Suzuki’s ever-popular five-door Swift has gradually grown over time to become all the car many city dwellers truly need. It majors on great in-town visibility and manoeuvrability and has surrendered none of its cuteness as it has matured, becoming more practical without losing its sense of fun. But is it still zesty enough in hybrid form to live up to its Swift name?
First though, what’s this clean-living hybridness all about? In essence, the Smart Hybrid system combines the 1.2-litre petrol engine, an electric motor and an extra lithium-ion battery that is charged when the car decelerates and brakes. Energy from the electric motor silently and smoothly restarts the engine, for example. And while cruising, the battery helps power the air-con and other electrical systems. The result is fuel savings in most driving situations, and it all adds up.
The Hybrid is engaging to drive without pretending to be a pocket rocket, like the popular Swift Sport. There’s useful engine power to start with, but more grunt is instantly accessible from the electric side of the equation for solid acceleration.
The CVT auto has an elastic quality in the way it works without the pronounced steps of a traditional automatic. Once in a while you’ll notice a bit of shuffling behind the curtains as it transitions between electric drive and petrol combustion, adapting to your accelerator inputs and driving style.
Compared with earlier Swifts, a broader footprint means the latest model feels more planted on the road, and ample headroom and passenger space elevate the cabin above economy class. Just think twice, perhaps, about squeezing three burly blokes in the back.
The dashboard is sensibly arranged with a nicely integrated seven-inch touchscreen and rear view camera.
A roster of new tech means the Limited version is as well-equipped as many cars in the category above and the suite of safety features is very reassuring. Prod me to pick the four most useful and I’d go for rear park sensors and camera, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot monitoring, and adaptive cruise control.
Tech-minded peddlers will appreciate the multi-functional display. It colourfully conveys a range of info from running performance and battery status to fuel economy and digital driving speed.
The hybrid hardware does reduce load space slightly but it matters little if you occasionally carry passengers in the back seats. They fold flat to open up a generous 579 litres.
Overall the Swift Hybrid has the efficiency and feel-good factor to leave potential hybrid buyers open to persuasion.
IN A NUTSHELL Suzuki Swift Hybrid LTD
1.2-litre 4-cylinder petrol plus electric motor, CVT auto, 16-inch alloys, length 3.85m, weight 946kg, 4.1L/100km, $28,500.