A Swift drive in Suzuki’s much-loved hatchback

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Manny De Los Reyes
Manny De Los Reyes
Manny de los Reyes, motoring editor of wheels.ph as well as its print edition, has been writing about cars since 1995. His life has been deeply intertwined with cars, having cleaned and maintained the family cars as a teenager, operating a paint shop and entering national car shows in college, before joining Nissan after graduation. He handled car brands as a copywriter afterwards. Today, when he's not testing or writing about cars or attending motoring events, he is home reading novels or playing with his shih tzu.

The Suzuki Swift has been getting in the radar of more and more new car buyers—mostly because of its price tag that has gone lower (in contrast to its rivals’ prices that have gone higher) over the years. A brand-new Swift now starts at P775,000 for the stickshift version and an impressive P819,000 for the automatic. Depending on the variant, the Swift is now priced lower by at least P100,000 and as much as P300,000 compared to its direct rivals (although the Swift uses a 1.2-liter engine for both its MT and AT versions while its competitors have 1.3- and 1.5-liter engines).      

SPORTY STYLE

The Swift sports large, expressive headlights that runs counter to the now-common practice of using slim headlights. The big lights bracket a gaping blacked-out grille that gives the Swift a sporty, aggressive look.

The side view is devoid of extraneous curves and bulges. The only visual highlights are the high beltline, the subtle curvature that runs along the fenders and doors that give the Swift its wide, muscular look, and the hidden rear door handle on the novel C pillar with its wraparound blacked-out treatment that creates a floating roof effect. 

The rear view is low, squat, and wide, with large LED taillights and a subtle roof-edge spoiler. It’s the look of a proper hot hatch. The Swift wears 185/55R16 rubber; they may seem narrow but they don’t look undersized for the car. More importantly, they’re perfect for the car’s power and weight. Any wider and they’ll affect the car’s nimbleness.

SMALL ENGINE YET SPRITELY PERFORMANCE

As mentioned, the Swift is powered by a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine developing 82 hp and 113 Nm. That might seem puny, but given the little Suzuki’s lithe 860-kg curb weight, the Swift still manages to deliver energetic performance, especially if you’re willing to rev the smooth engine to 4,000 rpm and higher. To put this in perspective, a base Mini Cooper’s power to weight ratio is 9 kilos per horsepower; in contrast, the Swift’s is 10.4 kilos per horse—not too shabby.

SWIFT MOVES

The Swift is a ball to drive—whether you’re in gridlock or cornering fast on your favorite backroad. I got to test the automatic (CVT) version; I expected the CVT to make the car feel sluggish, but it proved a willing accomplish, eagerly shifting to lower gears, allowing the engine to spin higher up the rev range. The stickshift version—or a paddle-shift for the automatic (which sadly isn’t available)—should be an even greater joy.

The ride/handling balance is clearly skewed for comfort; nonetheless, there is minimal body roll when cornering. The electric power steering is precise and gives good feedback. Braking is confidence-inspiring and is easy to modulate.

INTERIOR—SPARTAN YET FUNCTIONAL

Inside, you’ll find a spacious yet spartan all-black interior. You won’t find any leather on the seats, steering wheel, shift knob, or door panels. There is no chrome door trim. All you get is black plastic on the dash, console and door panels and black fabric on the seats and armrests. At least the plastics are nicely textured and sculpted while the black fabric feels plush on the thickly padded and very comfortable seats. The front seats’ prominent side bolsters deserve special mention as they give superb support. They look great, too—as if they came straight from a sports car.

Other nice interior elements are the meaty, thick three-spoke steering wheel, with its racy flat-bottom design, and the 70s-era twin circular instrument cluster. 

You won’t miss those complicated electronic AC switches with the Swift’s no-brainer three AC knobs (fan speed, thermostat, and air direction). The Swift has a seven-inch USB/Bluetooth touchscreen infotainment/navigation system with four speakers plus a USB port and a 12V socket up front. There are twin cupholders up front and a single one for the rear. There are also bottle holders on all four doors (plus spacious door pockets on the front doors).

Safety and security features include dual front airbags, four three-point ELR seatbelts (and a 2-point lapbelt for the middle rear-seat passenger), two ISOFIX anchorages, two additional non-ISOFIX child seat anchorages, ABS with EBD, Brake Assist, rear parking sensors, an anti-theft system, and a cabin air filter. There are also three adjustable headrests for the 60/40 split-folding back seat.

The latest Swift even boasts modern pedestrian-protection systems like impact-absorbing front bumper, hood, and even hood hinges and wiper system.  

One can’t talk about Suzuki automobiles without discussing the company’s advanced HEARTECT high-rigidity body construction that improves not just the car’s crashworthiness, but also its dynamic performance, riding comfort, and fuel economy. HEARTECT employs lightweight yet high-tensile and ultra-high-tensile steel and combines that with a continuous and smoothly curving shape with fewer joints for a rigid, safe, and responsive chassis.

All things considered, the Swift is an exceptionally accomplished small car. It does everything it’s designed to do very well and achieves that despite an eminently affordable sub-800k price tag. It doesn’t have an overly long features list compared to its rivals, but its compelling (and much lower) price and its refined and well-developed driving dynamics more than make up for it.

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