bit of oomph, but it had a truly great chassis to make up for it.
I haven't driven the new Sport version, but when the call came from my colleague, Matt Campbell, that the GLX Turbo was my ride for the week I was elated. I've been wanting to give this new version a run, and what better way to do it than in a fully loaded one that has a new spin on the Swift idea?
Suzuki Swift 2019: GLX TURBO
Regular Unleaded Petrol
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with? 6/10
The Swift GLX sits on the dealer forecourt with an eyebrow-furrowing $22,990 on its windscreen. That's a lot for what is famously a “budget” hatchback. Thankfully, there's a lot in it, some of it quite unexpected in a car like this.
Is there anything interesting about its design? 7/10
This Swift looks a lot like the two that went before it, but it remains a very individual design. Irksome descriptions such as "perky" spring to mind, but that's exactly what it is. Taking up the original Mini's quick-brick aesthetic, the Swift looks terrific. The rear doors melt into the body as the rear doorhandles are concealed in the black plastic where the door meets C-pillar.
Irksome descriptions such as "perky" spring to mind, but that's exactly what it is.
The proportions really are bang-on, it doesn't look as upright as the interior dimensions suggest and it's just so bloody cute. Here in the GLX, the LED daytime running lights look really good and the 16-inch alloys just right, although you'll want to be careful against kerbs - they're polished so you'll see every mark.
Inside, things aren’t quite as funky, but it's exceptionally functional. The materials aren't much to write home about but nor are they awful. The cloth trim was the right choice instead of some nasty fake leather, while the real leather on the flat-bottomed steering wheel is very nice.
There are some weird choices, though, and one in particular; the speedo is overcrowded but the big digital screen between the dials doesn't have a digital speed readout. Bit of a miss, that one, as it would be quite useful. Some things never change.
How practical is the space inside? 7/10
The front seats are excellent, and we're talking Citroen C3 levels of comfort here. I was hugely impressed, and couldn't help thinking that maybe they were the same as those in the French city car, but they're not as wide. Still, they make a pretty good start on the comfort front.
The tall roof means good headroom front and back and the way the wheels are pushed out to the corners means Suzuki has eked out a fair bit of occupant space.
The front seats are excellent, and we're talking Citroen C3 levels of comfort here.
I had a surprising amount of knee and legroom behind my driving position.
Still, three across the back would require near-indecent levels of friendliness, so bear that in mind. The armrests are a bit awkward for adults, and I didn't know where to put my arm when I was back there, but I had a surprising amount of knee and legroom behind my driving position. I'm not huge, at 180cm, but I'm not short either.
The boot starts with a fairly ordinary 242 litres, rising to 556 litres with the seats down. Front-seat passengers score a pair of squared-off cupholders that aren't great for bigger phones and the rear row has just one cupholder, at the trailing end of the centre console. There is no centre rear armrest.
The boot starts with a fairly ordinary 242 litres.
The boot increases to 556 litres with the seats down.
Each door has a bottle holder, but they're for the 500ml variety.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission? 7/10
The GLX Turbo packs a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged engine, with 82kW and 160Nm of torque. This is some way better than the 1.2-litre four in the lower models. Better still, the power reaches the road via a six-speed automatic rather than the CVT attached to the larger, less powerful engine. That transmission might explain part of the hefty sticker price. As ever, the Swift is resolutely front-wheel drive.
Should you be super-keen, you can tow up to 1000kg.
The GLX Turbo packs a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged engine.
How much fuel does it consume? 7/10
Suzuki claims 5.1L/100km on the combined cycle. After a week of enthusiastic driving, we scored 6.9L/100km, which isn't bad at all.
We scored 6.9L/100km after a week of driving.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating? 8/10
The GLX has six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, low and high-speed forward AEB, forward collision warning, lane-keep assist and lane-departure warning.
You also get three top-tether anchorages and two ISOFIX points.
All Swifts apart from the GL scored five ANCAP safety stars in September 2017. The GL only has four stars, despite scoring highly in the crash tests, because it’s missing AEB.
Warranty & Safety Rating
3 years / unlimited km
ANCAP Safety Rating
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered? 7/10
Suzuki offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty, which is no longer on the pace. However, if you choose to service your Swift at a Suzuki dealer every six months or 10,000km, Suzuki will extend the warranty to five years/140,000km. The program costs run for 10 services over five years, costing $2512 all up. Most services are $175, with three of them costing rather a lot more. Overall, it works out at about $500 per year.
Suzuki offers a standard three-year/100,000km warranty.
By comparison, a Kia Picanto will cost $1729 over the same period ($345/year) with half of the number of visits (and a longer warranty) and a Toyota Yaris is $280 per year, with a shorter program and warranty.
What's it like to drive? 8/10
Japanese car makers have an extraordinary ability to introduce two things that an automotive eHarmony would keep apart - body roll and grip. I don't know how they do it, but Suzuki has designed a suspension tune that rides reasonably well despite a) rear torsion beams and b) a kerb weight that would impress a Lotus engineer, at just 945kg.
Suzuki has designed a suspension tune that rides reasonably well.
The GLX Turbo is plenty of fun. On my Friday-night run taking number one son to youth group, there's a downhill, off-camber left-hander that was sealed by someone with only a passing interest in road surfacing and designed by - I'm being generous here - an idiot. It's a shocker of a corner, but unintentionally hilarious. He always holds the grab handle, and I time it so the arrow is green and tip it in to see what happens, regardless of the car we’re in.
Most cars with rear torsion beams hop all over the place, while we hoot with laughter. The Swift leaned over like a Liberian oil tanker, held on for dear life at the front and swept through without upset. We still laughed because it felt like I might have grazed my right elbow on the road if I’d had the window open, but it was quite something. It’s a corner that tells you a lot about a car, and it told us that the dynamic compromises in this Swift are good ones.
The light, quick-ish steering amplifies the feeling of grip, while the roll slightly undermines it, but overall, it's not a bad deal for a small hatchback.
The light steering amplifies the feeling of grip, while the roll slightly undermines it.
The six-speed auto is a bit too keen to find top gear in the name of fuel economy and doesn't like revving to the redline, but the paddle shifters keep it honest. The 1.0-litre triple is a blast, with a lovely gravelly sound. Yes, I know the people who are buying this car aren't that interested in engine note, but I'll take this one over the 1.2-litre being thrashed by the CVT, all day, every day.
I really enjoyed my week in the Swift GLX Turbo. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for the Swift for a variety of reasons, but I was really pleased at how good this car is. It's reasonably refined and the torque of the turbo makes for low-fuss motoring, or even for a bit of fun if you feel like it.
The only thing that bothered me was the price, both up-front and ongoing.
A Yaris and a Picanto's door will shut neatly when you push it, but the Swift's doesn’t. It needs a hefty shove, which is partly because the doors are so light they don't weigh anything, and this sort of “feel” matters to people. They'll live with that lightness for less than $20k, but you can get a VW Polo for the money being asked here.
What the Swift GLX does have going for it, however, is that cheeky face, fun chassis and the sense of humour those other cars don't have. Plus a brilliant pair of front seats.
Can the Swift tempt you away from the competition? Tell us in the comments below.