Published on March 25th, 2017 | by Seán Ward0
First Drive In The New 2017 Suzuki Swift
The 2017 Suzuki Swift is a really important model for Suzuki. No, really it is. Ask anyone to name a Suzuki model and they’d likely say ‘Swift’, and that’s because Suzuki has sold 5 million of them worldwide since 2005, of which more than 1 million were sold in Europe and 127,000 were delivered to the UK.
On first impressions, I have to say I wasn’t convinced by the new car. My first glimpse was under the light of the Geneva Motor Show a few weeks ago, and in all honesty it looked a bit like it had melted in the heat. Thankfully, outside in the real world, away from the harsh motor show lights, the new Swift looks a lot better than I’d first thought. There are a few awkward angles, but blacking out the c-pillar and hiding the rear door handle (the new Swift can only be bought as a five-door) tidy up the car’s side profile.
Inside, everything feels well put together, and for the most part everything you touch is good quality. Premium it isn’t, but it is well built and simple.
What should you know about the 2017 Suzuki Swift? Suzuki claims this new car is 10% lighter, 19% more powerful and 8% more fuel efficient across the range. For me the main stat there is the 10% weight reduction, because less weight means better acceleration, faster cornering, harder braking and more efficiency, and pulling 10% from the weight of a car from one generation to the next is a big achievement. The lightest new Swift will tip the scales at just 890kg.
The model line up promises to confuse. There are three trim levels, ST3, ST-T and SZ5, but you have a choice of either a five speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic, and for the very first time you’re able to buy the new Swift as a hybrid.
Engine wise you have a choice of either a 1.2 litre, four-cylinder or a 1.0 litre, three-cylinder turbo. The 1.2 is the lesser powered model, with 90bhp and 88lb/ft of torque, and able to do 0-60mph in 11.9 seconds and a top speed of 111mph. The 1.0 litre, on the other hand, has 110bhp and 125lb/ft, and will sprint to 60mph in 10.6 seconds on its way to a 121mph top speed.
Now is where it gets a little bit complicated. The lightweight hybrid tech (it adds just 10kg to the car’s overall weight) is available on both the 1.2 and the 1.0 litre, adding 2.3kW of power and 36lb/ft of torque. On the 1.2 litre performance slows with a 12.6 second 0-60mph time, but stays exactly the same in the 1.0 litre with a 0-60mph time of 10.6 seconds.
What really brings a smile to my face is that the Swift hybrid is available as a manual only, so having some electrical boost doesn’t mean you have to settle for a CVT gearbox.
How does the new Swift drive? On our hurried one day test drive on the roads between Nice and Monaco, I have to say it drives rather well. The rear suspension doesn’t take really hard bumps very well (it feels like it runs out of suspension travel, so it’ll be interesting to see how it copes in the UK), for the most part the suspension keeps the car quite flat, and because the Swift weighs so little you can hurl it into corners at whatever speed tickles your fancy and it’ll just take it.
It’s worth pointing out the new car has a 20mm longer wheelbase but a 10mm shorter body, and the front and rear track are both wider by 40mm compared to the Japanese version and rides 15mm lower than the old Swift. All good things.
The steering is a variable ratio system, meaning the further you turn the wheel the tighter and tighter the front wheels turn; a small movement just off centre will move the car a little, but the same additional degree of steering angle further round the wheel will turn the car proportionately a lot more. It’s a light steering system, particularly just off centre, but pleasingly communicative everywhere else.
As for the engines, we were only given the chance to drive 1.0 litre hybrid cars. It is a very good little engine and feels perfectly at home in the little Swift. You need to rev the engine to get the most out of it, but there’s definitely a stronger surge lower down in the rev range thanks to the turbo and the hybrid tech.
What really transforms how the new Swift hybrid drives, or rather has prevented the new hybrid Swift from feeling just a bit boring, is than you’re only given a five-speed manual to work with. It’s a decent gearbox, and I can’t help but presume an automatic in the new Swift would really kill whatever fun the chassis offers.
Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s safe to assume prices won’t be too far away from the current, or rather ‘old’, Suzuki Swift. Of course I need to drive the car in the UK to see how it copes with our less than perfect roads, but on first impressions at least this isn’t a step backwards. Not everyone will like the way it looks, but they’ll probably like how it drives.