Honda Jazz VS Suzuki Swift
- Capped-price servicing
- Build quality
- Huge interior space for its size
- No Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
- VTi-S very pricey
- Lack of advanced safety features
- Good looks
- Smart, well equipped range
- Fun to drive
- Relatively pricey
- Tiny boot & back seat
- Expensive, frequent servicing
Honda's Jazz is like the little engine that could.
|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|
The Honda Jazz is an extremely capable small car, with an ace card of virtually unbeatable interior space. While it's hardly an excitement machine, or the best looking or equipped in its class (it is missing out on some useful safety gear), the Jazz deserves its status as a well-loved hatchback.
The best in the range is probably the VTi. There isn't anything compelling further up the variants unless you're keen on bigger wheels or leather trim. Its entry-level offering is a good-value, sturdy car that is packed with its best qualities, no matter which one you buy.
Does the Honda Jazz stack up for you? Or do offerings from Hyundai, Mazda and Kia get your bargain-hunting senses tingling?
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 Jazz's exterior design is instantly recognisable. The shape has been roughly the same since the car's 2002 debut, with the mildest evolution over the years. The 2018 Jazz leads with the chin a bit, with a pronounced underbite and when fitted with a chrome grille, it looks a bit like the giant Jaws from James Bond after whacking his head.
Apart from that, the slimmed headlights and one-box body shape are almost entirely inoffensive, save for the chunky, stacked rear lights.
When you head inside it's a simple, basic interior. Well put together, it's easy to find your way around and, because there isn't much happening in here, it's unlikely you'll need the owner's manual, unless you want to identify and use every single deployment of the excellent Magic Seats in the back.
As you climb the range, you'll start to see body-kit additions like a rear spoiler and side skirts, but nothing particularly racy.
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 interior is full of cleverness packed into a small space. The centre console has two cup holders, a space for your phone and a compartmentalised open tray reachable by both front and rear-seat passengers. A third cupholder folds out of the dash on the driver's side. The back seat doesn't have any cupholders, unfortunately, and nor is there a centre armrest.
Rear legroom is impressive for such a small car - it's no wonder the HR-V compact SUV was spun off the Jazz platform. Added to that are the excellent 'Magic Seats', which fold in a variety of ways to increase the boot space dimensions from 354 litres to 1314 litres.
Luggage capacity is not bad for such a small car and with the flexible interior, the boot size goes up by four times in volume. This is one area in which it really does outdo the Mazda2. The removable cargo cover means you can get a decent chest of drawers in, however there's a bit of a drop once you get things over the loading lip.
You can also fold the seat bases up and out of the way to provide space for shrubbery, or a dog, or an awkward flat pack.
The basic VTi misses out on a bit of storage, namely the centre console storage box and driver's side seatback pocket, but the rest of the range has them both.
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
The Jazz range is made up of three models. As with any car, how much you get is dependent on how far up the price list you go. Honda occasionaly offers drive-away deals, but we're using RRP as a guide. We've done an exhaustive model comparison as well as snapshots to help you decide between the three trim levels - VTi, VTi-S and VTi-L.
Our American cousins score a Sport edition, but sadly we miss out on that one.
The VTi opens the price range at $14,990 for the five-speed manual, rising to $16,990 for the CVT auto. Standard features include a four-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reverse camera, remote central locking, projector style halogen headlights, 15-inch steel wheels, cruise control power windows and mirrors, black cloth trim, trip computer and hill-start assist.
The inclusion of the reversing camera is good but the lack of rear parking sensors is mystifying, a problem shared with the VTi-S, although they are optional on both specifications.
While the spare tyre is a space-saver, it's better than a tyre-repair kit, should trouble strike. A small tool kit is also supplied for just such an occasion.
Even with the 2018 update, there is no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, although you can plug in your iPhone or Android device via the USB port. Irritatingly, the USB port is under a cover next to the 7.0-inch touchscreen itself, so you have a cable poking out of the dashboard. You might prefer Bluetooth in that case.
Step up to the CVT-only VTi-S ($19,990) and you pick up foglights, 16-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, 'premium' cloth trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel, a centre console with storage box and GPS sat nav.
There is no improvement to the multimedia system.
The VTi-L ($22,990) adds LED daytime running lights, climate control, navigation system (hooray!), smart key keyless entry, push-button start, leather seats, paddle shift for the CVT gearbox, an alarm, bi-LED headlights, LED daytime running lights, heated front seats and two extra speakers,
Missing from the accessories list are a CD changer, DVD player, DAB or MP3, panoramic sunroof, sport pack, black pack, city pack, subwoofer, improved sound system, HID headlights, tonneau cover, roof rack, different rims and even floor mats.
You're stuck with the same infotainment head unit right across the range - its not even a radio/CD player arrangement, just radio and your phone. At least the VTi-L has more speakers for its sound system.
Dealers will no doubt sell you darker tinted windows and an extended warranty.
The Jazz is available in seven colours, with Rally Red the only freebie. For $495 you can have one of six shades of mettallic paint - Crystal Black, Brilliant Sporty Blue, Modern steel (gunmetal grey), Phoenix Orange, Lunar Silver and White Orchid. If you're after pink or yellow, you're out of luck. Not very Jazzy.
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
All Jazzes are powered by Honda's 1.5-litre single-cam four-cylinder. The engine specs don't make for inspiring reading, with just 88kW and 145Nm. That's not a lot of horsepower, but when you consider the weight of the car, the figures don't look so weedy.
Power goes to the front wheels, so the Jazz is definitely not an off-road proposition.
Only the base model VTi has a choice of manual vs automatic, with a five-speed manual transmission and a CVT auto to choose from.
As to the question of timing belt or chain, the Jazz has the latter, so you don't have to worry about a belt change. The oil type is 5W-30
There is no diesel option, so there'll be no diesel vs petrol argument. Nor is there an EV or plug-in hybrid - with a battery, it's unlikely you'd have much boot space left. There isn't an LPG, 4x4, or AWD version either.
If you can be bothered fitting a towbar, the manual's towing capacity is 1000kg braked while the CVT's load capacity drops to 850kg. Both transmissions will haul 450kg unbraked.
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 figures are slightly different, depending on the gearbox you've chosen. Honda claims you'll get 6.5L/100km on the combined cycle in a manual while the CVT uses a bit less, coming in at 5.9L/100km. So fuel consumption km/L works out at about 15km/L for the five speed and 17.km/L in the CVT.
Real-world consumption is a little different, however. Our most recent test with the manual yielded 8.0L/100km while the CVT chugged down 8.2L/100km. Having said that, you'll see better fuel economy figures in the manual if, as I admitted in my VTi review, you don't drive it enthusiastically. The CVT was a bit disappointing because I was a lot more sedate in that one and it didn't deliver better mileage than the manual.
Fuel-tank capacity is 40 litres.
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.)
The Jazz has always been a comfortable, easygoing car with performance figures to match. Its 0-100km/h acceleration is best described as leisurely, so if it's speed your after, this car isn't for you.
That said, the manual VTi is terrific fun to drive. Switch to the CVT, however, and the Jazz's reputation is restored. A good ride for front-seat passengers comes from McPherson struts up front while the rear suspension is by torsion beams, meaning rear-seat occupants can get a few shocks over bumps.
Road noise is a little higher than you might expect, but that's probably a combination of tyres and a commitment to lightness.
Obviously, being such a small car, manouverability is a key advantage. The turning radius is 5.2m, which is good but not super tight and the light, electric power steering makes dodging about easy. It certainly doesn't feel like it's on rails, but that's hardly what a car with a such a small engine size is about.
Ground clearance is 137mm, which is reasonable but jumping gutters is not advised.
In the base manual, you have a five-speed with a light clutch and an easy shift. For a motor missing out on a second cam, let alone a turbo, progress is swift rather than exciting, the engine droning away with a relaxed air. The CVT has an eco mode, which further blunts performance, but a ring of light around speedo glows green if you're behaving yourself.
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.
The safety specifications include six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist and brake-force distribution. The Jazz was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in January 2015.
Baby car seat security is offered with either three top-tether anchors but there are no ISOFIX points.
Missing is the more comprehensive safety equipment of its key rival, the Mazda2, which has forward AEB as standard, and its mid-range adds reverse AEB and at the top of the range scores reverse cross traffic alert and blind -spot monitoring. The airbag count is competitive, however.
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.
Honda's standard five year/unlimited kilometre warranty also comes with capped-price servicing for the first five years or 10 services, whichever comes first. Service intervals are every 10,000km or six months.
Up to 30,000km you won't have any extras but once you hit 40,000km you'll have to do the brake fluid, which is a reaonable $144 extra. Your service cost structure is otherwise simple - $259 for odd numbers and $297 for even.
Many people ask where the Honda Jazz is built, and the answer to that is "not Japan", or in Honda's Thailand plant.
Second-hand values appear strong, with around 60 percent of value retained after three years. Resale value is something of a Honda strength, which is probably to do with a lack of high-profile reliability issues.
A dip into the usual internet forums yields little in the way of common faults, problems, complaints or issues for the Jazz. Some look for automatic transmission problems, others for manual gearbox problems, but the current Jazz seems quite clear of defects in Australian-delivered cars.
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.