We’re now at the age of motoring where seven-seaters are slowly becoming the norm, SUVs and crossovers are now prime choices for family cars and daily drivers, and diesel power is the preferred means of saving on fuel. Despite all these, the small family hatchback has a following in the Philippines.
Small yet spacious, tiny but livable, and most certainly easy on the fuel bills, the hatchback is the other alternative to the compact and subcompact sedans that most of us have grown up with. And one such nameplate that has become synonymous with such traits is the Suzuki Swift. First released in the Philippine market around the mid-2000s, it combined sporty-like looks with everyday practicality in a neat little package.
After two generations in, Suzuki Philippines is looking to impress Filipinos once more with the all-new Swift. With that, there are some questions to be answered. Will it be able to live up to the reputation set by its predecessors? Has it sacrificed substance for style in order to please those that prefer form over function? Can it stand toe-to-toe against the likes of the Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris, Mazda2, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio?
First thing’s first, let’s have a look at that stylish exterior. Yes the third-generation Swift still carries the familiar design of the older model. But unlike the second-generation’s safe and more rounded design, Suzuki decided to give the new hatchback a bolder, more daring presence.
Call it sleek, angular or maybe even funky, I give props to Suzuki for making the new Swift sportier without losing its signature design. The front fascia gets a huge hexagonal-style grill that are reminiscent of high-end coupes and sports cars. Then there are the upswept headlights with LED daytime running lights which are frankly eye-catching from any direction. Finally, a bigger set of foglights further gives the five-door a more striking appearance.
All variants of the 2018 Swift roll on 16-inch alloy wheels. However, only the GLX gets the diamond-cut alloy wheels which complements the sporting character of the hatchback. Also nice to see carried-over from past models are the distinct sloping roofline, and blacked-out A- and C-pillars which give the Swift a ‘floating roof’ design. But where are the rear door handles you may ask? Suzuki placed them near the C-pillar, giving the hatchback a three-door-like finish. To cap everything off, squared-off shoulder lines and more prominent taillights give the Swift a more defined aesthetic than its predecessor.
Some may call out Suzuki for drastically changing the looks of the Swift for its third iteration. But honestly, the sharper and more aggressive looks do the Swift justice as it now looks better than ever while still keeping the traditional look intact.
Open the doors and you are invited into a sporty interior. Black fabric seats, along with dark-colored trim pieces give the hatchback a more upscale cabin. But it is perhaps the instrument panel that is my most favorite part of the cabin. The hooded dials with the red borders and white numbers remind me of gauge clusters from hot hatchbacks and more expensive sports cars.
Another neat feature is the flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in leather. I am not exactly what you may call a fan of this type of steering wheel, but the feel, finish and quality of materials used in making it was nice to the touch. It even has audio and Bluetooth telephony controls, as well as buttons for cruise control which is not something you’d always see especially in this segment.
Finding the right driving position on the all-new Swift has been made easier thanks to a fully-adjustable driver’s seat, as well as a tilt & telescopic steering rack (GLX only). While it wasn’t that difficult to find your preferred driving position in the old Swift, I’m glad to know that Suzuki opted to improve upon it rather than be stagnant about it.
Serving as the centerpiece inside the 2018 Swift is a huge 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system. It has crisp graphics and a nice resolution display which were pleasing to the eyes. Navigating through the menus was a breeze thanks to its ergonomic and tablet-like interface. Speaking of navigating, the system can come with navigation via SD card which is available as a dealer option. Apart from that, the system also comes with the usual suite of features: AM/FM radio, Bluetooth, Aux and USB.
I'm also happy to report that there are now two front cupholders (previous gen only had one) in the all-new Swift thanks to a redesigned center console. Not only that, there are now more cubbyholes inside which can hold your phones, keys, coins and other thingamajigs. Space, on the other hand, is also good inside the 2018 Swift. With my 5’7 frame, I was able to fit myself at the back just fine and still have enough space for two other passengers.
Taller occupants, however, may find themselves hitting the ceiling of the Swift. As for luggage space, it can store 242 liters worth of cargo with the rear seats up. Fold down the 60:40 split rear seats, however, and it goes up to 546 liters. Not bad for a hatchback that measures less than 3.9 meters in length.
Pop the hood and out comes a 1.2-liter four-cylinder engine. Dubbed the 'K12M', it's essentially the carried-over motor from the previous generation. Oddly enough, the updated engine actually produces less horsepower and torque; 82 (-5) PS at 6000 rpm and 113 (-1) Nm of torque at 4200 rpm. On the flipside, there is a new continuously variable transmission (CVT), replacing the old four-speed automatic. A five-speed manual is also available for the base model GL.
With slightly less power than the previous generation, one might think that it's now less fun to drive. I'm happy to report that that is not the case for the all-new Swift. Thanks to a lighter, more rigid chassis, the all-new Swift still delivered zippy handling and admirable power delivery. With a dry weight of 920 kg, the new hatchback is 70 kg lighter than before. This translates to improved acceleration, better fuel economy and tighter handling which I’ll get to in a bit.
The all-new Swift is no hot hatch but it is hatchback light to begin with. That means the small inline-four has substantial pulling power for both city driving and occasional out-of-town trips. Off the line, the engine smoothly motivated the Swift with no fuss. Being smaller than typical four-cylinders, the K12M revs quicker which allows it to reach cruising speeds easily. It was also smooth and remained hush in operation even when it went over 2000 rpm.
As for the new CVT, it was fine as it is. While I do somewhat miss the old slushbox, the CVT was smoother and was not as jerky, from my perspective at least. It also helps keeps the revs low, which is good for economy. If you’re up for some spirited driving, however, the CVT can be set to ‘Sport’ (S) mode. It helps throttle response to be quicker and is a great feature when you need to overtake, or when you’re carving up a mountain pass.
Handling on the Swift is and always will be one of its best features. Turn the wheel and the car just follows through wherever direction you’re going to. The electronic-power assisted steering (EPS) is finely weighted and is light when you’re driving around town or when you’re parking. It only becomes slightly heavier when you’re traveling on the highway at speed.
If the old Swift had a relatively comfortable ride, this new one is a bit on the firm side. Combined with the more rigid chassis, along with stiffer dampers, passengers at the back may find riding on the Swift a bit uncomfortable when going over rough roads. While it is not as stiff as on the Mazda2, I fear this may sway some buyers that liked the previous Swift’s softer ride. The trade-off of that is agile handling, which some may like.
Over to fuel economy, the Swift returned impressive figures in city and highway driving conditions. Starting with the former, the hatchback was able to average between 11.0 - 11.5 km/l. Out on the open road, the 1.2-liter engine sipped fuel at an efficient 21.0 - 22.0 km/l. If you’re worried about heavy traffic, don’t be as the Swift will still have an average fuel consumption of about 8.0 - 8.5 km/l.
Despite being fuel efficient still, the new Swift does have a smaller fuel tank that is rated at 37 liters. If memory serves well, the previous generation had a bigger 42-liter tank which meant it can cover more ground before needing a refill. Sure those extra 5 liters may not sound like much, but when you’re on a long roadtrip in a small hatchback, every extra liter counts.
Retailing at a cool Php 899,000, the 2018 Swift in top-spec form has gone up in price significantly. Back then, the top-of-the-line GLX topped out at just below Php 710,000. Why the steep increase? Apart from the excise tax the government imposed on certain automobiles, the 2018 Swift GLX has a lot more equipment than before.
Apart from the tilt & telescopic steering rack, fully adjustable driver’s seat, cruise control, and steering wheel audio/Bluetooth controls that I mentioned earlier, the GLX now also comes with LED headlights, four-wheel disc brakes, keyless engine start, automatic climate control, six-speaker sound system, rear parking sensors and a reverse camera. Sure these extras may be a bit too much but for those that want big car features, the tiny Swift can now have all that without going for aftermarket upgrades. But for those that prefer something with a bit less, there is the GL CVT which loses some of the key upgrades and is priced at just Php 799,000. Go for the manual GL and it has a sticker price of only Php 755,000.
All in all, I can say that Suzuki has not sacrificed substance for the sake of style. What they have here is a well-equipped, five-door family hatchback that carries all the bells and whistles one might ever need. It just so happens that Suzuki wrapped it in a sleek and cool body that is also relatively roomy and feature-packed. If the price of the GLX does not bother you, it's a fun, thrifty, and well-equipped hatch you'll enjoy.