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Suzuki Swift 2021 review: GLX Turbo

Since its 2017 launch, the Swift has proven Suzuki's prowess in supermini design and engineering.

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

5/5

The Swift is a silent assassin.

Since its launch in 2017, the fifth Suzuki supermini to boast the badge in Australia has been left standing tall, while several storied nameplates – including Holden Barina (which was once a Swift twin), Hyundai Accent, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio, Peugeot 208 and soon Honda Jazz – have slipped away, their makers tossing in the towel as the market for tiny tots continues to contract.

But while supermini ranks thin out, the Suzuki keeps on evolving.

Let’s see how the recently-released mid-spec GLX Turbo Series II stacks up.

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

The Swift’s bandwidth is impressive.

In the cheap seats is the brilliant base GL Navigator 1.2 litre from $18,990 (before on-road costs), the Sport 1.4L turbo from $26,990 is a pint-sized pocket rocket, while the GLX Turbo from $25,290 sits somewhere in between.

Powered by a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo and mated solely to a six-speed torque-converter auto, it represents up-spec sophistication in a small yet salubriously specified package. That’s the pitch, anyway.

Direct rivals include the all-new Toyota Yaris Ascent Sport (from $23,630), recently made-over Kia Rio GT-Line ($23,990), Mazda 2 G15 GT (from $24,990), Volkswagen Polo 85TSI Style (from $25,690), Skoda Fabia 81TSI Monte Carlo (from $25,990) and – at a stretch – the Citroen C3 Shine (from $28,990). In this light, the GLX Turbo’s pricing is tight.

So, what’s changed for MY21? You may spot the refreshed grille, front bumper, alloys and colour palette, as well as the inclusion of auto-up/down windows, heated side mirrors, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and rear parking sensors, but we’re most excited over the newly-added digital speedometer. Finally!

That’s about $2K’s worth of extra kit, though the GLX Turbo’s price has jumped $2300. Any which way you look at it, it now costs more.  

Still, the safety/convenience roll call is long, with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with steering assist, forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, and stability/traction controls all present.

Keeping with luxury themes, the GLX Turbo also ushers in telescopic/tilt steering adjustment, paddle shifters, sat-nav, reverse camera, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto support, Bluetooth audio and telephony connectivity, electric-folding/heated door mirrors, keyless entry/start, climate control air-con with pollen filter, six-speaker audio and 16-inch alloy wheels, making it a decently-equipped supermini for the money.

The GLX Turbo comes with 16-inch alloy wheels. The GLX Turbo comes with 16-inch alloy wheels.

About the only obvious omissions for the 2020s go-getting urbanite is wireless phone charging and USB-C ports, though a single USB-As outlet (as well as a 12V and AUX-IN access for your old iPod) is fitted. Phew!

Is there anything interesting about its design?

Plenty. Since launching at the 2004 Paris Motor Show, the reborn Swift has wooed consumers with pert and perky design inside and out, complete with BMW Mini-inspired upright windscreen, a contrasting ‘floating’ roof look, short overhangs and myriad personalisation options.

As a consequence of this, however, the first two generations from 2005 and 2011 respectively inherited packaging limitations, especially if long-legged passengers found their way squished in the back-seat area, while cargo capacity wasn’t much chop either. It’s clear the Japanese supermini sacrificed space at the altar of style.

The Swift has wooed consumers with pert and perky design inside and out since its launch. The Swift has wooed consumers with pert and perky design inside and out since its launch.

Fortunately, the AZ-series redesign of 2017 was a complete and wholesale rethink, reimagining the Swift’s endearing bug-eyed fascia, boxy turret and reverse-angle rear-door window line, but within a much longer and wider track that allowed the timeless design to breathe. Stubbiness gave way to elegance, yet you’d never necessarily know at first glance that the latest hatch is dramatically larger and roomier inside.

Suzuki also took the opportunity to incorporate some fresh design details around the headlights, hidden rear-door handles and pared-back dashboard aesthetics.

Suzuki has incorporated some fresh design details around the headlights. Suzuki has incorporated some fresh design details around the headlights.

The result is a modern classic.

How practical is the space inside?

Today’s Swift may still look as diminutive as its successful predecessors since 2004, but it is now deceptively spacious inside, with none of the old back-seat claustrophobia that blighted previous incarnations.

Here’s the thing. If you’re picturing getting in and out of the front seat to be a bit of a stooping-down squeeze as per most superminis like the Mazda2, then you’ll be in for a pleasant shock, because the Swift’s stylishly upright squareness and wide-opening doors pay entry/egress dividends, big time. Most people can simply climb in and out, as per most compact SUVs. Easy.

Today’s Swift is deceptively spacious inside, with none of the old back-seat claustrophobia that blighted previous incarnations.
Today’s Swift is deceptively spacious inside, with none of the old back-seat claustrophobia that blighted previous incarnations.

Once sat ahead of a beautifully sparse dashboard, you’ll also appreciate the excellent forward vision that the near-upright pillars offer, as well as the generous headroom and vast degree of adjustability offered by the driver’s seat and tilt/telescopic steering column. Even 200cm-tall folk will find a comfortable position up front. The cushions and backrests themselves are broad but supportive.

What’s directly ahead of the driver is also worth praising, thanks to lovely analogue dials with silver markings on a textured grey background highlighted by a sporty red ring of lighting. That’s as per usual for this generation Swift, but the MY21 update’s digital auxiliary speedo is an answer to more than a decade of pleas to Suzuki’s product engineers. Thank you!

The subtlety flat-bottomed three-spoke wheel is a delight to grip – being thin where it needs to be – while the placement of the standard paddle-shifters, along with the multimedia and (adaptive) cruise control switchgear on the spokes are further plus points.

The centre console is dominated by Suzuki’s ever-present touchscreen featuring a colourful and logical quadrant of audio, telephony, sat-nav and vehicle-settings functions. There’s reasonably effective voice-control, and while we’re no fans of finger-slide volume adjustment, this one seems to be more effective than others inflicted upon us. This said, nothing beats a good old-fashioned volume knob.

The centre console is dominated by Suzuki’s ever-present touchscreen. The centre console is dominated by Suzuki’s ever-present touchscreen.

Beneath that, the single-zone climate control system brings effective cooling, heating and de-misting as required, though the fan adjustment isn’t intuitively sited where you may expect it to be.

The Swift may be style-savvy, but Suzuki’s thought of everything when it comes to packaging, with heaps of storage up front, including a small but useful glovebox size, decent bottle slots in the doors and room for bits and pieces in the lower-console area.

The same more or less applies out back too, though the faddish pillar-mounted door handles might be beyond the reach of smaller arms. Again, wide doors and a tall ceiling allow for easy entry, and once there, the amount of space is actually startling if you’re coming in from other superminis. Even long-legged riders can sit without their knees touching the front seats, with the added bonus of there being room for big feet under them. That’s something you could never say about older Swifts.

Additionally, the rear bench is flat but sufficiently comfy, and while there’s only a single cupholder at the rear of the front centre console and none elsewhere back there due to the absence of a centre armrest (or USB ports for that matter), the doors provide a couple of small slots for little items. Everybody bar the driver has an overhead grab handle, the windows wind all the way down and the middle position isn’t too much of a purgatory as long as you don’t mind rubbing shoulders with other passengers.

  • The luggage area is deep but not very long, offering up an adequate 242L. The luggage area is deep but not very long, offering up an adequate 242L.
  • With the back seats down boot space is extend to 556L. With the back seats down boot space is extend to 556L.

Some people may find the propensity of black plastic to be a bit cheap-looking, but the fact is that everything is extremely well screwed together, with no squeaks or rattles.

Further back, the luggage area is deep but not very long, offering up an adequate 242L, though of course the split/fold rear backrests do fold forward to extend that up to 556L. However, the resulting floor area is also stepped. A space-saver spare wheel resides beneath the floor.

A space-saver spare wheel resides beneath the floor of the boot. A space-saver spare wheel resides beneath the floor of the boot.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?

Suzuki is an expert at exceptional turbo installations, as the GLX’s 998cc 1.0-litre twin-cam 12-valve Boosterjet three-cylinder turbo and intercooled petrol engine with variable-valve timing attests.

Tipping the scales at a featherweight 945kg and delivering a sparkling 82kW of power at 5500rpm and 160Nm of torque from 1500-4000rpm, this K10C unit is rated at a very healthy 89kW/tonne.

Sadly, the six-speed manual gearbox available elsewhere is denied for the Australian market GLX Turbo, which is a shame considering how rorty and rapid a powertrain this installation is.

The GLX has a 998cc 1.0-litre twin-cam 12-valve Boosterjet three-cylinder turbo and intercooled petrol engine with variable-valve timing. The GLX has a 998cc 1.0-litre twin-cam 12-valve Boosterjet three-cylinder turbo and intercooled petrol engine with variable-valve timing.

But the default six-speed torque-converter automatic is a smooth and slick operator, and also comes complete with a set of paddle shifters located behind the steering wheel, for some manual manipulation of the transmission if required. Knowing that this is not a dual-clutch transmission will be a relief for many consumers who may be wary of the expensive long-term upkeep of such technologies.

Likewise, unlike the base 1.2L Swift models, there’s no sluggish CVT continuously variable transmission to blunt power delivery.  

Note that a manually operated handbrake is also fitted. Hallelujah.

How much fuel does it consume?

Not much.

Averaging an official 5.1L/100km for a carbon dioxide emissions rating of 119 grams per kilometre, the GLX Turbo is certainly one of the most frugal superminis on the market today. Given its 37L fuel tank, that should average just over 725km between refills. The urban and extra-urban figures come in at a miserly 4.3L/100km and 6.6L/100km respectively.

We managed a remarkable 6.4L/100km at the pump, and that included our fast and furious performance and dynamic road testing – and in a test car that arrived with barely more than 250km on the odometer to boot; despite this, the tacho visited the redline at regular intervals due to the fact that this engine begs to be caned.  

So, while the 1.0-litre turbo triple Boosterjet engine demands 95 RON premium unleaded petrol minimum, the real-world economy payback is well worth the few extra dollars at the bowser.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?

The Japanese-built GLX Turbo is fitted with an array of safety systems that is the equal of the European class leaders in this field.

These include autonomous emergency braking (AEB), lane departure warning with steering assist, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control (though without stop/go functionality), four-wheel disc brakes, six airbags, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake-assist, electronic stability control, traction control, emergency stop signal, daytime running lights, hill launch assist and rear parking sensors.

There are also two rear-seat ISOFIX points as well as three top tethers for straps.

Tested in 2017, the Swift scored a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.

Suzuki says the AEB works between 15km/h and 140km/h, while the pedestrian detection system operates the Swift's AEB works between speeds of 15 and 140km/h.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?

Suzuki has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assistance.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 10,000km, while published basic capped-price servicing is available. Prices start at $239 (years one, three and five) and reach as high as $429 (year four). Total cost is $1475, averaging out to $295 annually at the time of publishing.

Suzuki has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assistance. Suzuki has switched to an industry-average five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty and roadside assistance.

Vehicles under five-years old but with higher mileages can expect to be charged up to $529, according to Suzuki’s website.

What's it like to drive around town?

The GLX Turbo is an abject lesson on how to deliver a small-capacity forced-induction powertrain package – minus the infuriating hesitation and fatiguing jerkiness. While several rivals offer up three-cylinder turbos – and most with dual-clutch transmissions – they could certainly learn from motorcycle-maker Suzuki’s masterful engineering prowess.

Aided by that six-speed torque-converter auto, the Swift’s off-the-line acceleration feels instant and energetic, without any interminable lag-then-suddenness to hamper progress. The throaty and thrummy 1.0-litre zings as it sings along all the way to the 6250rpm red line, punching away powerfully, with quite eye-opening pace the welcome upshot. Selecting the paddle shifters brings some driver interaction, though – unlike, say, in a Mazda – the transmission won’t hold on to a chosen gear, but will instead change up to the next ratio. Oh well. Bring on the manual please, Suzuki.

The GLX Turbo is an abject lesson on how to deliver a small-capacity forced-induction powertrain package. The GLX Turbo is an abject lesson on how to deliver a small-capacity forced-induction powertrain package.

Still, the auto’s lithe 945kg kerb weight is a huge factor in how spirited and sprightly the GLX Turbo is, right from the go-get. Indeed, its light and breezy attitude informs every other aspect of the driving experience, too.

For starters, parking is simple and easy, aided by direct steering, a tight 9.6-metre turning circle and the confidence-boosting vision afforded by deep windows, lofty seating, thin front pillars (the fat rears aren’t so great), the rear-camera view and proximity sensors. Brisk throttle response means darting in and out of tiny traffic gaps is second-nature, with the suspension playing a fine supporting role coping with the dips, bumps and humps that the fractured urban landscape throws at it. Collectively, all highlight Suzuki’s 60 years of experience creating capable cars for the city.

Parking is simple and easy, aided by direct steering and a tight 9.6-metre turning circle. Parking is simple and easy, aided by direct steering and a tight 9.6-metre turning circle.

Yet the GLX Turbo shines away from the big smoke too. Older Swifts were often criticised for nervous or fidgety steering at speed, but the engineers have struck a delightful balance this time around that should please everyone. While the handling remains light and direct, it’s now also linear and controlled. Mid-corner bumps don’t upset the driver’s chosen line around, and there’s no steering rack rattle to speak of despite the front end’s hunger to hunker down either,  resulting in a sense of newfound calm and maturity.

That also translates to the Suzuki’s ability to cruise comfortably out on the open road, its tall sixth gear providing a subdued and laid-back attitude that is quite at odds at the 998cc turbo econo-box specification. Yes, the adaptive cruise control isn’t a stop/start system like the very latest varieties, cancelling out below about 20km/h, but hey, at least it’s included for relaxed highway schlepping.

Rolling along on Bridgestone Ecopia EP150 185/55R16 rubber, road and tyre noise might spoil the serenity for some, though, as it varies from a dull background drone to a hollow rumble depending on the road surface. It’s this Swift’s single biggest dynamic shortfall, and probably the price paid for its maker’s desire to pare down weight in the name of economy. A bit more of that heavy sound-deadening material would probably help enormously here.

Keener drivers may rue the early intervention of the stability and traction control systems that cut power and/or brake the car suddenly through more enthusiastic cornering manoeuvres, and the same also applies to the seemingly paranoid forward collision warning. However, for most folk, the electronic safety net they provide far outweigh any inconvenience. 

Let’s not mince words here. The GLX Turbo should be on everybody’s supermini shortlist. In fact, from the base GL to the baby hot-hatch class-leading Sport, every current Swift’s value for money rating is outstanding.

Eager, zippy, light on fuel but heavy on fun, our particular version in particular encapsulates Suzuki’s decades-long experience in delivering fiery and user-friendly city cars, yet possesses a dynamic capability and open-road confidence that makes it a sheer pleasure beyond the urban limits.

Road-noise aside, the Series II just enhances an already accomplished alternative to the Polo and Mazda2. If you’re after an affordable, characterful, comfortable, chuckable and controllable warm hatch, then the Swift GLX Turbo slays all before it.

$21,888 - $34,585

Based on 106 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4.5/5

Urban score

5/5
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.