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40 years flies by with the Suzuki Swift

 Published 5th March 2024
General Guides  New Launches 

Despite the economic uncertainty driving the sense of gloom currently permeating the UK, 2023 was actually a very good year for Suzuki GB. It sold 57% more cars than the previous year, recorded its biggest annual volume since Covid sent the world into lockdown, and was also rated as the most reliable car brand by its customers. And if that’s not enough reason to throw a bit of a party, there’s also the small matter of the Suzuki Swift celebrating its 40th birthday.

With the introduction of the all-new Swift Hybrid this Spring, Suzuki has taken the opportunity to reflect on 40 years of development of its highly popular, and possibly most important global model.

The Suzuki Swift originally began its life as the Cultus/SA310 before the name changed to the Swift in 1985 when the first-generation went on sale in the UK. First launched at the 25th Tokyo Motor Show in 1983, and going head-to-head with the Toyota Starlet and Nissan Micra, the Swift was Suzuki’s first model to outgrow the Japanese ‘Kei’ class of tiny little city cars.

The rest, as they say, is history.


Very early models utilised a 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine with leaf springs for the rear suspension. Later production Swifts were powered by a 1.3-litre four-cylinder engine and featured a dashboard with a mix of analogue and digital instruments including a gear selection indicator for the optional three-speed automatic transmission.

In the UK, the Swift was offered in both three-door and five-door hatchback forms as well as a 1.3GTi three-door model.


Introduced in the UK in 1989, the second-generation was the longest running Swift variant with production spanning over 13 years. A styling change meant this one had similar dimensions to the original but made much better use of the boot space and interior.

It featured four-wheel independent suspension and was available as both three and five door variants with either 1.0-litre three-cylinder or 1.3-litre four-cylinder engines. A 1.3-litre GTi three door model was also available with almost 100bhp and four-wheel disc brakes, making it one of the first hot hatchbacks of the era with its kerb weight of less than 800kg.


Contemporary styling, Japanese quality, and European-inspired driving dynamics arrived in 2005 with the third-generation Suzuki Swift. The result was an innovative, sporty, and elegant design with genuine appeal that strengthened Suzuki’s position as a leading compact car manufacturer as well as one of the world’s foremost motorcycle brands.

This generation was initially available with either 1.3-litre or 1.5-litre four-cylinder engines until the 1.6-litre Swift Sport model joined the lineup in May 2006. The Sport model had a power output of 125bhp with Monroe Sports damping fitted as standard for even better road handling.


Introduced in the UK in September 2010, the fourth-generation Suzuki Swift was one of the cleanest petrol engine superminis on the market. The new Swift 1.2-litre was even more economical than before with fuel consumption and emissions vastly improved over the outgoing model. Higher strength steel also made the new bodyshell lighter and stiffer, and increased track and larger diameter wheels with lower profile tyres allowed for even better handling than its predecessor.

The interior design also had a more dynamic feel than before, as well as offering more space thanks to an increase in both wheelbase and height. The 1.6-litre Sport model with six speed manual transmission was introduced to great acclaim early in 2012, available initially as a three door with the five-door model added during 2013. DAB radio and Satellite Navigation were also added to the specification in 2014.


Which brings us up to date with the fifth-generation Swift first unveiled at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show. Launched in the UK with 2WD and Allgrip optional 4WD, it was then facelifted for 2021 with a new 1.2-litre enhanced Hybrid engine and higher standard specification as well as further safety upgrades. Available as a five-door derivative only, the Swift features excellent visibility, a spacious cabin and ample luggage space.

The 1.4-litre Sport model with six speed manual transmission was introduced in May 2018 and a 48V Hybrid application for even greater economy and lower emissions was added in 2020.

Suzuki Swift

The Future…

The evolution and development over 40 years of the Swift has provided Suzuki’s engineers a wealth of experience and knowledge as to what its customers really want from a hybrid small car. Suzuki will put all of that experience to good use when it introduces the all-new sixth-generation Swift Hybrid model.

New Swift will be powered by a 1.2-litre three-cylinder engine with enhanced fuel economy and even lower CO2 emissions. The all-new model will also include all the technology you need as standard as well as optional CVT transmission.

The all-new Suzuki Swift will be available to lease this Spring 2024 with further details regarding technical specification and standard equipment due to be revealed closer to the launch.

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