Suzuki Swift 2011-2017 used car review

RoyalAuto magazine

The Suzuki Swift is economical with its dimensions but not build quality or general capability.

Report: Greg Hill
November 2018


Suzuki Swift has been a stalwart of the light car class in Australia for several decades. Built in Japan, it has a long-standing reputation for being economical, reliable and very easy to drive. The smart-looking FZ series (January 2011-2017) built on the strengths and character of its successful predecessor. Its compact size is ideal for city commuting, while it’s still a capable traveller on the open road.

On today’s used-car scene, the most common model is the GL (including the GL Navigator which includes satellite navigation), followed by the higher-spec GLX and the performance-focused Sport. While the equipment level improved slightly with the 2013 model-year upgrade, the MYl4 versions onwards are a much better proposition, as the list of standard features grew substantially with this upgrade. Automatic transmissions dominate the offerings on the used market, but for those who prefer a manual there are still enough advertised.     

Sensible packaging

In the light car class, accommodation is all about making the most of limited interior space. Swift does that through sensible packaging. With four wide-opening doors and a rear hatch, access is good for a tiny car. There is a simple yet very functional driver presentation. The switches and controls are conveniently placed, well-marked and easy to use.  

The front seats are supportively shaped and reasonably comfortable, while in the back there’s also some subtle shaping in the seat cushion, and with minor compromises to the front-seat positioning two average-sized adults can squeeze in. A high roofline and upright seating mean good head room. Carrying a narrow temporary-use spare wheel has allowed room for a small storage compartment under the floor of the compact boot, and the cover panel can be removed to add a little more height to the luggage space.

Nimble performer

Around town, Swift feels nimble and very easy to drive, with adequate performance from the 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine. The automatic transmission is a four-speed unit, which is common for this class and age of the car. It gets the job done but isn’t as efficient as some later-model automatics. In the five-speed manual, sensible and at times frequent gear changing is required to keep the 70kW engine working at its best.

Swift’s handling, with well-weighted, accurate steering, is better than some of its peers, but the ride quality is a touch firm. Its compact dimensions make it easy to park and drive in the city, while it’s also economical to operate. Fuel consumption in the manual is around 5.5-7.0L/100km, with the automatics using about 0.5L more. In RACV’s annual Driving Your Dollars running-cost surveys, Swift has always been one of the most affordable cars. 

Sporty alternative

While these mainstream models do a respectable job, Swift Sport, which was introduced in 2012, raises the bar significantly on several fronts. To start with, the Sport model is dressed to impress with a body kit including a rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels. It has sports-style front seats, is trimmed accordingly and gets extra convenience features. 

A 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine lifts outputs to 100kW and 160Nm, which makes it a more spirited and fun car to drive, although it’s no hot hatch. Adding to the sporting flavour, the transmission choice is a six-speed manual (arguably the better option) or a seven-step CVT with paddle shifters. 

Suspension upgrades include revised dampers and stiffer spring rates for sharper handling, while four-wheel disc brakes provide appropriate stopping power. Unfortunately, the Sport does not get a spare wheel, only an impractical puncture-repair kit.

Swift also has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, a good example of how high-class safety performance isn’t restricted to expensive models and makes.


Known problem areas

Suzuki has a long-standing reputation for reliability, and Swift is no exception. We are not aware of any major inherent issues, although regular servicing is essential. Neglecting to change engine oil, or using the wrong grade or poor-quality oil, can lead to engine sludging and eventually serious engine damage. Check for normal wear items such as tyres and brakes. Some of the hard plastic trim sections scratch easily.

Various model Swifts have been the subject of recalls. The problems include a fuel leak, a brake fluid leak, faulty sealing on the steering box, a loose water pump pulley and loose torque converter bolts. Most vehicles should have had these issues rectified but it’s still worth checking with a Suzuki dealer to make sure any required updates have been done on the car you are considering. 

THE COMPETITION
Toyota Yaris, Kia Rio and Holden Barina.

PRICES
GL (2011-2017): $7400-$15,900
GL Navigator (2014-2017): $11,000-$15,900
GLX (2011-2017) $8300-$16,100 
Sport (2012-2017) $12,300-$20,300

Prices are for a five-door automatic hatchback.

RACV, the provider of Victoria's most trusted car insurance

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