Suzuki Swift GLX

words - Feann Torr
photos - Alex Rae
Suzuki's popular swift returns in 2011 with a fresh new face and a bevy of new features that lift it above many of its traditional rivals

Suzuki Swift GLX
Road Test

Price Guide (recommended price before statutory and delivery charges): $20,690
Options fitted to test car (not included in above price): Nil
Crash rating: 5-star ANCAP
Fuel: 91 RON ULP
Claimed fuel economy (L/100km): 6.2
CO2 emissions (g/km): 147
Also consider: Hyundai i20, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Holden Barina, Mazda2, Kia Rio.

Overall rating: 3.0/5.0
Engine and Drivetrain: 3.0/5.0
Price, Value, Practicality: 3.5/5.0
Safety: 3.0/5.0
Behind the wheel: 3.0/5.0
X-factor: 3.0/5.0

About our ratings

It's not hard to see why the Suzuki Swift is one of Australia's most popular light cars. Building on its well-known name and heritage, Swift presents as a neat and tidy compact car with a just a hint of adolescent attitude.

Swift by name, swift by nature, the Japanese runabout retains its tenacious attitude and is a genuinely entertaining car to drive. But where the all-new 2011 model improves over its predecessor is in areas such as interior quality, safety and technology features.

We tested the top shelf GLX model and it's abundantly clear from outset that Suzuki has tucked its shirt in and straightened its tie. Before you even get in the car, there's something a little more edgy about the exterior design, and although it's still got that quintessential Swift 'image' going on, the windscreen is a little more raked, the lines a little sharper and the details more eye catching.

Suzuki Swift GLX comes standard with a keyless entry system, which allows the driver to leave the keys in his/her pocket/handbag, its proximity sensors detecting when the owner is close, which is a neat touch for a car that costs $20,690. Once settled into the driver's seat, the view is suitably modern with a stylish (but not too busy) centre stack, consisting of the USB compatible stereo system and automatic single-zone climate control. The GLX grade also gets a race-car inspired push-button ignition.

Dominating colours are red, black and silver, and even the air vents have a stylish design, girt by silver edging, and it's these slighter features that combine to make the interior a lot more pleasing to the eye. Even the buttons have a higher quality feel than the previous model, lending the car a mature personality that wasn't as obvious in its predecessor.

Swift's interior control centres feature red backlighting, which adds a touch of maturity to proceedings, as do features such as the Bluetooth telephony and audio streaming functionality, which are easy to figure out and don't take too long to setup.

Some of the fancy extras for the GLX not found on lesser models include 16-inch alloy wheels, rear disc brakes (other models get drums), fog lights, and a tilt/reach adjustable steering wheel column (tilt-only elsewhere).

Like all other models in the Swift range, seven airbags are fitted as standard, as is stability control and anti-lock brakes with brake-force distribution, so it's no surprise the car has been awarded a five-star safety rating by ANCAP. Lap-sash seat belts cover all five seats, as do head restraints designed to reduce whiplash-related injuries.

The improved ambiance in the cabin makes the car much nicer to drive in everyday conditions. It feels more sophisticated, both generally, and in a tactile sense. The plastic quality has been improved since the last incarnation and it seems as though fit and finish has been tidied up too, with flush-fitting panels and tighter shut lines throughout.

It's easy to get in and out of, and effortless to operate thanks to a four-speed automatic. The only thing I really lamented during the test was the lack of cruise control on stretches of freeway (mainly to avoid revenue raising cameras), but there are only a handful of cars in this class that are offered with it.

Being a five-door hatch, Swift isn't too bad for rear seat passengers, though taller people will find leg room lacking. The boot is also very small, just 200 litres, which is fine for the weekly shopping but struggles to swallow a few bales of hay and couple of bags of potting mix. Still, the rear seats can be folded flat, opening up 900 litres of space.

Power comes from a 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine that is hooked up to a four-speed automatic, the latter not quite as refined as that found in the new Hyundai i20. But while the Swift may not have the best gearbox in its class, the engine is a pearler, revving eagerly whenever you plant the foot and sipping fuel miserly when a more cautious approach to the accelerator pedal is taken.

The gearbox doesn't have to hunt for the correct gear too often, its in-built logic doing a good job of selecting the right gear for varied situations, but it's the car's mechanical heart that really impresses. The K14B engine is smaller that its predecessor's, a 1.5-litre unit, yet even with less power and torque (70kW/130Nm) still has gumption aplenty.

Moving off the line with gusto, Swift GLX is probably the slowest model in the line-up, what with its surfeit of extra equipment, but is still a zippy operator with more than enough acceleration to keep ahead of traffic. Even when you wind-up the engine to maximum revs it still breathes easily and only ever feels taxed when heading uphill.

The engine is now more frugal as well, its smaller displacement making for improved fuel efficiency of 6.2L/100km on the automatic models. We also tested the entry-level Suzuki Swift GA model, which is the bare-bones variant, equipped with a manual transmission. It doesn't even come with a tachometer, but this matters little for it can really hustle.

There's a big difference between the manual and auto variants, and though the automatic models will account for the vast majority of sales (and are admittedly better in urban scenarios), the five-speed manual gives the city runabout a far more endearing character. The manual Swift GA model was more fleet of foot than the automatic GLX and was certainly more involving to drive. The downside is that driver's won't be able to easily apply their make-up or post Facebook comments in manual versions...

Happy to run on regular (91 RON) unleaded petrol, the Suzuki Swift is a relatively affordable car to drive, day in and day out, and easy to live with too. Parking the Swift is effortless (bordering on enjoyable) and navigating traffic couldn't be easier thanks to power assisted steering, an upright windscreen and a good seating position.

The independent front suspension strut  and torsion beam rear suspension are par for the course in this segment and are nicely calibrated for a pleasant blend of both ride and handling. The 2011 Suzuki Swift rides over rough roads without unduly jostling its occupants, but given a long ribbon of winding road, the Swift is equally in its element, happily tipping into corners under full throttle without protest.

Changes to the steering rack, now electronically assisted (with a variable gear ratio design), has produced a more predictable steer, and it feels as though there's more feedback too. The brakes are also improved, delivering shorter stopping distances thanks to disc brakes fore and aft on the GLX model.

Whether driving around a busy city, through the suburbs or even out in the country, the Suzuki Swift never fails to impress. Dynamically it's one of the best performers in its class, and ease of use is right up there as well. It is a slightly heavier car than its forebear, but the progress that has been made in refinement and build quality outweigh this minor nitpick.

It's nice to look at, very pleasant to sit in and enjoyable to drive. Add the fact that it's well-priced and comes with a decent three-year/100,000km warranty and you're looking at a genuine value-for-money proposition. There are no major drawback's to the car, save for a tiny boot and a lack of cruise control, and perhaps the fact that most motorists won't be able to tell the new and the old models apart.

If you're looking for a compact car that is more than just a simple appliance to get you from point A to point B, the Suzuki Swift will warrant a much closer look, having retained its exuberant attitude that makes driving it far more fun that it should be.

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Published : Friday, 1 April 2011
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