Honda Civic VS Suzuki Swift
- Looks are good (or bad)
- Suspension and steering are both terrific
- Plenty of legroom in the rear seat
- CVT drones at pace
- Standard safety lacking on base models
- RS is noisy on the wrong road surfaces
- Good looks
- Smart, well equipped range
- Fun to drive
- Relatively pricey
- Tiny boot & back seat
- Expensive, frequent servicing
If you think the new Civic Hatch looks a little lower-slung than its sedan sibling, that can likely be attributed to the crushing weight of expectation placed on its little metal shoulders.
See, this 10th-gen Civic might be the most important car Honda has ever made. While most manufacturers were pouring funds into their SUV ranges, Honda was diverting a huge chunk (heavily tipped to be a whopping 35 per cent) of their research and development budget into the Civic, using the evergreen nameplate as a key pin in their Australian comeback.
And with that much riding on it, it had to be good. In sedan form, which launched here last year, it mostly lived up to the hype, with Honda shifting more than 800 units per month. And with the Civic hatch finally touching down in Australia, Honda is hoping to add 1000 sales to the tally.
So the question now is, does this new hatch version shine, too?
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Did you know Suzuki is one of the most profitable car companies in the world?
In fact, by some measures last year, the Japanese automaker overtook BMW as the most profitable automaker on the planet.
If that surprised you, you’re not alone. Sure, the brand produces some memorable models which have etched themselves on the Australian landscape over the decades, but they aren’t exactly technological wonders.
But nameplates like Swift, Vitara and Jimny have always been affordable, what-you-see-is-what-you-get type cars, and their simplicity gives Suzuki a unique ability to market them to developing economies like India and China as well as cashed-up first-world nations like Australia.
The Swift personifies that appeal, with its range spanning a wide berth from one of Australia’s cheapest hatchbacks, to the last surviving Japanese small performance hatch.
In an increasingly competitive segment though, does the Swift still have an edge? Let’s explore the range to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Energetic and engaging (if not quite sporty), the Civic hatch is quiet and comfortable around town, but it can more than hold its own on a twisting backroad, too. It’s looks will either appeal or not, but a lack of comprehensive safety equipment on the cheaper models is sure to ruffle some feathers.
For us, the cheapest way into the turbocharged engine forms the pick of the bunch, so we'd call the VTi-L the sweet spot.
Suzuki offers a diverse range of Swifts, for the budget buyer who doesn’t mind a bare-bones offering , as well as those looking for a bit more out of their small hatch.
The GL Navi makes a great city car which is good to drive but compromised on storage, the GLX Turbo makes for an even better package, but is priced to make it a choice-over-value proposition, and the Sport is a uniquely positioned alternative to other hot hatches that shouldn’t be overlooked.
The impressive tech and safety features and decent driving characteristics of the GL Navi with the Safety Pack makes it our pick of the range.
What’s more important to you when choosing a small hatch, is it practicality, safety or performance? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The word 'polarising' is usually a thinly disguised way of saying 'lots of people don’t like it'. And the all-new Civic sedan was, well, very polarising. A glance at this new hatch version shows it hasn’t strayed too far from that design approach, either.
It’s as understated as a snakeskin suit in all grades, but nowhere is it quite so busy as in the RS trim level, in which the sporty trimmings jump out from every possible angle. Strangely, though, we quite like the way it looks, and it's undeniably an individual in the small car segment.
Inside, Honda has produced the comfortable and tech savvy interior that was missing from the outgoing model, but the sense of well executed semi-premium fades as you approach the spartan rear seat.
The Swift is up there in the looks department, duking it out with the also good-looking Kia Rio and Mazda2.
It carries the cute styling points that have been built up over the last two generations of Swift.
The swoopy lines dash across the front and side of its bulbous frame, rounded out nicely by chunky light fittings at the rear and that signature convex windscreen. The integrated rear door handles help it maintain a slick profile from the rear three quarter.
There’s little to tell the GL Navi entry-level car and the GLX Turbo apart aside from the addition of LED daytime running lights and slightly different (but still 16-inch) alloys.
The Sport gains a more aggressive, flared bodykit with black and carbon highlights as well as a dual-exhaust, angry-looking dual-colour 17-inch alloy wheels and a unique grille.
All Swifts get a small, but hardly cramped cabin. The dash is dominated by a decently-sized 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen across the range. The stock UX is hardly impressive, especially compared to segment leaders like the Kia Rio and Volkswagen Polo, but every variant supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Every variant also gets a leather-appointed steering wheel that’s slightly flat-bottomed, but the GL-Navi gets a dorky set of manual air-conditioning controls compared to the slicker climate control cluster in the GLX Turbo and Sport.
Embedded in the dash is a simple dot-matrix display which can show trip computer information in the GL Navi and GLX turbo, or a colour screen with some more interesting features like turbo pressure and power output displays on the Sport.
Interior materials are comprised mostly of cheap plastics. This approach is hardly unusual in the segment, but the Rio, Fabia, Polo and Mazda2 all feel less chintzy.
There’s also limited legroom, and, annoyingly, there’s nothing soft to rest your elbow on in the door in any Swift variant.
The Civic hatch is surprisingly spacious in the cabin, where up front the two seats are split buy a central bin housing two of the fattest, deepest cupholders we’ve ever seen (that would be America’s 'Big Gulp' influence on the Civic’s design), along with a hidden USB and power source that sits behind the centre console, hiding the ugly chords while you’re plugged into touchscreen unit.
The back seat, is plenty spacious in the longer and wider hatch - which also sits on a 30mm longer wheelbase than the outgoing car - with more shoulder, leg and knee room for backseat riders.
Which is just as well, as there’s not much else happening back there, with no air vents, power outlets or USB points on offer, with just the two cupholders housed in a pulldown divider that separates the rear seat.
There’s no escaping that the Swift is smaller than some other cars in the segment. The bad news is this means the rear seat and boot are smaller than the competition.
The rear seats come across as more or less of an afterthought. I fit in, but only just in terms of leg and headroom, and unlike the rather good front seats, the rear lacks any kind of contouring for extra comfort.
Because of the roofline that tapers off toward the rear, headroom is also much better in the front seat. No Swift gets leather seats, but the front seats are spongey and come with a decent amount of side-bolstering which can hardly be said for other cars in the segment. The Sport gets chunkier bespoke seats with better support when cornering.
The boot maxes out at 242 litres with the seats up, and a surprisingly small 556 litres with the seats down, so it is hardly versatile if you spend lots of time lugging objects around.
Storage for front passengers is made up of two large bottle holders in the doors, two small bottle holders in the centre console and a shallow storage trench under the air-conditioning controls.
There is one 12-volt power output, an auxiliary input and a USB port hidden away above the trench.
Rear passengers get… not much. There are bottle holders in the doors and a small tray behind the handbrake for extra objects as well as a small pocket on the back of the front passenger seat.
Some competitors offer centre console boxes, bigger cupholders a second 12-volt output, and in terms of boot capacity the Honda Jazz, Hyundai Accent and Suzuki’s own Baleno are far better in this segment.
Price and features
Thanks to what Honda refers to as its “One Civic” philosophy, this new hatch lineup perfectly mirrors the sedan range that was launched here last year, with the only major change being the ‘Ring-burning Type R, which will be hatch-only when it arrives later in 2017.
And that means the five-strong Hatch range kicks off with the entry-level VTi ($22,390) before stepping up to the VTi-S ($24,490) and the VTi-L ($27,790). Next up is the sport-sprinkled RS ($32,290), before the range tops out with the high-flying VTi-LX ($33,590).
Entry-level shoppers will make do 16-inch steel wheels, fabric seats and single-zone climate control, but there are some nice and premium-feeling flourishes, like LED DRLs, a 7.0-inch touchscreen that’s now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto-equipped and a second colour screen in the driver’s binnacle for your trip information.
Stepping up to the VTi-S adds 16-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED indicators in your wing mirrors and proximity locking and unlocking, along with some clever safety stuff we’ll come back to under the Safety heading.
Along with a better engine (more on that in a moment), springing for the VTi-L will earn you 17-inch alloy wheels, twin-zone climate control and automatic windows in both rows, while the sporty-flavoured RS adds LED fog and headlights, along with a hearty dose of sporty styling courtesy of a bumper kit, skirting and a liberal splashing of piano black highlights.
Inside the RS gets leather trimmed seats, a better 10-speaker stereo and and a standard sunroof, too.
Finally, the range-topping Civic - the VTi-LX - gets satellite navigation, and a fairly comprehensive suite of safety kit.
The Swift range now spans from the not-so-basic GL Navi manual ($16,990) up to the performance-oriented Sport auto ($27,490). Already that’s a more versatile price range than most competitors, but as you move up the range, the relative value changes dramatically.
From the get-go the Swift justifies its slightly higher price-point with decent equipment. The entry-level GL Navi manual has 16-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, built-in navigation, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and a reversing camera.
You can add a Continuously Variable Transmission automatic for $1000 or step up to the GL Navi Safety Pack (auto only) for another $1000.
At this point I should pause to say that adding the Safety Pack the automatic Swift at $17,990 gives it the best active safety suite available on any hatch under $20,000. It is therefore our pick of the range. See the Safety section of this review for more on the Swift’s safety features.
The next grade up is the Swift GLX Turbo ($22,990 – expensive for this segment). The GLX Turbo adds an improved engine, keyless entry, push-button start, climate control (instead of basic air-conditioning) LED headlights with auto-high beams and a sportier 16-inch alloy wheel design.
Stepping up to the Swift Sport ($25,490) comes at a significant cost but improves the engine out of sight. You can also have the Sport in either a six-speed manual or six-speed auto.
The Sport has all the refinements of the GLX Turbo but is overhauled with a bigger, punchier engine from the Vitara, front bucket seats, a more exotic bodykit and sporty 17-inch alloys.
The Sport is the last surviving Japanese performance hatch in this segment, and its only realistic competitor for the time being is the Kia Rio GT-Line ($23,090).
Engine & trans
Like the sedan version, there are two engine choices on offer, with the cheaper option a 1.8-litre petrol engine, good for 104kW at 6500rpm and 174Nm at 4300rpm found in the VTi and VTi-S trim levels.
The better option, though, is a perky turbocharged 1.5-litre petrol engine that will push 127kW at 5500rpm and 220Nm at 1700rpm to the front tyres.
Both engines are partnered with a CVT automatic transmission, with or without wheel-mounted shifters, depending on the trim level.
Across the Swift range there are three engines. The GL-Navi has a 1.2-litre non-turbo four-cylinder ‘DualJet’ offering 66kW/120Nm.
Stepping up to the GLX turbo introduces a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged engine producing 82kW/160Nm. That’s a significant boost in power over the base car, and peak torque arrives much earlier (1500rpm).
Finally, stepping up to the Sport adds a much spicier 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine normally tasked with propelling the heavier Vitara. The Sport can make use of 103kW/230Nm.
The GL-Navi can be had with either a six-speed manual or a CVT auto, the GLX Turbo can only be had with a six-speed traditional torque converter auto, while the Sport can either be had with a six-speed manual or torque converter.
The Swift’s range of engines and transmissions is fairly expansive but unlike some competitors in this segment, none of the options feel underpowered or outdated.
Fuel use is pretty impressive across the board, with the 1.8-litre engine sipping a claimed combined 6.4-litres per hundred kilometres, while the turbocharged version needs just 6.2 litres on the same cycle.
Emissions are pegged at 150 and 142 grams per kilometre of C02 respectively.
Combined cycle fuel consumption for 1.2-litre variants is rated at 4.8L/100km. We produced a real-world figure of 6.8L/100km in the Swift GL Navi manual.
Moving up to the 1.0-litre turbo, fuel consumption is rated at 5.1L/100km. I scored 7.0L/100km in a real-world test of the GLX-Turbo and Peter Anderson scored 6.9L/100km.
The Sport has a combined fuel usage figure of 6.1L/100km against which I scored 8.0L/100km on my most recent week-long test. (good luck getting under that. It’s damned fun.)
Honda struggles a little in explaining exactly what its new 1.5-litre turbo-powered Civic is.
Is it a hot hatch? Nope, the incoming Type R will handle those duties. Oh, so it's a warm hatch, then? Not really - it's mechanically identical (same engine, gearbox and suspension) to the other, top-tier Civics. In fact, only the brand of tyres seperate the RS from the more luxurious VTi-LX.
"We would say it's a 'sporting hatch'," says Honda's head honcho, Stephen Collins.
And sporting it is, with its clever turbocharged 1.5-litre engine a willing and perky unit, delivering plenty of oomph all over the rev range and with no noticeable, soul-destroying lag in its power delivery.
The steering, too, has a sporty flavouring, it's super direct, and offers such crisp direction changes that you have to pay keen attention driving, as even the slightest input will see you steering out of your lane. And while the ride is a little crashy through bumps, it pays you back with composed cornering antics that see the front wheels hanging on to the tarmac for much longer than you might expect.
But the best trick of the 1.5-litre engine is that it doesn't require much accelerator to make it move, which means there's never too much strain on the CVT auto in town. And, given the auto is both loud and intrusive when you ask too much of it, that can only be a good thing.
Like most CVT 'boxes, it's quiet and composed in city driving, but loud and with a tendency to surge when you start to test it. So much so that heavy acceleration requires a kind of lucky dip as to when to back off the throttle, with the Civic continuing to accelerate for a moment or so even once you get off the gas.
Happily, then, the 1.8-litre models are much easier to classify. They're the cheap ones.
It's a a simple, honest and hardworking engine that feels both slower and slower to respond than its newer, turbocharged sibling, but is more than capable of getting up to speed, even if it struggles to add pace from the mid-range onward.
Thanks to some competent engine choices, all Swift variants are at least decent from behind the wheel.
Unlike entry-level versions of the Toyota Yaris and Kia Rio, the 1.2-litre engine in the GL-Navi feels up to speed. It’s not quick, but more than adequate for city driving duties. The availability of a manual is a plus for those who want to wring a bit more out of the little engine.
The 1.0-litre three cylinder in the GLX Turbo is a load of fun. It has the gruff snarl unique to three-cylinder engines, and the turbo kicks the boot in nice and early for a characterful drive experience.
The six-speed automatic, which is the sole transmission choice for the GLX, is better than the lackluster CVT in the GL Navi, and the addition of paddle shift adds temporary bursts of entertainment.
The Sport, true to its name, has far more power than it realistically needs, while not being as off-the-hook (or anywhere near as expensive) as properly ‘hot’ hatchbacks like the Renault Clio RS or Peugeot 208 GTi. For those interested, the Sport has a 0-100km/h time of 8.0 seconds.
It’s all the hot hatch most people will need, with its improved suspension qualities keeping it a little less skittish around corners and over bumps than the rest of the range.
All Swifts have solid, direct steering and standard MacPherson struts at the front with a torsion beam at the rear. Most of the time this set-up is reasonably comfortable around town, although the front is far softer than the rear which can sometimes result in the very light Swift becoming unsettled over poor surfaces. Road noise could definitely be better in any Swift.
Regular swift variants have turning circles of 4.8m whereas the Sport with its larger wheels has a turning circle of 5.1m.
While some of its key competitor are throwing safety functions at all trim levels, with Honda it’s still sadly a case of you get what you pay for.
The entry-level VTi, for example, makes do with six airbags (front, front-side and curtain) and a 180-degree reversing camera, opting for the VTi-S, VTi-L or RS adds front and rear parking sensors and Honda’s cool 'LaneWatch' (with activates a side-mounted camera when you indicate, beaming an image of the lane running alongside the lefthand-side of the car up onto the 7.0-inch screen).
The entire Civic range was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating.
All Swifts in the range carry maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings as of June 2017.
However, unlike the entry-level Mazda2 Neo the base GL-Navi is void of active safety features.
Thankfully, there is a must-have safety pack which adds $1000 to the price. It’s worth every cent as it adds auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, lane keep assist with lane departure warning and active cruise control.
As mentioned earlier, that’s the most impressive active safety suite available in cars under $20k. Suddenly that extra $1000 on the GL Navi is worth every cent…
Unlike the base Mazda2, even the cheapest Swift has a reversing camera.
All Swifts have the expected stability controls, six airbags, dual ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outer rear seats and three top-tether points.
Suzuki offers a five-year/140,000km warranty on the condition that you service on time at a Suzuki dealer.
Otherwise the warranty is limited to three-years/unlimited km. Most rivals now offer at least non-conditional five-year, unlimited kilometer promises.
To really twist the knife, Suzuki requires that you service the Swift at inconvenient six-month intervals (or 10,000km, whichever comes first).
Servicing isn’t particularly cheap either. For the life of the five-year warranty, Turbo variants cost an average of $490.40 to service a year, while the 1.2-litre non-turbo is hardly cheaper at an average of $476.40 per year. Expensive for a ‘cheap’ car.