- Peppy 3-cylinder turbo engine
- Fun but mature driving experience
- Reasonable service costs
- Getting pretty expensive
- Rear seat and boot an afterthought
- No manual option
In 2021, it’s increasingly hard to sell a small car in Australia. Thank to our love for SUVs, lots of standard kit for not as little money as possible, long warranties and the highest safety standards in the world, not much profit exists in sub-$30,000 cars and many car makers – including Honda, Nissan, Hyundai and Ford – have ditched light cars for our market. Japanese car maker Suzuki is a small car specialist though, and still offers many of them including the Baleno, Swift and Ignis. We tested the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo to see if there’s still life in the light car.
Price & Equipment: 6/10
Although the Swift range starts at $19,490 plus on-road costs ($21,490 drive away) for the entry-level GL Navigator, we tested the top-spec GLX Turbo that’s priced at $26,790 plus on-road costs ($27,790 drive away). Aside from the Sport, the GLX Turbo is the most money you can spend on a Swift locally – for now, at least as there’s a mild-hybrid drivetrain coming soon.
Standard equipment on the top-spec non-Sport Swift includes 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED lighting with daytime running lights and front fog lights, a leather steering wheel, handbrake and gearknob, cloth upholstery, keyless entry and start, heated and electric-folding mirrors, single-zone climate control, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation, a six-speaker sound system and paddle shifters.
Safety kit includes six airbags, stability control, auto emergency braking (AEB) with forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors with a reversing camera, lane departure warning and auto high beam.
No-cost colour options include ‘Pure White’, while $595 extra gets you ‘Super Black Pearl’, ‘Speedy Blue’, ‘Mineral Grey’, ‘Burning Red’ and ‘Premium Silver’.
Rivals to the Swift GLX Turbo include the $28,490 drive away Mazda2 GT and $24,990 drive away ($28,190 with the Premium Pack) Skoda Fabia Run-Out Edition. When compared with these rivals – particularly the Mazda2 – the Swift GLX Turbo starts to look expensive. Over the Swift, the 2 GT features half-leather/suede upholstery, a 360-degree parking camera, a heads-up display, automatic reverse braking, automatic wipers, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, front parking sensors, auto-folding mirrors and digital radio, which is not bad for an extra $700.
Don’t want the 360-degree camera, front parking sensors and fancier upholstery? The 2 Evolve offers everything else for $27,485 drive away, which is less than the Swift GLX Turbo. There’s also the matter of paying almost $30,000 for a very small car. Unfortunately, all cars have gotten much more expensive in recent years thanks to a number of factors but even so, paying that much money for a light car – even ones as talented as the Swift – is hard to swallow.
Performance & Economy: 8/10
Under the bonnet of the Swift GLX Turbo is a 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol engine that produces 82kW of power and 160Nm, which are healthy numbers for a car that weighs only 945kg (kerb weight). The engine itself is a pearler with more than ample grunt and lots of character. The peak torque arrives at just 1,500rpm and stays until 4,000rpm, which is more than widespread enough for urban driving to ensure the fuel economy stays low. Revving it out is fun though with its cheeky throbbing three-cylinder engine note.
The three-cylinder engine in the Swift is particularly impressive against the strained non-turbo four-cylinder engine that’s standard in the Mazda2 as it’s gruntier, quieter and yet also more efficient. It pales against the Fabia’s 81kW/200Nm also-1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo engine though, as the Fabia offers up 40Nm more torque and thanks to it offering another ratio (seven in total), it does feel quicker. That you can have the same engine in the Fabia for under $25,000 drive away makes entry level Swifts look asthmatic too.
The standard transmission is a six-speed torque converter automatic that is – like the Mazda2 – comfortably more normal than the Volkswagen Group dual-clutch cousins. The auto in the Swift is intuitive, predictable and quick to shift – and if it’s not good enough, there are paddle shifters as well. We just wish there was a manual option to enjoy it even more!
Suzuki claims 5.1L/100km on a combined cycle – 0.2L/100km less than the Mazda2 and with 16Nm more torque, though 0.4L/100km more than the Fabia – and we achieved 6.3L/100km in mostly urban driving. The Swift GLX Turbo requires premium unleaded fuel and it features a 37-litre fuel tank.
Ride & Handling: 8/10
Although it’s not as fun or fast as its sporty Swift Sport sibling, the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo is still a fun car to drive – certainly more fun than a Fabia and Mazda2. It’s got keen handling, communicative steering and a compliant ride thanks to the modest 16-inch wheels. The Swift’s ride copes with changes in the road quite well, and it means that you can drive it hard without being affected too much by bumps.
Unlike some other light cars, the Swift is good away from the city as well. There’s a newfound maturity to the Swift’s driving dynamics that allows it to be comfortable at higher speeds and on country roads. Previous generation Swifts weren’t great motorway cruisers but this generation definitely is – only the small windows, large rear mirror and high road noise levels subtract from the overall experience.
Interior & Practicality: 7/10
If there’s something that detracts from the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo experience, it’s the interior. It’s far from horrible, but it does feel closer to the entry level car’s $21,490 drive away pricing – or, in reality, closer to its $16k starting price when it was launched just a few years ago. It’s far from awful but for nearly $30,000 drive away, you’d expect a more luxurious environment as there are no soft touch plastics, basic door trims and a lack of storage. Both the Mazda2 and Skoda Fabia feature more inviting interiors thanks to the 2’s use of colour and the Fabia’s clever details.
Centre of the Swift’s cabin (regardless of the model chosen) is a 7.0-inch touchscreen with wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite navigation and a reversing camera. It’s a perfectly fine system to use, though the menu layout could be more cohesive and the screen quality isn’t great – it also lacks digital radio (unlike the 2) but at least it has navigation (unlike the Fabia). Thankfully, the GLX Turbo comes with a reasonable six-speaker sound system – anything below comes with an appalling two-speaker unit.
In terms of practicality, the Swift Sport offers door bins, two small cup holders ahead of the gearbox, a reasonable glove box and a covered centre arm rest but that’s it. The rear seat is even more spartan with a single map pocket and a bottle holder in each door – no rear USB ports. (which the Fabia features), no centre arm rest, nothing. The space on offer is more generous than you’d expect however – six-footers will be fine behind one another, but don’t push anything more than that. The rear seat is definitely more spacious than the cramped 2, but the Fabia is definitely larger back there.
The boot in the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo is not big, however, at just 265-litres – it’s larger than the 2’s 250L, but not the Fabia’s 330L space. There is a large boot lip between the floor and opening, there is only one hook to hold bags in place, and when the seats are folded – with 918L of space (Fabia: 1,150L)– there’s a large ridge between the seat base and floor. Like its rivals, there’s a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor but the Skoda Fabia proves that light car boots don’t have to be an afterthought with a segregated storage area, nets and hooks.
Service & Warranty: 8/10
Like other Suzuki products in Australia, the Swift comes with a five-year/unlimited km warranty with five years of roadside assistance. Five years/50,000km of servicing costs $1,475 ($295 per service), which is pretty reasonable, though short 10,000km service intervals do add to the cost.
Like Suzuki, both Mazda and Skoda provide a five-year/unlimited km warranty with their cars and while the Mazda also has five years of roadside assistance, the Skoda only has one. Servicing the Mazda2 over the same five years/50,000km costs $1,882 ($377 per service), while servicing the Fabia over the same timeframe but to longer kms thanks to its longer service intervals is $2,215 ($443 per service), which is not cheap, but buyers can choose a service pack at the time of purchase for just $1,350 and that includes five years of roadside assistance as well.
The 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo DiscoverAuto Rating: 7.4/10
We’re big fans of the 2021 Suzuki Swift GLX Turbo at DiscoverAuto. It’s a pretty good light car that offers a long list of attributes including a great driving experience, a grunty turbo engine, an intuitive automatic transmission, a smattering of active safety equipment and a fun attitude that keeps on making it lots of friends – even in the demise of the light car.
Of course, it’s not perfect. It’s rather expensive in this spec, its service intervals are short, it’s missing key pieces of equipment that rivals feature as standard and the interior could be plusher, but those looking for a fun, efficient, inexpensive to run and reliable light car could do much worse than the Swift. The incoming hybrid option will make it even less expensive to run, and we wish there was a manual option for the GLX Turbo, but regardless, it proves that there’s plenty of life left in the light car.