Suzuki Swift Sport (3rd Generation) – Long Term Owner’s Review

I’m coming up one year now on my time owning a third generation Suzuki Swift Sport (model ZC33S).

It’s a 2021 car in silver – colour name XYZ – with a six speed manual transmission.

I purchased this car brand new from my local Suzuki dealer back in late 2021.

With around 4000km and the best part of 12 months under my belt (yes, I don’t drive a huge amount – where I live is actually better suited to biking for commuting purposes) I figure I’ve got enough insight and knowledge on this car to share my experience and thoughts, and I thought “why not do a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport review?”

If you are looking for a technical review with all sorts of facts and figures and precise measurements of acceleration and braking time etc, then look elsewhere.

This is very much an opinion-type review. I’m going to talk you through why I bought the car in the first place, what I compared it against, what I like about my Suzuki Swift Sport, what I dislike, and some problems/issues I’ve had.

I’ll conclude with the most important question of all … would I buy another one if given the chance?

I’m also thinking of turning this into a video review, so let me know in the comment section if you’d be keen to see that and I’ll get to work.

Other Cars I Considered

It actually took me a long time to settle on my new car purchase (the only car I have ever bought brand new).

I originally started looking last year after lockdowns lifted, and cross-shopped and compared a number of different cars. I wanted something that was new (or built within the last 2-3 years), it needed to be a hot hatch-type car for practicality reasons – and because that is my favourite type of car – and preferably with a manual gearbox … save the manuals and all that.

I wanted a car with decent fuel economy as well, as it was starting to get a bit pricey to drive my VW Touareg. That car was also hammering me with repair bills – you can read more about my experience running a cheap, used, heavily-depreciated VW Touareg here.

Whatever I ultimately settled on buying, I wanted a car that would be able to last me for a number of years to come.

My budget was actually a lot higher than the Swift, and so in the first instance I looked at two higher end manual hot hatches – the Civic Type R and the Hyundai I30N.

Both are, of course (and without any shadow of a doubt) better performance cars than the Swift. The Civic Type R simply cannot be argued with from a performance perspective – although the looks are an acquired taste (FWIW I happen to prefer that last generation of the Civic Type R to the brand new one in the looks department). The I30N is a more rounded choice, a stellar performer, and it sounds absolutely amazing.

Both of these cars I strongly contemplated, but I decided that I wanted to “keep some powder dry” in my budget by purchasing a more modest car and then having some cash leftover to buy an interesting classic if the opportunity arose. I also figured it would be a bit galling to daily drive either of those two cars.

Other vehicles I looked at included a Holden Astra VXR (hilariously fun to drive on the motorway and twisty roads but not particularly pleasant around town) and a Peugeot 308 GTI 270, which I loved but it poses some issues with respect to very high consumable costs and poor parts availability for brakes … I was quoted almost $4000 NZD to do the front disks and pads on one, and Peugeot NZ only ever keeps one set in stock at any time. Here in NZ we have an annual, mandatory motor vehicle safety inspection and if you find your Peugeot 308 GTI needs new brakes it could be off the road until a replacement set is available.

It was actually Ben (my brother and the other editor of Garage Dreams who produces our detailed buyer’s guides) who suggested I go and check out a third generation Swift Sport.

I did a couple of test drives, and was genuinely impressed. The car had as much performance as I’d ever realistically need from a daily driver, while also being a lot more economical in terms of petrol and maintenance than the other options I’d looked at. Contributing to the value proposition of the Swift is the fact that the local dealer (Holland’s Suzuki Cars) offers an interesting ‘Cost Free’ program. Basically, you buy the car through them and for five years all maintenance, repairs, safety certificate checks etc are complimentary. All you have to do is use their workshop services, and then pay for the car itself, insurance, petrol and consumables like tires and wiper blades.

When I factor in what I was spending on fuel and maintenance for the Touareg, I worked out that it would actually save me money each week by picking up a cheap finance offer on the Suzuki.

The rest, as they say, is history.

However, you’ve probably not come to this Suzuki Swift Sport review for my ‘backstory’ on how I came to buy the car.

Instead, let’s look at my longer-term findings around what I like and dislike about this vehicle.

What I Like About The Suzuki Swift Sport

It’s Very Easy To Drive & Use

The best thing about this car is just how easy it is to drive and live with.

I hadn’t owned a manual transmission car in some time (I specifically went for the manual as I figure it’s a dying transmission option, and one day it will be fun to show my kids the novelty of changing gear yourself in a car powered by ground up dinosaurs) and I was a bit hesitant about whether it would be easy to live with on a daily basis.

No need to worry … the Swift is a total breeze to drive in everyday conditions. It’s easy to get into, easy to see out of, has an amenable and forgiving nature when driven normally, and is also forgiving when you press on. It’s just so nimble around town for darting between lanes, passing on dual carriageways etc.

Seating arrangements are actually fairly generous, even in the back. Although it’s just a flat rear bench, I’ve never once had any complaints from any occupant, even taller friends.

Would I want to drive from Cape Reinga to Bluff in it? (that’s the Kiwi version of Land’s End to John O Groats) Admittedly, there are cars I’d prefer to do that in. However, the interior space really is decent and it just makes for easy everyday driving and living in most scenarios.

I don’t actually do a huge amount of mileage, and I try to avoid driving during rush hour times as I hate wasting my time in traffic. However, on the odd occasion I do get stuck in stop-start traffic, this has to be the easiest manual I’ve ever driven. I have only stalled the car once – the first week I owned it – trying to do a three point turn on a steep hill … I had forgotten that to engage reverse in a six speed you have to lift up the lockout ring.

I simply cannot stress enough how easy and amenable this car is to live with on a daily basis. And because of its compact size it’s easy to fit into parking spaces and your garage.

It’s Frugal On Petrol

The Swift Sport is genuinely frugal.

I am averaging $15-$20 per week in petrol, and that’s higher than it would need to be considering I splash out for 100 RON “super premium” petrol (95 is the minimum and would save me a couple of bucks a week).

On average I only fill the car once every six weeks. During the height of the recent fuel price crisis when even 91 petrol surpassed $3 NZD per litre, it never cost me more than $100 to fill the car from empty. I could probably get even better economy than what I’m currently achieving (I’m a bit heavier on the throttle than I need to be) but the balance of enjoying the car and trying to maximise the fuel economy is fine for me.

I believe in some markets you can even get a hybrid version (that gains economy but sacrifices some performance) but the petrol is good enough by my standards.

If you don’t care about having the extra Sport performance, then the base model Swift with a 1.0 turbo is going to be even more economical and still boasts a decent specification.

I know we are supposed to only consider buying electric cars or PHEVs these days, but when I crunched the numbers on what it would cost to buy and fill the Swift versus buying and charging an EV with an equivalent range – I don’t consider a used Nissan Leaf with 100km of range to be an acceptable substitute as I do like to head out of town as well – I simply couldn’t make the numbers work on the EV in any kind of reasonable timeframe. I’m sure my next new car will be an EV, but I purchased at an awkward time. However, even when petrol reached its absolute highest price here I still didn’t wince at filling and driving the Swift.

Affordable To Buy – Both New And Used

The Swift Sport is relatively affordable to buy, at least by new car standards (although there’s a caveat which I’ll get to in the downsides section).

It was less to purchase than a used Peugeot 308 GTI – and that was before I looked at adding on an aftermarket warranty and getting the expensive brakes serviced as a pre-emptive measure.

Dave Ramsey would have a heart attack here, as I’m normally a “pay cash for cars” guy but the finance offer was so compelling that I decided the extra couple of grand over the term (versus cash buying) was worth it.

The finance payment + fuel cost of the Swift is less per week than I was spending on average on the Touareg for fuel and repairs/maintenance

Decent Tech For The Money

Despite being a basic, cheap new car I’ve got radar cruise control, lane departure warning, in-built Satnav etc.

Nothing amazingly impressive, but I do feel the car is quite well specified for the money.

The interior itself is a bit drab … lots of hard plastic (I say that somewhat jokingly –  new car reviewers seem to obsess over plastic being too hard, it really doesn’t bother me) but at least you’ve got plenty of tech for the money.

Solid Safety Rating

I know that safety is a boring topic when it comes to buying cars, but at the end of the day it is important to me in a daily driver that I take my family out in on a regular basis. Sure, for a weekend warrior I’d be fine having something with limited safety features, but I was insistent that my new “daily driver” had to have a five star safety rating, which the Swift Sport achieves.

Obviously fun is a subjective measure, but from where I’m sat the Swift Sport delivers a lot of “smiles per gallon”.

It is a hoot to drive, both around town and then also on twistier and more challenging roads. You can really feel how light the car is – and although it doesn’t have the most sophisticated suspension and no trick differential etc, there is a distinctly nimble feeling compared to some of the more potent hot hatches I test drove like the Astra VXR (which had more impressive equipment but you could definitely feel the extra weight).

Unless the conditions are truly awful and I’m just commuting for the sake of commuting, I look forward to every drive in the Swift, particularly if I’m tackling any winding roads.

What I Dislike

The Stereo Isn’t Great

The factory stereo is not good at all, and that is being charitable. The audio quality is poor (regardless of playback source). It’s fine for listening to podcasts, but if you enjoy your music when driving as anything other than ‘background noise’ you will be disappointed. The media/infotainment unit on my 2021 car is also very sluggish to respond with a mediocre resolution and limited features. The bundled reverse camera is also not great, with a very grainy picture quality – the aftermarket reverse camera on my VW Touareg is much better, for example. Call making/taking works fine enough, and “SMS to voice” playback is also quite decent. I haven’t used the navigation system yet as I have had no need to so far (and typically prefer navigation instructions via audio from my phone) I understand that MY22 models have an improved stereo/infotainment system that features proper Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which looks like a solid upgrade.

At the time of buying the Swift, this didn’t bother me much. However, since the arrival of a new family member (and needing to cart around the pram and other items that come with a baby) I have found the boot/trunk space lacking somewhat. In fact, I cannot fit the baby’s pram in the boot with the security screen up, so instead I often put it on the rear seat. It’s adequate for doing the shopping, but you’d certainly struggle with large suitcases etc.

Lack Of Character/Charm In The Engine Department

Although the turbo “BoosterJet” engine is better in every objective way than what was fitted to the past generations of Swift Sport, the engine doesn’t have much character to it. There’s something fun about ringing out a high-revving NA engine, whereas although the BoosterJet is extremely easy to live with (especially when combined with the low weight of the car) I wouldn’t say it has much character, beyond a bit of old school turbo lag. Hardly the biggest tragedy, but something worth mentioning.

Premature Seat Bolster Wear

This is a relatively minor issue, but worth noting anyway. The bucket seats have relatively high bolsters on the side, but are also not particularly wide. I’m not a big guy by any stretch of the imagination, and already I’m placing undue arse-wear on the right hand side bolster. It might be the way I sit in the car isn’t quite right, but it’s annoying to see this prominent crease already appearing in the seat side.

It Sounds Like Nothing (In A Bad Way)

For some this might be a selling point, but for me it is probably the most disappointing part of the car. It looks the part, it drives the part, but it sounds like, well, a sewing machine. Floor it and you might get a bit of turbo whoosh and then a generic four cylinder thrashy sound, with next no nothing coming out of the exhaust. Compared to even a more modest sounding car like a Golf GTI, it’s a bit lame how the Swift Sounds. Line it up against a Hyundai I30N or Fiat 595 Competizione and you’ll be seriously disappointed. That being said, if you dislike loud cars, then this might actually be a good thing from your perspective. Unless you have optioned your Swift Sport with those factory decals (or possibly gone for the “bold” yellow colour) the car simply doesn’t stick out that much, which is a plus most of the time when you’re just commuting, running errands etc.

Gearing Could Be Adjusted For Motorway Cruising

I wish that sixth gear was set up for lower motorway RPMs, if only to minimise noise. The car doesn’t have amazing sound dampening, and so it is quite noisy at motorway speeds. I’d sacrifice acceleration for superior cruising fuel economy as well.

The Gear Shift Action/Feel Isn’t The Best

The gear shift action isn’t terrible, but it also isn’t up to the standards of Honda, Hyundai etc. The throw is fairly long, and I do find that when the car is cold you can sometimes miss or not find a gear, with first to second being the main culprit.

It reminds me a bit of the gear change on my old Alfa Romeo 156. More than manageable on a daily basis, but sometimes you yearn for something a bit better.

Door Locking Quirks

Maybe I just haven’t worked this out (would probably help if I read the instruction manual) but there’s an annoying idiosyncrasy with the “touch” lock on the front and boot doors. If I go to unlock the driver’s side door by having the proximity key in my pocket, this will only unlock that door (same for the boot and passenger side). What this means is that if I’m with someone else and I want to let them into the car, I need to actually use the button on the key fob.

Sometimes You Wish For Better

This is an esoteric, subjective measure. However, I’ll do my best to explain. 90% of the time the Swift Sport is a superb car. In fact, I’d argue that ‘pound for pound’ it is a better car than the more expensive players.

But sometimes you catch a glimpse of someone driving a Civic Type R, or an I30N, or a nice Golf GTI and you think “I wish that were me”.

Although in the real world – with speed limits, traffic etc – these superior cars don’t hold much of an advantage over the Swift Sport, there can be that gnawing feeling that from time to time you wish you had one of those cars instead.

Of course when it comes to maintaining and servicing, I’m suddenly glad again that I bought a Swift Sport! Value for money must also be considered … I’ve got enough cash leftover in my budget to go and buy something silly that can scratch the itch for more power (although I must confess that if garage space allowed, I’d actually now splash the spare on a Suzuki Jimny Safari for weekend adventures with the dog).

Issues/Problems With My Suzuki Swift Sport

After the best part of a year’s driving, have I encountered any issues of note with the Swift Sport?

Why yes, in fact, I have.

I’ve encountered two specific problems:

Device Does Not Contain Media Files Error

The first (which I’ve resolved to my satisfaction) is that streaming audio from an iPhone to the Suzuki infotainment system isn’t as easy as it should be. Pairing the phone works fine, but I would repeatedly get an error saying ‘device does not contain media files’ when trying to play songs or Podcasts via Spotify.

I didn’t have this issue on my Android phone, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a future software update from Suzuki fixes it. However, it was mega frustrating to spend almost an hour when I got my new iPhone working out how to pair it with my car so I could get my Spotify fix.

You can read more here about the ‘device does not contain media files’ error and how I was able to fix it. The steps in this article should work on your Suzuki as well.

Buzzing Noise From Engine Bay

The second – and more troubling problem – is a distinct buzzing noise that developed after about six months of ownership. Basically at lower RPMs, when accelerating, there is a clear buzzing noise – a sort of high-frequency metallic vibration. After the engine properly heats up the noise largely disappears.

The noise wasn’t there on the demonstrator I drove, and wasn’t there when I collected the car. Had it been present on the demonstrator, I never would have bought one as it really does irritate me quite a bit.

The car has been back to Suzuki twice, and both times they’ve come back saying that either a) they couldn’t hear the noise or b) the noise is to be expected.

I’m well aware that direct injection engines have an inherent noisiness, but this isn’t a typical DI sound. I believe that the issue relates to the heat shield at the front of the engine, as manipulating the heat shield seems to have drastically reduced the noise (to the point where I’d really have to be listening to it to hear it). I guess the frustration here is more that Suzuki didn’t seem to take the issue particularly seriously. I shouldn’t complain too much as, all things considered, the Suzuki dealer have provided excellent service and attended quickly to checking the vehicle – but there’s a little part of me that wonders if there is a fix to the problem but it would simply be very complex and time consuming for them to fix.

Apart from these two problems, it’s been trouble-free motoring from day one. Compare this to my used Touareg, which threw a check engine light literally on the way home from the dealership.

Would I Buy Another Suzuki Swift Sport?

In my view, the ultimate measure/review of any product or service is whether or not – knowing what you know now – you’d buy it again?

So, to conclude this Suzuki Swift Sport review, would I buy one again?

Yes, I would.

I think that the overall package is unrivalled when looking with a “value lens” on .

However – I would want the annoying buzzing noise resolved (in the sense that it wasn’t there on the demonstrator I tried and it wasn’t there on my car when it first picked it up).

I’ve definitely improved it somewhat by playing around with the front heat shield, but I am a bit disappointed that the dealer palmed me off on a couple of separate occasions. If you’re reading this article and happen to have a definitive answer on the cause of and solution to this issue, then please let me know.

I would also look out for the 2022 model that has a better infotainment unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto [CHECK] as the infotainment unit in my 2021 is honestly not great. I’m not the biggest infotainment/in-car media enthusiast, and it’s bad enough to bother me after a year of ownership.

If I was buying a second hand one without a warranty, or a near-expired warranty, or I simply didn’t care about keeping the warranty, then I’d be straight down the exhaust shop to get a nicer-sounding exhaust and intake fitted as well.

This might all sound a bit too negative, but don’t let it put you off if you’re considering a ZC33S/3rd generation Swift Sport.

These are genuinely great little cars. Sure, there are faster hot hatches, or more practical hot hatches (such as the Golf GTI) but I can’t think of much else you can get for the same money that offers such a well-rounded package.

If you need to transport much of anything, then you’ll want a Golf or some other hatch with a bigger boot – but as a second car (which this effectively is as we use my wife’s Subaru Legacy primarily) the Swift is hard to beat.

When I was shopping for the Swift, the only other interesting warm/hot hatch I could get new for comparable money was the Fiat 500 Abarth (not the Competizione – which I love – but the basic model). The Swift Sport is better, and more practical than the base spec Abarth, and the Competitizione would have could several thousand dollars more and once again fail in the practicality sense (I specifically wanted a four door car only).

To go up to a Polo GTI or Ford Fiesta ST (which is no longer available in New Zealand) would require an additional spend of ~$10,000 and I would have had to wait a lot longer for delivery.

One other point to consider – the pricing on the Swift Sport isn’t as sharp as it was. Since I purchased, the price has crept up the best part of 10% in NZ dollar terms.

Inflation is affecting us all, and new car prices seem to march relentlessly upwards (whether or not that trajectory can always be maintained is another matter).

This point may be moot depending on where you are buying your Swift Sport – but here in NZ it’s hard to get a deal on one. When I bought my Swift Sport there was simply no wiggle room (and I’m not a bad negotiator). Dealers tend to take a “price is the price” approach. On the other hand, some European dealers like Volkswagen and Fiat will often be more willing to negotiate. If you can negotiate a sharp price on one of these better hot hatches, then spending the premium may well be worth it.

All things being considered, I’m glad I bought my Swift Sport. To me, that is the ultimate measure of a review; do you regret your purchase or are you happy to have made it?

I’ve got a safe, economical, reliable and practical car that is great fun to drive but also easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.

What more can you want when you consider the price? I live in a country where the closest bit of decent windy road has just had its speed limit dropped to 80 km/h from 100 km/h, so I don’t need all that raw power … with the Swift it’s relative lack of power compared to the “big boys” works in its favour, as you can press on more aggressively and enjoy the lightweight, nimble chassis and tight handling.

Big ups to Suzuki for continuing to make such a car, and I’m looking forward to see what the fourth generation Swift Sport looks like.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my third generation Suzuki Swift Sport review. If you’re considering buying one of these cars, please do feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

Leave a Comment