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There is a newer version of this car Read the latest Suzuki Swift Hatchback review here

Suzuki Swift Hatchback engines, drive and performance

2017 - 2023 (change model)
Performance rating: 3 out of 53.0

Written by Luke Wilkinson Published: 3 April 2024 Updated: 3 April 2024

  • One engine for the regular Swift
  • One engine for the Swift Sport
  • Both are mild hybrids, both love revs

Petrol engines

The common-or-garden Suzuki Swift is fitted with a 1.2-litre four-cylinder mild hybrid petrol engine. It produces 83hp and 107Nm of torque, which Suzuki says is enough for a (rather pedestrian) 0–62mph time of 13.1 seconds and a top speed of 112mph.

The engine is yoked to a five-speed manual gearbox as standard, which sends drive to the front wheels. It’s a slick transmission with a positive shift action – and its very entertaining to stir through the ‘box yourself to keep the engine on the boil.

Suzuki Swift (2023) review: front three quarter cornering, red paint, rural background
Stick with the manual Swift. The CVT isn’t as much fun.

There’s just about enough go for driving in and around the city, but venture out onto motorways or hilly A-roads and the 83hp engine really begins to struggle. And because there’s such a dearth of meaningful oomph, the engine and gearbox have to be worked exceptionally hard which brings fuel economy down significantly.

You can also have the 1.2-litre engine with a CVT automatic as an optional extra, which cuts the Swift’s 0–62mph time down to 12.2 seconds. However, just because you can doesn’t mean you should. We think the CVT sullies the experience. Changing gears manually is joyful in the standard Swift – and each time you accelerate in a CVT-equipped Swift, the engine will scream like it’s wounded. We’re not fans.

If you want to inject some more excitement in your commute, opt for the Swift Sport. Its 1.4-litre four-cylinder mild hybrid engine produces 129hp and 235Nm of torque, which doesn’t sound like much. However, that’s before you consider the car’s nimble 1,025kg kerb weight. The combined effect gives the Sport just enough performance to cling onto the Ford Fiesta ST‘s coat tails in the bends.

Suzuki Swift (2023) review: rear three quarter cornering, red paint, rural background
The Swift Sport is faster than the standard hatch, but it isn’t intimidating.

In fact, we love the Swift Sport’s 1.4-litre engine so much, we gave the car a place on our round ups of the best small hot hatchbacks and the best mild hybrid cars. It really is that much fun to thrash around in. You can also learn more about the car by reading our dedicated Suzuki Swift Sport review.

The only drawback of the Swift Sport’s mild hybrid powertrain is its regenerative braking. It has a corrupting effect on the way the car drives, because lifting your right foot is now followed by a stronger than usual sensation of engine braking as the hybrid system gathers power – and the Swift Sport has always been a car that encouraged you to maintain speed. This feature feels like it’s pulling you backwards.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Enthusiasts’ choice
  • Accurate steering and tidy cornering on offer
  • Despite sportiness, it’s not uncomfortable on poor roads

Overall, the Swift delivers Suzuki’s promise of a ‘sporty drive.’ It’s a very fun car to thrash down a twisty road – and, where handling is concerned, it can give some of the best small cars on sale a good run for their money. It’s not quite as good as the Ford Fiesta, but it’s certainly not far off. All it lacks is a little polish.

Grip levels are good and, because the Swift is so light, there isn’t much weight to drag the car away from the corner. That also makes it agile and able to deal with quick changes in direction well. It’s steering system is also noteworthy for its quick action and lightness – although like nearly all the competitive set, you trade-off road feel for these benefits.

Despite being biased for handling, the ride quality is more than acceptable, with only the deepest potholes and road ruts causing problems on a spirited drive. It’s better than the Vauxhall Corsa and SEAT Ibiza in this respect, with only the super-comfortable Citroen C3 showing the Swift a clean pair of heels.

Suzuki Swift (2023) review: front three quarter driving, red paint, rural background
The Swift strikes a keen balance between comfort and handling.

Predictably, the Swift Sport takes the standard car’s already impressive handling and improves it. Boasting bags of grip and powerful brakes, it’s surprisingly rapid down a twisty country road. Of particular note is the damping. It’s not too firm nor too soft, and deals with surface imperfections well for such a small, light car.

That’s a bit unusual these days as hot versions of normal hatchbacks often come equipped with a bone-shaking ride and steering that requires baker’s forearms to operate around town. In one respect that makes the Swift Sport feel more conventional than sporty, but it still has all the tools it needs to entertain you on the right road. Our biggest gripe is the steering. Like the standard Swift, it offers limited communication through the wheel.

Suzuki Swift (2023) review: rear three quarter driving, red paint, rural background
Grip levels are good and the damping is excellent. The Swift is great on a B-road.

The Swift’s lightness is particularly noticeable in the Sport. It corners very well, because you don’t need to pause your inputs while you wait for loads of heavy metal to settle into the corner. The car just goes where you point it with nothing more than a chirp from the tyres. It’s a true weapon on a twisty B-road, particularly if the surface is broken. In situations like these, we were surprised by how well it can keep pace with more powerful hot hatchbacks that struggle to get their horses onto the tarmac.

While the hybrid engine has moved away slightly from the simplicity the Swift Sport has always embodied, the way it corners remains an organic and natural experience, rather than the combination of various electronic aids and a mechanical differential working to hold your line around a corner. That’s a rare thing these days and the main reason why the Swift Sport remains one of our favourite cars on sale.