Car reviews - Suzuki - Swift - GLX Turbo
Sweet and rorty three-pot engine, go-kart handling, roomy cabin, relatively settled ride
Room for improvement
Plasticky interior, tinny build quality, below-par infotainment set-up
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21 Feb 2018
IN JUNE 2017, Suzuki finally brought its all-new, Japanese-built, fifth-generation Swift light hatch to Australia, replacing the old but popular version that had been in production since 2011.
Before the arrival of the Swift Sport in January 2018, the most potent, range-topping variant was the GLX Turbo, underpinned by a tiny 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine.
The Swift has long been the backbone of Suzuki’s passenger car line-up in Australia, so the new model arrived Down Under with considerable weight on its diminutive shoulders.
Does the new Swift have what it takes to remain the Japanese brand’s best-seller in Australia?
Price and equipment
Checking in at $22,990 plus on-road costs, the GLX Turbo sits at the higher end of the price range for a non-performance light hatch, however it is priced competitively against other highly-specified rivals.
Competition includes the Ford Fiesta Sport ($22,525), Honda Jazz VTi-L ($22,990), Kia Rio SLi ($22,990), Mazda2 GT ($23,680), Toyota Yaris ZR ($22,570) and Volkswagen’s Polo Urban+ ($21,990). Only the Hyundai Accent Sport ($17,490) clearly undercuts the pack – no doubt part of the reason it was Australia’s most popular light car in 2017.
The GLX Turbo also adds a sizeable $5000 premium over the GL Navigator variant that sits underneath it. The GL is powered by an aspirated 1.2-litre four-cylinder mill teamed to a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).
Only two options are offered on the GLX Turbo – metallic paint for $1000, and a two-tone roof that costs $1250.
Standard specification on the GLX Turbo includes 16-inch polished alloy wheels, rear disc brakes, automatic LED headlights with high beam assist, electronically folding mirrors, tilt and reach-adjustable leather steering wheel, pearl white interior inserts, keyless start, chrome door handles, foglights, USB, Bluetooth and auxiliary usability, six-speaker stereo and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
Safety equipment extends to six airbags, active cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, electronic stability control and electronic brakeforce distribution.
Specification is about par for the course for its segment – the only noticeable omission is DAB+ digital radio, which would be a useful addition for a car that has a lot of young buyers. Other well-specified offerings may also have leather seats and trim, which the Suzuki misses out on.
Pricing is also reasonable, with the Hyundai the obvious exception.
Those who have a spent any time in any recent Suzuki model will know that they suffer from the same problem – a plastic-laden and cheap-feeling interior, and the Swift GLX Turbo is no exception.
The dashboard, centre console and doors are adorned with an abundance of hard, black plastic. Combined with the GLX Turbo’s super light weight (915kg) and tinny noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) measures, the interior plastics don’t help inspire a feeling of solid build quality. However, we also understand that it is built to a price.
Suzuki’s infotainment system is reasonably well laid out, but falls behind other rivals in terms of functionality and aesthetics.
The music selection screen in particular is busy and cluttered, and volume adjustment is done with a sliding touchpad instead of a more intuitive knob, however these are relatively minor quirks.
The GLX Turbo uses different air-conditioning switchgear to the GL Navigator, with the former looking cleaner and classier, and combined with the 7.0-inch infotainment screen, it all makes for a well designed dashboard.
Two cupholders, USB, auxiliary and 12V ports are positioned underneath the A/C cluster, while an extra cupholder is available between the seats.
Both the steering wheel (tilt and reach-adjustable) and shift lever are adorned in faux leather, which combined with a white plastic trim on the dashboard and door help offset the dull black hard plastics throughout the cabin.
The sporty steering wheel features paddle shifters, a flat bottom and all the usual infotainment compatibility buttons, while the instrument cluster comes with a black and white digital screen offering a number of read-outs.
Seats are a tad flat, but still comfortable, and head and legroom is ample for a car of its size, even in the rear pews.
Owners would do well not to lose anything in the car at night, as only a single interior light is found throughout the cabin, meaning the back row and boot is often cast in shadow.
The boot features decent storage depth and one hook for attaching shopping bags, and is kept private by a cover.
Storage is rated at 242 litres with the 60/40 split-fold rear seats upright, and up to 556L folded flat.
Overall the Swift’s interior ticks most boxes for functionality and usability, a few soft plastics and more high-end materials would go a long way towards improving the cabin and giving it a more premium feel.
Engine and transmission
Powering the GLX Turbo is a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine producing 82kW of power at 5500rpm and 160Nm of torque between 1500-4000rpm, teamed to a six-speed torque converter automatic transmission.
We can say without a doubt that the little three-pot is an absolute firecracker, and is one of the things we loved most about the GLX Turbo.
Considering its diminutive size, the engine sounds rude and rorty, snapping on gearshifts and revving hard through the gears.
The smile-inducing sound it makes is arguably more intoxicating than the 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in the Swift Sport – the most performance-oriented Swift in the range.
Engine performance is also admirable, and while 82kW/160Nm may not sound like a lot on paper, keep in mind that the car only tips the scales at 915kg, meaning there are more than enough horses under the bonnet to keep drivers on their toes.
The engine and transmission combo behave well when driving gently, and can respond just as aptly when a heavier right foot is involved.
It is a great vehicle for urban and city driving, with its responsive and pliable engine and tiny exterior dimensions.
There is a small amount of turbo lag, which is to be expected, and the engine has a rough idle, with vibrations felt through the base of the driver’s seat.
A fuel economy figure of 5.8 litres per 100km was recorded in our time in the car through mostly city driving, not far off the 5.1L/100km official combined figure.
The six-speed auto is generally a good unit, although it is not super intuitive and can result in some clumsy gear changes.
On the highway, the tachometer sits at around 2000rpm – a good figure for a light hatch.
No sport mode is available on the GLX Turbo, however the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters work well, sitting comfortably in the hands, offering snappy gear changes and giving the GLX Turbo more sportscar-like credibility.
The engine in the little Swift is in our opinion one of the best in the light class. If you are an A-to-B type driver who doesn't care how they get there, the 1.2L CVT driveline in the GL Navigator will be enough to get you where you need to go.
However, if you enjoy the aural and emotional side of the driving experience, we absolutely think the extra $5000 to step up to the GLX Turbo is money well spent.
Ride and handling
With its 915kg kerb weight, it doesn’t take a clairvoyant to guess that the GLX Turbo is a whizz in the handling department, as has long been the case for Suzuki’s most popular model.
Combined with its short overhangs and petite dimensions, it has go-kart-like handling characteristics with sharp cornering dynamics, pinpoint steering and minimal bodyroll.
Its nimbleness makes it grippy though corners and especially out of corners, which, combined with its fizzy engine has you wishing every road had twists and bends.
The front-wheel driveline leads to hints of snap oversteer during sharp cornering, but steering input is generally light and precisely directed.
The suspension is well calibrated, keeping bodyroll at a minimum through corners while being relatively supple in day-to-day driving, especially for a tiny light hatch with such a small wheelbase.
As a result, ride comfort is generally commendable for such a vehicle, although bumpy roads can lead to some noisy and jarring experiences.
There is some noise intrusion in the cabin, but the silver lining is that the sweet 1.0-litre engine can be better heard.
Overall Suzuki has done a good job improving the Swift’s dynamics, with typically engaging handling and better-than-expected ride comfort for a vehicle of its size and class.
The Japanese manufacturer has managed to strike a fine balance between comfortable everyday driving and sporty on-road performance, making for a great entry point for a buyer looking to tentatively test the waters of the performance hatch market.
Safety and servicing
In September 2017 the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) handed down a five-star safety rating to all Swift variants bar the base-level GL, which only managed four stars.
The GLX Turbo achieved a total score of 35.13 out of 37, scoring well in the side impact and pedestrian protection tests. It comes as standard with six airbags, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, automatic LED headlights and adaptive cruise control.
All Swift variants come with a three-year/100,000km warranty, whichever comes first. The GLX Turbo has five years/100,000km of capped-price servicing, with intervals occurring every six months or 10,000km, whichever comes first.
The cheapest service costs $175 and the dearest $469, with the average servicing cost over the 10 intervals coming down to $245.20 per service.
The fifth-gen model was a long time coming, but Suzuki has hit the mark with its new Swift. The GLX Turbo is the sweet spot of the range, offering specification and performance that outshines the GL and GL Navigator, and a driving experience that is within reach of the range-topping Sport.
The 1.0-litre turbo triple is a highlight, and is definitely worth the premium over the 1.2-litre atmo four-pot in the GL Navigator.
Buyers would be hard-pressed to find a non-performance light hatch with such a sporty character, and those looking for a vehicle in the segment that enjoy the driving should have the Swift at the top of their shopping list.
It is not without its flaws – it feels cheap inside, and its infotainment system can’t quite match it with other more polished rivals.
However flawless cars in the light vehicle segment are as rare as hen’s teeth, and the Swift GLX Turbo’s pros far outweigh the cons. Well done, Suzuki.
Kia Rio SLi from $22,990 plus on-roads
Kia offers a compelling package with its top-spec Rio, with great cabin polish, specification and an industry-best seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. An underpowered 1.4-litre engine and sluggish four-speed automatic transmission let down an otherwise excellent hatchback.
Mazda2 GT automatic from $23,680 plus on-roads
Mazda’s little hatchback is one of the most sensible offerings in the segment, with generous standard safety equipment, a well laid-out interior and an earnest powertrain.
Toyota Yaris ZR from $22,570 plus on-roads
The smallest offering in Toyota’s range received an update in March 2017 with extra safety equipment and refreshed styling. Its underpinnings are much older however, with the current model existing in one form or another since 2011.
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