Suzuki's supermini the Swift was the epitome of cheap and cheerful motoring. The UK was introduced to the Swift in 1988 in the form of a hot hatch, the three-door 1.3 litre GTi Swift, which soon gained a more sensible compatriot, the five-door GLX early the following year. A year later another Swift appeared on the scene, this time a four-wheel drive 1.6 GLX in saloon form, followed by further variants in 1992.
1995 saw an attempt to bring some coherence to a rather mish-mash line-up, with some cosmetic improvements and a re-organised engine range, starting with an entry-level 1.0i GC, followed by a 1.0i GLS and a 1.3i GSE, all in three-door format, plus a five-door 1.3 GX. The following year the GTi was dumped in favour of a rather more staid 1.3i GLS, until in 1996 another revamp saw the used Suzuki Swift receive a new front end and rear light pods and more trim level rejigging. The range now started with a three-door 1.0i GLS, then a 1.0i GL and five-door, automatic GLX, moving on to 1.3 litre three-door GLS and five-door GLX options.
In 2000 the approved used Suzuki Swift line-up was downsized to just two models, a three-door 1.0-litre GLS and a five-door 1.0-litre GL, before being phased out altogether in 2003. So far, so disorganised, so modest-selling. However, Suzuki weren't yet quite finished with the Swift.
After an intense six month research programme to study where they had gone wrong in this previous European venture, the Suzuki Swift exploded back onto an unsuspecting market in 2005, in a much hotter form. This Swift, unlike the first generation, reaped the benefits of some serious development, design and marketing efforts and, after a slow start coming out of the shadows of its predecessor, was fully rewarded by press and public acclaim and sales well above projections.
This time the Swift line-up opened with a 1.3 litre petrol, stepping up to a 1.5 litre, plus a 1.3 litre DDiS diesel variant, but really coming alive with the gratuitously jaunty 125bhp Suzuki Swift Sport from 2006. It was a long while coming but finally Suzuki had a supermini the competition had to take seriously.
Bang for your buck
The original used Suzuki Swift was the equivalent of the Tesco value range. It did what it needed to do in a no-frills manner and the packaging was dull. Higher trim level models did get the benefit of power steering, electric front windows, central locking, electric wing mirrors, a remote opening rear tailgate, body coloured bumpers and a lockable glove compartment but there was really nothing to make the heart sing.
2005's Swift for sale however is a much more attractive prospect both outside and in. A reassuring 'wheel at four corners' pose and conservative but shapely curves lead in to a cabin displaying a similar design language. The fascia features some neat touches in the form of a light-up ring around the speedometer and a sporty, three-prong steering wheel. The switchgear is all very ergonomic and satisfying to use.
What you'll pay
Early used Suzuki Swift cars for sale are cheap as chips – G-reg models can be found for less than the price of a good pair of shoes, although you won't be getting much for your money. If you can spare £500, you'll find a 1993 1.3 litre or 1995 1.0 litre Swift that's excellent value for money. After 2005 you can get an entry-level 1.3 GL for just a few thousand pounds.
What to check
First generation Swifts felt a little like tin boxes but were in fact pretty solid and held together well. The worst you're likely to find is boy racer thrashing in the GTi models or ageing electrics. The same applies to later Swifts; beware of abused Sport models and, as with other urban runabouts, parking knocks.
Realistically priced at £90 for a clutch assembly, £115 for an exhaust system, £60 for a set of front brake pads and £35 for the rear pads.
How it drives
Early Swifts were all about the functionality, which is a polite way of saying that they'll get you from A to B but don't expect to have fun along the way. They were however laudably frugal, winning myriad awards in the economy and efficiency arenas, making them a very sensible second-hand buy.
Second generation Swifts are still affordable but boast far more personality on the road, particularly the very tempting Sport, which at just 8.9 seconds from 0-60mph will beat a Mini Cooper or a Citroen C2 VTR. Even the more basic engines are rewarding, making the Swift a surprisingly attractive leftfield choice.