Suzuki Swift Diesel 2012 Review

Suzuki Swift Diesel 2012 Review

Suzuki’s best-selling small car, the Swift, has received a 1248cc diesel heart which shuns fuel like beauty queens shun calories. As such, the Swift can claim 4.2l/100km fuel economy which puts it near the top of the pile.

If you’re familiar with the Swift you’ll know it is New Zealand’s best-selling small car, and for good reason. Its compact, attractive design, around-town practicality, go-kart-like handling and low price has won admirers from all ages, genders and socio-economic backgrounds.

Petrol engines are never stupendously economical, though. Now we’re all aware of fuel economy it has become a driving factor in which car to buy. In the petrol vs diesel argument, diesel

often looks better (unless you’re comparing with a hybrid petrol). Part of that is because diesels are generally more fuel efficient and the figures never factor in RUC (road user charges).

The Swift Diesel, though, packs a large price premium of $5490 over the base model 1.4-litre petrol. For this you would expect that the diesel model has a lot of extra kit, but it doesn’t (with the exception of heated external mirrors and an extra storage area in the dash). You’re getting a similar car as the petrol LTD version ($23,500), but with a diesel heart and missing a few things like electric rear windows and front fog lamps.

It doesn’t scrimp on safety features, though. Economy and safety are both huge determinants of sales success so the Swift comes with seven air bags (including a driver’s knee air bag), a head impact protection pad, ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist and electronic stability programme.

As for the rest of the car, it drives excellently, like any other Swift. You have to keep it in the right rev range to get the performance out of the gearbox. It pulls very strongly in first and second and the positive, notchy gear change makes it a pleasure swapping cogs. The engine produces only 55kW, but will give you up to 190Nm of torque, good from about 1700-2500rpm.

Handling is very neutral. You can feel when the front tyres are about to lose grip. But you’re unlikely to drive this Swift in the spirited way you might drive the Swift Sport because the concept is for better fuel economy. The quoted fuel economy figure is 4.2l/100km, and that was consistently achievable – I found myself sitting around 4.2-4.5l/100km. With the 42-litre tank you’ll do the best part of a 1000km between petrol station visits.

In the boot they’ve dispensed with the dual floor. The cynic in me thinks this is a weight- and cost-saving exercise, but it actually does make the boot more practical. The boot is 211l with the seats up. If you need to maximize the boot space you can leave the luggage shelf flipped up.

Rear seat passengers will find legroom a little cramped, but that’s to be expected in a car that’s only 3.85m long. The rest of the interior is very basic with a simple heater/air con unit, six-speaker stereo which supports MP3 players using a USB input and the bare minimum of features.

On the outside you won’t notice much different from the previous and current generation of Swifts. The short body’s lines angle forward, with strong complementary lines from the rear lights and the sculpted bonnet. The design is very clean and uncluttered with no unnecessary vents or details to spoil the smooth exterior. Black A pillars add an classy touch when the paint is a different colour.

While this diesel might have some serious bragging rights for fuel economy in the whole New Zealand vehicle range, there are better cars: all the other Swift models. The diesel engine pulls very strongly within a narrow rev range, but if you’re not in it you’ll be stuck with very little torque and not much acceleration.

Don’t get me wrong, the Swift Diesel is not a bad car and if you want a small car that is diesel, this has got to be on your shopping list. However, the rest of the Swift range is so good, the diesel option and its accompanying hefty price premium might not stack up. If you compare the Swift Ltd (petrol), its fuel economy is 5.5l/100km in manual (6.2 in auto), and you get a little extra power, too (70kW). Perhaps it’s worth calculating your potential savings based on how many kilometers you drive per year, trying both and figuring out which one works best for you.

If you’re looking for a second hand Suzuki Swift to buy, check out this page (opens in a new window)

To find out more about the Suzuki range of new cars, visit Suzuki’s website (opens in a new window)

Price: $25,990


  • Very economical if you’re prepared to drive it in the right way
  • It’s a Swift, and there are good reasons why the range is the top-selling small car
  • Acceleration good in 1st and 2nd gear


  • Noisy at idle
  • You need to work those revs to avoid getting bogged down
  • Manual-only option will limit the number of buyers

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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