Suzuki Swift Hybrid pictured in NZ

Suzuki adds a hybrid

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Words: NZ Autocar
8 Jul 2020

Suzuki has launched a new hybrid variant of its Swift, a car the company is touting as the most affordable new hybrid in New Zealand. And with the GLX coming in at $26,500, that would be true.

They are calling it a self-charging mild hybrid as it uses a 12-volt lithium-ion battery to drive an ISG (integrated starter generator), so it’s not like the Prius then. Along with faster and more seamless restarts, the ISG gives a temporary boost to the petrol engine when starting off and when accelerating, adding up to 50Nm of shove in the lower rev band. There’s not enough oomph from the electrics to permit any EV-mode, or engine-off coasting however. Under braking, the engine will shut off when speeds dip below 15km/h, but it refires should you accelerate again. As the name suggests, the ISG acts as a generator when decelerating to recharge the lithium-ion battery.

At 4.1L/100km, Suzuki says the hybrid Swift is 15 per cent more economical than the conventional 1.2 GL CVT (4.8L/100km) while emissions drop by 25 per cent to 94g/km thanks in part to extended idle/stop operation.

The hybrid uses a new generation of 1.2-litre, naturally aspirated engine making 61kW and 107Nm of torque. That figure is down on the conventional 1.2, but peak torque is generated lower in the rev band (2800rpm vs 4000rpm). It’s also boosted by the ISG when more is required. With a 13:1 compression ratio, the hybrid requires 95 octane petrol however.

We drove the new variant briefly around town, the boost from the ISG noticeable off the mark, and the restarts are quick and seamless. It’s otherwise conventional to drive; no modes to mess with, or regenerative braking levels to manipulate. We reckon city dwellers who often commute in heavy traffic will net the best advantage by opting for the hybrid. Others might be better served by the $25,990 RS with its 1.0-litre turbo.

The Swift Hybrid is already floating around as a used import but this first-generation model was only available with a manual transmission, or an automated-manual, a.k.a. a jerk-a-matic, so was not offered new here. The latest generation has both a CVT auto, and a more efficient, higher-capacity 10Ah lithium-ion battery. The auto is the same used by the conventional Swift 1.2, but runs an electric oil pump to enable the idle/stop feature.

The battery and other bits are said to add 25kg to the overall mass. And it’s contained under the front seat so there’s no loss in boot capacity. In fact, to save a few kilos, the hybrid has a puncture repair kit in lieu of a spare so the boot is rated at 265L, up 23 on the regular Swift. The fuel tank is the same size as other Swifts too, so you should be able to go further between fill ups.

The hybrid will be offered in two grades, the GLX and the LTD, the latter at $28,500. There is a healthy array of active safety features, the GLX with radar-based AEB and active cruise control, while the Limited adds a camera and laser system to enable active lane keeping, and auto high beam assist along with blind spot monitoring and other assistance systems. While not yet tested, Suzuki is expecting a strong five-star crash rating for the hybrid.

This new Swift is a European model so there are a few spec anomalies, the main one being the lack of sat nav. However the infotainment system is compatible with Apple and Android smartphones. Each model has active cruise control, LED projector headlamps, front fog lamps, reversing camera, speed limiter, heated mirrors and tyre pressure monitoring. Spot the hybrid by its chrome strip on the grille and discreet badging on the rear.

Suzuki NZ is expecting about one-quarter of Swift buyers will opt for the hybrid going forward, as long as they can maintain supply, an issue as COVID-19 still runs rampant in parts of the world affecting supply chains and delivery schedules.

Suzuki predicts hybrid Swift buyers will be those looking for a ‘greener car’ but one that is still small. There is a competitor coming in the form of the new Toyota Yaris hybrid. However, the Swift will be cheaper, the Yaris starting at $27,990 with the ZR at $32,990. The Toyota has superior fuel consumption numbers at 3.3L/100km, while outputting more power but Suzuki says its Swift is better specified.

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