6 Suzuki Swift

6.0 /10

98 wheelsmag.com.au NUMBERS can be deceiving. Coming in sixth overall does not fully reflect how competent the fun and feisty little Swift is.

For starters, it’s properly compact – and usefully so. Simple to park and a cinch to squirt through traffic (the current fouryear- old car isn’t much bigger than the previous version from 2004), the Japanese runabout is sized right for a traditional city-based supermini.

Fast, reactive steering is another Swift strength, egging the enthusiastic driver on from the minute the wheel is first turned. Beautifully weighted, pleasingly involving and well controlled, there’s a level of handling precision that seems to be disappearing nowadays.

Even after 10 years of basically the same (Mini-ripping) design motifs, the Swift’s styling still looks good, espousing a distinctive elegance that has obviously had lasting appeal for consumers. Even in its twilight years, the Swift regularly sneaks into the top three for supermini sales.

Stepping inside, while a little plasticky to the touch, the neatly presented dashboard is also a classy blend of form and function, backed up by a stylish set of instruments, excellent ventilation, plenty of storage options and a natty leatherbound wheel that’s a treat to hold. Indeed, the driving position ranks as one of the best on test, though the lack of steering reach adjustment is disappointing.

Furthermore, despite one of the shortest wheelbases in its class, the little Suzuki offers one of the better rear-seat experiences, unless you happen to be very tall, in which case your scalp will scrape the ceiling and your knees bury into the front backrest. The GL offers a comfy cushion, overhead grab handles, a map pocket, drink holder and even a curry hook, so it isn’t as barren back there as most of the others.

And then there’s the drivetrain, a modern 70kW 1.4-litre twin-cam fourcylinder petrol engine mated to a very old-fashioned four-speed torque-converter automatic with push-button top gear.

Considering the limited number of ratios, the Swift actually makes a good fist of things, since it’s a midfielder in terms of performance and economy, being just 0.2sec slower than the seven-speed Polo to 100km/h (though the Swift is down with the slowcoaches in the 80-120km/h rollingacceleration times).

Cruising along at 120km/h on the freeway, the old four-speeder is quite the sweetie, avoiding the hunting between ratios that afflicts some similar gearboxes.

There’s a fair amount of mid-range torque flexibility as well, resulting in a relatively relaxed and quiet open-road demeanour.

But then the numbers begin to stack up against the likeable Swift, particularly this one: at $17,990 plus on-road costs, it’s one of the exxier buys of our Megatest nine.

And then there’s the stunted 210-litre luggage capacity (up to the window line), which is pretty meagre in this company.

Finally, while the frisky chassis is great for keener drivers, with terrific balance and involving fluidity, others might find it a tad nervous, particularly in terms of steering sharpness. Tyres that prioritise hardness (for economy) rather than softness (for grip) exacerbate the Suzuki’s skittish feel on wet roads. That said, the stability-control calibration is fine, so novices are unlikely to lose the rear end.

In many ways the fun-to-drive Swift deserves a podium ranking. Its well-built interior and commanding driving position are underlined by a sporty leather-bound steering wheel, and it offers low running costs and a rock-solid reliability reputation.

But the snug-fitting Swift is the polar opposite of Honda’s sensible-shoes Jazz. If you can see past its tight rear-seat space, truncated boot and high-ish entry price, we wouldn’t talk you out of buying one.

But there is fresher, as well as broader, baby talent out there, so sixth is as high as this sassy little number gets. – BM

SUZUKI SWIFT GL

$18,465* Engine 1372cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v Power 70kW @ 6000rpm Torque 130Nm @ 4000rpm Transmission 4-speed automatic Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) 3850/1695/1510/2430mm Weight 1035kg Cargo capacity 210 litres Tyres Yokohama Decibel E70 175/65R15 84H Economy 7.2L/100km 0-60km/h 5.2sec 0-100km/h 11.5sec 0-400m 18.3sec @ 123.4km/h 80-120km/h 9.1sec 100km/h-0 40.5m 3yr resale 61% . Sharp, compact, perky . Small inside, tiny boot * Includes metallic paint ($475)

More DZirable

AUSSIE-bound Swifts have long been sourced either from Japan or Thailand, so we’re limited to the fivedoor hatchback bodystyle you see here. But Euro buyers enjoy the option of a pretty three-door that is in keeping with the sprightly Suzuki’s sporty nature – especially in revvy Sport guise. Built in Hungary, most are powered by a 69kW/118Nm 1.2-litre four-pot petrol sweetie in either front- or all-wheeldrive guises. Meanwhile, a pert sedan offshoot is made by Maruti of India, marketed (rather ironically) as the DZire. There’s precisely zero chance of that making it Down Under.

AU lon we’ doo buy pre kee Suz esp gui mo 69k fou eith driv pe ma ma t pre tha