The Suzuki Swift is a small car with an unfeasibly big attitude, says Ian Angus.
Suzuki has built a brand on building small cars and 4x4s that provide great value for money; after the Jimny, the Swift is its most recognisable model, and that has now been given a mid-life update and is now known as the Swift Attitude. Taking lessons on styling from the excellent Swift Sport model, it looks like it took some thoroughly good notes and passed the exam with flying colours.
The supermini market is pretty crowded with the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and VW Polo sitting as the kings of the hill, and while the Swift was never going to be a challenge to the big boys in terms of volume of units sold, it does have a couple of advantages over its better-known competitors. First, the Attitude comfortably squares up when it comes to looks, so owning one keeps you off the bandwagon; and second, there’s the aforementioned value the Swift represents, with PCP being around £170 per month with no deposit.
The external styling is where the Swift Attitude shines; this is a very appealing small car. A honeycomb front grille, front fog lights, carbon fibre-effect skirting all round, 16″ alloys and the rear spoiler work perfectly alongside its small but chunky good looks – and its stance is so low that you’d be forgiven for thinking it was the Sport variant. Indeed, the only giveaway is that the Attitude doesn’t have dual exhausts (or indeed any exhaust) on show.
Inside the cabin you’ll find the odd splash of white to brighten things up and subtle red rings around the dials to give a touch of sporty flair. The flat-bottomed leather steering wheel has plenty of room for adjustment and the seats have an isometric pattern on the centre with a canvas edge that slightly buckets up and hugs you; these again had plenty of adjustability.
As a pretty standard-sized six-foot chap it was comfortable for me, but could be less so for those with more generous proportions. I also felt that the rear-view mirror was a bit on the large side, and for taller people it cuts into the forward view a bit. Not a deal-breaker by any means, but it is worth watching out for. I also noted that the base model doesn’t have a central armrest as standard, but is something you’ll have to fork out a ‘whopping’ £319 for; I would have to opt for that as I firmly believe that a central armrest is hard to live without once you’re used to having one (they usually have a decent amount of storage too, if you don’t travel light).
More on storage: the glove box is a good size for such a small car and the door bins perfectly usable. With the front seat in my normal driving position I could sit comfortably behind it in the back seat, which was a pleasant surprise for a car of this size, and the rear doors open wide too. Two adults in the back would be more than fine, but three would be significantly less comfortable; the boot is also fine for a small car at 265lt and will take a couple of suitcases without a problem, but not a lot more. If we’re being honest, storage isn’t usually what people look for in a small car – if you’re after bags of storage then you’d obviously be better off going for a family size hatchback.
However, what does tend to appeal to anyone looking for a small car like the Swift Attitude are things like economy. The 1.2-litre petrol engine on offer claims to return 55.4 mpg, which isn’t bad at all. And of course, parking it in the smallest of spaces is a doddle.
The Attitude is a pleasure to drive on twisty B-roads, thanks to the low, wide stance and relatively firm suspension; the steering is well-weighted and responsive, with the gearbox transitioning smoothly throughout all five gears. You can push it quite hard and feel like you’re really letting loose – without actually breaking any national speed limits – and I found that to be a lot of fun. It’s not up there with the Swift Sport in terms of performance (which itself would be a worthy choice if you’re after a little hot hatch) but that is more than understandable given the price difference.
It feels like Suzuki has aimed the Attitude more towards a first car for a 17/18 year old – and they would have a blast in it. The only downside for me was that there was a fair bit of road noise due to the lovely chunky styling, but then again I didn’t have the radio on, so I would imagine that problem is easily solved by turning up the volume a notch.
There isn’t too much of tech on show. As standard the Attitude comes with a DAB digital radio/CD player that does boast Bluetooth connection but you’ll need to upgrade to get the infotainment system to get full smartphone connection including AppleCarPlay and Android Auto, which is rather nice considering that the system itself is behind some of its rivals.
You also get LED daytime running lights as well as automatic headlights. The front windows are electric but the rear windows are opened by handles you have to turn, but really, if you’re already suffering the ignominy of having to sit in the back, having to turn a handle to open the window is the least of your worries – and at least the back to basics tech contributes to the low entry price.
Overall I would certainly consider the Swift Attitude as a run around, or if I wanted to feel like a teenager again. It does offer good value for money – the basic model is pretty adequate with no need for loads of add-ons, all you really need, in my opinion is the centre armrest and maybe the infotainment system and parking sensors.
Ian Angus @goose_burger