I declare a driver’s bias here. I love the Suzuki Swift. It is my family car and hundreds of hours at the wheel later, I still enjoy what I think is one of the great cars of modern auto design. It’s light and perky, easy to drive, easy to park and even on highway driving, it can get up and boogie if needed.
If car design is defined as a collection of well-disguised compromises, then the Swift takes the badge as one of the best – those compromises seldom surface in day-to-day driving. The Swift simply does a lot of the main things right. It is why the Swift is so popular in New Zealand – it meets or exceeds driver expectations in New Zealand driving conditions.
As a daily driver, the Suzuki Swift does it all and does it economically, with good luggage space and passenger comfort for a small car. The CVT transmission even turned my former manual-only-driving wife into a converted automatic owner-driver.
The base performance and personality of the Suzuki Swift provides a strong road-tested platform for improvements.
Updates and innovations
So what’s new with the 1.3 Suzuki Swift RS Turbo? There are cosmetic changes on the outside, updating the car’s front and rear lights; there’s new trim revealing some new contrasting colours inside and out, while the rear door latches are now located high on the rear door C-pillar and window, giving the car a sporty two-door-like profile.
New gizmos have been added, including Satnav, reversing camera, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay, Android Auto, automatic dipping headlights, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning (with on-screen alert) that all add up to quite a user-friendly update.
LED daytime running lights are now part of the ride and while it is immediately identifiable as a Swift, the changes make for a modern style update which is in keeping with the spirit of the original car.
Inside the new Swift, things are both familiar and radically changed. There is a spruced interior with large 7” screen and new-look speed and rev dials with a new red trim that lights up from the push of that familiar start button.
A new flat-bottomed steering wheel provides a touch more leg room and is a delight to use, with a strong feeling of fit and finish. All buttons are located within easy reach, while the paddles for manual gear shifting are discretely, but handily located down and behind the wheel. There is an overall sense of more space within the rearranged cabin that also makes for easy entry and exit.
In a departure from the familiar, the on-screen music system is now CD-free – it’s USB only.
The only thing that felt immediately familiar to this Swift owner driver was the location of the keyless entry start button.
Under the hood
The Swift RS is built around a solid1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo engine. In conventional form, this turbocharged motor produces 110bhp and 170Nm of torque between 2000rpm and 3500rpm - enough for the Swift to crack 0-62mph in 10.6 seconds. It is all connected to a 6-cylinder transmission that users will find responsive when using the manual paddles or in straight auto mode.
The combination makes for a different driving experience that is going to turn heads from start-up.
Driving away from Tauranga’s Suzuki dealership in Cameron Rd the first thing I notice is the changed engine noise and immediate response to hitting the gas. It’s a Swift alright, but it’s different.
There’s a new sporty feel and new performance envelope that means the Swift RS Turbo is likely in a different market for the current Swift owners who use theirs as an around-town shopping basket between taking the kids to soccer on Saturdays.
This thing is quick when that turbo kicks in and it makes a statement that this is a sporty ride for drivers who want to enjoy sports-car-like performance in a small package.
Driving the Swift immediately highlights some changes in the spirit of the drive. Occasionally, drivers are aware their cars feel stiffer, more connected to straight-line driving and are dialled in like a train on railway tracks and tight curves.
The Swift is one of those. The stiffer chassis, while not obviously changing excessive body roll or twisting when turning into difficult driveways, simply feels like it’s not going to budge.
It’s a rock-solid feeling that translates into an increasing sense of safety and uncompromised driving. Suzuki’s HEARTECH platform results in a light and a stiffer car that translates into improved fuel economy at a claimed 5.1L/100km.
Add in the near absence of road noise and extraordinarily smooth gear shifting and this makes for a drive that feels fatigue-free.
Swift by name – swift by nature
The Suzuki Swift was always a solid platform and the new update confirms the combination of new cosmetics, weight savings, improved engine performance and new user-friendly functions have added pizzazz and functionality to a New Zealand favourite.
It’s a must-drive for anyone familiar with the Suzuki Swift. Be prepared to be astounded.
Suzuki Swift RS 1.3Turbo pricing and specifications: Price: $25,990 plus ORC Engine: 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo-petrol Output: 82kW/160Nm Transmission: Six-speed automatic Fuel: 5.1L/100km (Combined)