The new Suzuki Swift is finally in Singapore, and its frisky personality proves that you don’t have to spend a bomb to have a blast in a car
Oh goody, no one’s looking. Full throttle… then hard on the brakes, a couple of tugs on the gearshift paddle to drop two, crank the wheel to the right and feel the tyres load up, then feed the power back in while the steering straightens up… Boy, the Suzuki Swift is a hoot, and the best part of it all is that you can get up to playful shenanigans without ridiculous numbers appearing on the speedo.
Suzuki calls this the third-generation Swift, even though there have been at least five generations that I can remember, and in Singapore we’ve long known the nameplate since the 1980s as a byword for honest-to-goodness affordability and fun.
But the main thing here is, it’s new and very much improved over its predecessor, and hasn’t lost its sense of fun.
Here’s the basic recipe: five doors (with five seats), a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder and a six-speed auto. The packaging has been revised, so the Swift is actually ever so slightly shorter than before (10mm to be precise) but has a longer wheelbase (by 20mm). It’s also wider (40mm) and the boot is significantly bigger: now it’ll carry 268-litres, which is a whopping 58-litre increase.
Is it practical? Actually, yes. There’s a surprising amount of headroom in the back, and the front never feels cramped. Instead there’s a sense of airiness about the Swift, even though it obviously isn’t a big car (or even a medium one, since it’s a compact hatch in the league of cars like the Nissan Note). The rear seats fold, so you’ll be able to carry a meaningful amount of stuff as long as the family isn’t in tow.
You sit lower in this model than in the previous one, which adds a bit to the sense of a jolly time behind the wheel, and the main instruments are pretty sportily designed.
Otherwise, there’s a basic feel to the Suzuki; the cabin plastics are hard, all the storage bins are unlined, and though the sound system has iPod compatibility and Bluetooth connectivity (not to mention, steering wheel buttons), its display is a rudimentary mono-color one.
There’s an auto air-con system but it’s a single-zone one, and there’s no storage console between the front seats. Most of the buttons aren’t back-lit, which means you’ll grope around for them a bit when it’s dark, and the wipers are manual — now there’s something we haven’t seen in a while.
The one area in which it’s well-equipped is safety; you get six airbags and a stability control system.
The latter makes it significantly harder to crash a Swift, while the former greatly improves your chances of surviving if you do manage to louse it all up somehow.
For eighty big ones (the Swift cost S$78,900 with COE when we went to print), you’re obviously going to be able to buy more car than this, meaning something bigger, more powerful and feature-packed.
For that, you can give partial thanks to the pollution police, who have slapped a S$10,000 surcharge onto the Swift.
But it’s doubtful you’ll find anything as fun.
On paper the Swift doesn’t sound that promising, with 0 to 100km/h taking 10 seconds, but didn’t anyone ever tell you that numbers aren’t everything? If not, we’re telling you now. The Suzuki accelerates with an infectious zest that makes it feel light on its feet, and there’s a thrummy burble from the three-cylinder engine to intensify the sense of urgency.
Mind you, the flipside of that is that the Swift could never be described as a quiet car. The engine is a bit vibey at idle, too, though it does smoothen out as you rev it.
But it’s the Suzuki’s essential agility that stands out as its dominant trait. It tips the scales at well under a tonne, and so it has a sort of built-in willingness to dart around. The tyres don’t confer a huge amount of cornering grip, but at the same time it’s nice to encounter a car that isn’t all about g-forces; instead, the Suzuki bounds around bends in a way that doesn’t feel like it’s leaning heavily on its rubbers and chewing them up.
The low weight does contribute to a busy, jittery ride, but the Swift isn’t an uncomfortable car to be in, by any means, and still superior to an average crossover in that regard.
Indeed, by now it should be well clear that the Suzuki Swift offers a clear proposition: a reasonable amount of practicality laced with plenty of fun behind the wheel, at the expense of some creature comfort.
It’s obvious that some cars deliver more metal for similar money (the Kia Cerato is our top pick at the moment), but if your desires at this budget are more about enjoyment than anything else, put the Swift on you shortlist. It’s a car you can have tremendous fun in without carrying on too swiftly.
Suzuki Swift 1.0 Boosterjet
|Engine||998cc, inline 4, turbocharged|
|Power||110hp at 5,500rpm|
|Torque||160Nm at 1,700 to 4,000rpm|
|Fuel Efficiency||5.7 L/100km|
|VES Band / CO2||C1 / 132g/km|
|Price||$79,900 with COE|