14 February 2023
Suzuki Swift – Revisiting an Older Friend with Newer Tech

It has been a while, but revisiting the Swift was well worth it.

One of the last cars co-broke’d when I was in car sales was a Suzuki Swift, and it was back then that my love for this compact hatchback began. Fond memories of a cheap and cheerful car which could be chucked into corners all day long linger to this day. And so, ’twas a good feeling to get behind the wheel of the modern-day Swift to once again have a twirl on our city streets and highways.

Looking at the Swift’s price, the Kia Cerato Smartstream 1.6 EX and Toyota Vios 1.5 E Grade look to be its closest competitors in the sedan segment, and if one were willing to splash out a few more grand, a Skoda Scala 1.0 TSi Ambition could also be considered in the hatchback category. But, and I think we can all agree here, none of them can hold a candle to the way the Swift looks.

The Swift’s proportions, thankfully, have remained more or less the same throughout the decades, retaining its rather attractive and cute face. Swooping and flowing lines front to back and that rather bulbous rear end mean that this compact hatch doesn’t drop into the doldrums of cheap econoboxes, but instead turns heads as it cruises by, dressed in one of 10 attractive colours, ranging from six single tones to four funky dual tones. In Speedy Blue Metallic, the test car quickly catches the eye, especially under direct sunlight.

There’s a good reason why this article is titled the way it is, and a hint can be found courtesy of the bottom-right boot badge. Nope, it ain’t no Prius, but it is a mild hybrid.

Flipping the bonnet open reveals a COE Cat A-friendly 1.2-litre internal combustion engine mated to an electric motor and generator. The Swift puts down a (not) eyeball-searing 81hp and 107Nm of torque to the road via a continuously-variable transmission (CVT). The idea here is to add even more frugality to a well-liked and established compact hatch. More on this later.

Flipping open the boot reveals a smallish 265-litres of carry-on capacity (as opposed to luggage-loading, LOL!) For the Swift’s intent and purpose, this is (arguably) adequate, and dropping the rear seatbacks can more than double that space.

Finding one’s ideal driving position is easy in the Swift, and the front seats are pretty comfy. The lack of a centre armrest is noticeable though, and I found my left hand resting on the gear lever quite often while cruising. At 1.82 meters tall with long limbs and a shorter torso, the driver’s seat needed to be set almost all the way back and a fair amount upwards, and sitting behind my driving position entailed manspreading with knees on either side of the driver’s seatback.

This would be fine for shorter journeys of up to 20 minutes, which is what would be expected of a clutch of university-going young adults heading out to lunch or coffee anyway.

Adaptive cruise control is fitted as standard, much to the amazement of disbelieving Sean. In practice, its operation can be rather abrupt at times, but the fact that it exists here at all should be celebrated, especially when one just wants to get on the highway and cruise home at the end of a long, hard day at school or work.

Turning it on took a bit of figuring out, but once the large button at the left was depressed to arm the system, a double downward click of the central toggle engaged the system. Then, it was a simple matter of short- or long-clicking the toggle upwards or downwards to adjust cruising speed in single or multiple km/h increments respectively.

infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto

This then brings us to how this compact-hatch drives. One word – easy, but with a proviso. Starting from a standstill sees the Swift gallop a bit too enthusiastically, and Grandpa or Grandma would be best advised to be gentle with the throttle pedal when moving off, lest they get caught off-guard. This is likely due to the integrated motor coming on song to assist while moving off and can be quite disconcerting initially.

Also, be aware that the auto-brake of the collision mitigation system can rear its head a bit too enthusiastically, and the Swift braked hard when it thought it was about to crash into a carpark’s opening gantry arm, alarming both Sean and me. The upshot of this is that normally distracted drivers would learn very quickly NOT to be distracted while helming the Swift.

Apart from that, cruising is a very relaxed affair, with little wind and tyre noise intruding into the cabin. When more acceleration is needed, the engine tends to get quite raucous, but acceleration to merge with highway traffic or while overtaking is adequate.

Given that we only had this compact hatch for one day during business hours, an improvised test drive featuring the first two legs of the usual pure street route, and the last two of the regular mostly highway drive were strung together in one go. The Swift averaged an impressive 18.6km/litre or 5.38 litres/100km over a pure street-driven 55.9km, and an even more impressive 23.5km/litre or 4.26 litres/100km over a mostly highway 109.3km.

Keeping in mind that this is only a mild hybrid, and while not quite achieving the 24.2km/litre or 4.13-litres/100km economy that Suzuki claims, the Swift still managed to eke out a calculated 21.8km/litre or 4.58-litres/100km average fuel economy over a test-driven 165.2km. To put things in context, this makes the Suzuki Swift the second-most efficient car we’ve tested, just behind the proper-hybrid Toyota Sienta from last year.

Bridgestone Ecopia EP150 185/55 R16 tyres

Thing is, it’s not just about boring fuel economy figures either. Keeping in mind the relative grip coefficient from eco-tyres, the Swift was willing and playful when chucked into corners, rotating its rear end naturally to aid with pointing the nose of the car in the desired direction. Most people who buy this car wouldn’t really care that much, but the enthusiast who has to daily-drive a Swift needn’t worry about boring handling either. Plus, manual handbrake = handbrake turns at will. 😁

All in all, it was good to revisit this older friend who’s now endowed with newer tech. This is precisely the type of car that Singapore’s city streets could do. Sadly, the current crazy COE levels mean that this compact hatch that should be priced at around $65,000-$70,000 on the road is now selling for almost double those numbers.

Shame, really, because the Suzuki Swift is simply sweet.

Technical Specifications

Suzuki Swift
Engine: 1,197cc in-line 4, mild hybrid
Power: 81hp @ 6,000rpm
Torque: 107Nm
Gearbox: CVT
0-100km/h: 12.2 seconds (claimed)
Top Speed: 175km/h
Fuel Economy: 24.2km/L (claimed)
Price: S$135,900 (Standard) / S$136,900 (Dual Tone), both with COE (accurate at the time of this article)
Contact: Suzuki Singapore

Looking for a seven-seater hybrid? Check out the Toyota Sienta Hybrid, and other reviews here!

(Photos taken by Sean @auto.driven)