Suzuki’s little diesel really is a Swift performer


The Suzuki Swift is very economical in every day use, and good to drive.

Suzuki’s little diesel is certainly Swift, but as TOM SCANLAN reports, it can also be a little on the noisy side.

The ALD/Shell Fuel Save MPG Marathon is a popular annual event for motoring types, mainly journalists. Under strictly-controlled conditions, a 350-mile drive is undertaken with the sole aim of achieving the best mpg figure overall, or at least the best improvement over the manufacturer’s official combined fuel consumption figure.
This year, a Suzuki Swift Diesel, driven by two members of the Southern Group of Motoring Writers was one of the best performers: drivers Dave Randle and Peter Cracknell of returned 86.3 mpg, a very creditable  improvement of 28% on the car’s official combined cycle figure of 67.3 mpg.
To manage such a result, economy-driving experts have to be very light-footed, be able to anticipate how to avoid having to accelerate hard and, in all honesty, drive rather slowly. So, how does a more realistic week’s drive in the Swift Diesel compare?
I’ve just completed 525 miles in a Swift Diesel and encountered every sort of driving condition: motorways at 70-plus mph, motorways at a gentle 60-65 mph when I wasn’t in a hurry, cross-country with occasional slowing down through villages, very heavy town traffic and short journeys when the engine hardly had time to warm up. These last two are anathema to diesel engines (potential buyers should beware: if the car is mainly to be used in town, the consumption will probably be very disappointing.)
At the end of all this, my car’s trip computer revealed an average consumption of 57.3 mpg. This, then, would appear to be a realistic expectation for the average owner.
How did the car perform on the road?
The Swift Diesel is a 1.3-litre (improved version this summer over the outgoing unit). It was quite lively in the mid-rev-range, with useful overtaking power on faster roads. Zero to 62 mph takes 12.7 seconds and the top speed is 109 mph. But I have to say that it was about the noisiest diesel I’ve driven for some while. Even at 60 mph, the old-fashioned diesel clatter was still discernible. However, there’s little wind noise, so, ironically, at quieter moments, tyre noise was very evident. If this is noise is not a problem for you, then the engine can’t be faulted, especially as the emissions have been reduced to 109 grams per kilometre. Suzuki says it has worked hard on NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and more work is required if the diesel engine noise is to be eliminated or at least reduced. To be fair, in all other respects, this Swift feels quite smooth and not at all unrefined.
The five-speed gearbox has a very light and easy change although, in fact, the engine is quite flexible and there’s no need to be particularly fussy about which gear the car is in.
Handling is fine and Suzuki has very sensibly provided all Swifts with ESP (Electronic Stability Programme). The steering is also very pleasant, nicely balanced in its general feel and with a comfortable steering wheel. The brakes do their job well, with progressively smooth operation and even the handbrake feels really nice.
The ride is very commendable for a short wheelbase car: no complaints here.
Inside the car, there’s quite good room for four adults and it’s noticeably easy to get in and out of the front seats, thanks to the the windscreen being more upright than in many cars. Getting in and out of the back is also easier than it is in some of the Swift’s rivals in this sector.
The boot is on the small side for anyone used to a bigger car (obviously), but it’s no problem to fold the rear seats forward to create plenty more space. It’s possible to shut the tailgate with only one hand. It’s also worth mentioning that the other doors shut very easily and quietly, giving confidence in the build-quality.
The instrumentation is straightforward, easy-to-read white on black with red needles; the speedo shows both miles and kilometers per hour – something that the next car I happened to drive, costing three times as much, did not; at night, the red pointers are supplemented by a red glow at the rim, which is a nice touch, but not a necessary one.
The on-the-road price for the SZ3 DDIS 5-door is a very competitive £12,890.

Rating: ★★★★☆

The Swift is an attractive looking car, and a lot cheaper than a Mini.