The latest Suzuki Swift is shorter than the previous generation but wider and with much more interior space. Picture: Mark Smyth
The latest Suzuki Swift is shorter than the previous generation but wider and with much more interior space. Picture: Mark Smyth

Suzuki has made some cool cars over the years. Just think back to the iconic SJ410 or more recently the great Swift Sport. Even its rarely seen Kizashi has something of a cult following among its fans, and it looks like Suzi will have yet another winner in the form of the latest Jimny.

Then there’s the Swift, traditionally a mainstay for the brand, but it would be fair to say that it has sat on the verge of being cool rather than actually being in the club in spite of its attempt to look a bit like a racing helmet. It has always been a great package, as Motor News found out when we ran a previous generation in our long-term fleet, but it wasn’t quite up there with its key rivals.

Its evergreen popularity is reflected in the fact that it accounts for nearly half of Suzuki SA’s sales each month. The styling is slightly more trendy, with a cheeky facade and those blacked out C-pillars. Wheel covers on our range-topping GL were a disappointment but it’s got Bluetooth so don’t complain.

The latest generation sits on a new platform and while it is 10mm shorter, it is 40mm wider and, most importantly, the wheelbase has grown 20mm to 2,450mm. The key point here is more interior space, including in the boot, which was always a little cramped. In fact, Suzuki has managed to increase boot space by a whopping 58l to 268l.

The interior is well designed and equipped and even the hard plastics don’t look terrible. Picture: SUPPLIED
The interior is well designed and equipped and even the hard plastics don’t look terrible. Picture: SUPPLIED

There’s more focus on the driver too, with a sort of sporty steering wheel, the centre console with its touchscreen infotainment system angled towards the driver and a general feel of being more in touch with the car itself. That driver focus is even more apparent in the drive itself, because the engineers appear to have tried to take a leaf out of Mazda’s book and made driving the Swift a bit more engaging.

With 61kW and 113Nm, it required a bit of work to engage the Swift properly on occasion but as we have found with rivals like the Polo Vivo, you don’t need a sports car to enjoy the drive. The Swift hustled through Joburg streets admirably, only really straining on the uphill, particularly I found while reversing up my own driveway.

It lacks some of the lowdown oomph of rivals with 1.0l turbo motors and, as you will read below, it’s a real pity that Suzuki SA doesn’t bring the BoosterJet in any of its models. Perhaps they are still looking at it.

The Euro version of the Swift has a stronger body structure and a raft of additional safety features including more airbags, electronic stability control and driver assistance systems. Picture: MARK SMYTH
The Euro version of the Swift has a stronger body structure and a raft of additional safety features including more airbags, electronic stability control and driver assistance systems. Picture: MARK SMYTH

The Swift has made it into the SA Car of the Year competition and I’m not surprised. It’s good. Yes, there are better derivatives elsewhere in the world but it’s a very attractive package at the R177,900 price and much better value than some of its price competitors.

There is always talk about the difference between models sold in SA and those in Europe and it’s definitely a conversation that needs to be had when it comes to the latest Swift. Just weeks after driving the SA-spec model, I drove the Euro-spec version in the UK.

First, there is a major difference in safety. The SA model is built by Maruti Suzuki in India and while it has two airbags, ABS, EBD and brake assist, it fared poorly in recent crash tests, scoring only two stars.

The Euro version is very different, with a stronger body structure and a raft of additional safety features, including more airbags, electronic stability control and driver assistance systems. These included lane departure warning, blind spot assist and even adaptive cruise control.

It’s not just about safety either because we tested the 1.0l BoosterJet mild hybrid with outputs of 83kW and 170Nm, a 195km/h top speed and 0-100km/h sprint of 10.6 seconds. We drove this one for a week around the south of England and it proved to be a responsive and nimble machine, cruising well on the highways and darting around back roads with ease.

It had a great manual gearbox, which, like the Swift in SA, showed that engineers have successfully injected the Swift with a bit of driver enjoyment.

There are other specification items that are different, too, such as alloy wheels and more functionality to the infotainment system.

It’s impossible to directly compare pricing given import duties, taxes and so on, but at £15,999 it’s right up against the Volkswagen Polo, while in SA Suzuki has chosen to bring its Swift down to a level where it can compete on price with such models as the Renault Kwid and Polo Vivo.

It’s a pity because the Swift available overseas offers so much more. Yes you have to pay more, but given how much people are willing to pay for a a Polo or an overpriced Toyota Yaris, Suzuki definitely has more to offer.