By Wayne Gorrett – Monaco
Guided by the ‘Suzuki Next 100’ plan announced at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 2015 – Suzuki is currently on an international product offensive developing an entirely new range of what it does best – small city cars. Here’s another…
Two years ago, with the timely demise of both the Alto and Splash models, the roomy and frugal Celerio made its appearance. It was followed last summer by the impressive Baleno and earlier this year, it was the return of the Ignis name in the form of a quirky but refreshingly different micro-SUV – pure character on wheels.
The 2017 third-generation Suzuki Swift rides on the recently developed ‘Heartect’ lightweight platform (above), first introduced under the Baleno and Ignis. This new platform is 30kg lighter which has contributed to the lightest Swift in the new line-up registering a kerb weight of just 890kg, which is 104kg lighter overall – impressive, considering no one realised the excess weight was there in the first place.
The engineers have also spun their magic on the new car’s dimensions. The Mk3 Swift is 10mm shorter overall than the outgoing model, but its wheelbase is 20mm longer. Tucking the wheels even further into each corner means more interior room, including a 20 per cent bigger boot at 265 litres, or 54 more than the outgoing Swift. The new car is also 15mm lower and 40mm wider, which accentuates its bullish stance.
In the current Suzuki model line-up, the new Swift will slot in between the funky Ignis and more sober Baleno. Around 12,000 new Swifts are targetted for the UK during its first full year (2018). The new UK and European Swift is manufactured at the company’s Sagara plant in Japan.
The external package
With 5.4 million Swifts sold worldwide since 2005, Suzuki knows a winning formula when they create it. The 2017 Swift is a familiar shape and very much a smoothed-off, buffed evolution of what went before, with the wrap-around windscreen, similarly shaped light clusters and the sloping roofline.
It certainly makes a statement with its aggressive grille, muscular arches and very distinctive shoulder line. The blacking out of the entire A- and B-pillars along with the top half of the C-pillar, makes the roof appear to ‘float’.
Suzuki has discontinued the three-door Swift model in most markets because of low take-up and, while the Swift in the photos might at first appear to be a three-door, the more eagle-eyed will have noticed that the rear door handles are concealed in the black plastic trim on the C-pillar.
In the UK, the new Swift offers ten fashionable exterior colours and full personalisation options both inside and out and, in doing so, target a more youthful demographic.
The good work done by the exterior designers is mostly continued on the inside. The interior has been completely redesigned and features a new dashboard with a V-shaped layout and revised A/C vents. The dash design is okay but nothing like the effort given to the Ignis.
Below is a seven-inch touchscreen replacing the radio unit and numerous buttons and knobs found in the previous model. The manual HVAC controls just above the center console are also new, now including modern buttons with new graphics.
The instrument cluster is an improvement and now features separate covers for the speedo and rev counter and a new digital display in the center. The steering wheel has a round center section with chrome detailing, sporty grip areas and a flat-bottomed lower section.
There’s more interior room, comfortable front and rear furniture and a bigger boot to aid practicality. However, plastics deployed in critical touch zones look and feel a bit cheap.
Trims and specification levels
The 2017 Swift is available in three trim grades; SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5. Standard on the entry-level SZ3 are six airbags, air conditioning, DAB radio, privacy glass, LED daytime running lights and Bluetooth.
The mid-table SZ-T adds smartphone link display audio, rear view camera, front fog lamps and 16-inch alloy wheels, while the top-spec SZ5 adds auto air conditioning, navigation, LED headlamps, polished 16-inch alloy wheels, rear electric windows, dual sensor brake support and adaptive cruise control.
If you happen to reside in a rural area and you need some all-weather capability then Suzuki’s excellent on-demand AllGrip 4×4 setup is probably a good choice, but it is only available with the top SZ5 model. As the Swift isn’t meant for proper off-road driving, the AllGrip system is more of a safety feature and will improve traction in mud, gravel, slush and snow.
Engines and transmissions
At its pan-European launch in Monaco, two petrol fuelled engines were available to assess, coupled to five-speed manual and six-speed automatic gearboxes.
The first, a naturally-aspirated 1.2-litre four-cylinder 90 PS Dualjet engine offers CO2 emissions of 98 g/km and combined fuel consumption of 65.7 mpg. This is the same engine as available in the current Swift and will be in the new Ignis when it arrives soon. Deployed in the new Swift lite, this engine offers noticeably more ‘entertainment’ than before, which is good news.
But wait, it gets better…
The real star of the show is the cracking 111 PS three-cylinder 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine, which combines and official 61.4 mpg with CO2 emissions of just 104g/km. This engine is also available with Suzuki’s SHVS mild hybrid system (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) with CO2 emissions of 97g/km. It loves a good revving and shows willing throughout the gearbox.
Both engine options drive the front wheels through a five-speed manual as standard, while the six-speed automatic and Suzuki’s excellent ALLGRIP 4WD are options with the four-cylinder 1.2-litre Dualjet.
Performance, Ride and handling
The three-pot turbocharged Boosterjet engine, with its 111 PS output is 21 PS more than the larger capacity 1.2-litre Dualjet unit, making the smaller-engined car faster to 62 mph by 1.3 seconds, yet it returns 61.4 mpg and 104g/km CO2 in standard form. Add in the SHVS hybrid assist and the Boosterjet matches the 1.2 on fuel economy and is a shade better on emissions.
Best of all, it’s an engine that shows eagerness and willing–it pulls strongly from low down the rev range (like a petrol engine shouldn’t) which proved a boon around the mountainous roads and hairpin bends around Monaco and along the French Riviera. You don’t spend your time thrashing the three-pot Swift just to keep up with traffic. It’s decently quick through second and third gear of the excellent five-speed manual gearbox.
The car rides well and smothers the worst bumps, though extended lengths of uneven surface can make it a little skittish. Its cornering performance is excellent–the Swift turns in exactly where aimed and maintains its poise with good feedback from the wheel and little discernible body roll.
The Swift Boosterjet also has a cheeky but appealing audio performance, just enough to make it sound interesting, without ever becoming harsh or sounding like it is wheezing towards the red line. It piles on the revs quickly and sweetly, belying its turbocharged status, which all helps to make the car feel so lively.
Prices and model line-up
The new Swift goes on UK sales at the beginning of June 2017, with prices starting from £10,999 for the SZ3 model. Here’s the full, five-model and price line-up:
* 1.2-litre SZ3 Dualjet, 5-speed manual transmission – £10,999.
* 1.0-litre SZ-T Boosterjet, 5-speed manual transmission – £12,999.
* 1.0-litre SZ5 Boosterjet SHVS hybrid, 5-speed manual transmission – £14,499.
* 1.0-litre SZ5 Boosterjet – 6-speed automatic transmission – £15,849.
* 1.2-litre SZ5 SHVS ALLGRIP – 5-speed manual transmission – £15,499.
SUMMARY : 4.6/5.0
The Suzuki Swift has always been an easy car to like and this 2017 iteration continues that attraction. With its smart design that builds on the cute looks of its predecessors and some appealing efficiency figures, the new Swift is a genuinely capable little car.
Not only does it cover all the important city car bases–it’s efficient, comfortable, good looking and well equipped–but it’s just as fun to drive as the class-leading Ford Fiesta. But critical parts of its interior finish are no better than the class average and, to a small degree, negates the good work done elsewhere on the car.
Overall though, the new Swift remains one of the best small hatchbacks around. The driving experience, running costs, price, and equipment levels make it a superb buy and it is expected to continue to do well in a busy class where it’s notoriously difficult to stand out.