Why is Wallpaper* writing about the Suzuki Swift Hybrid? Sometimes luxury isn’t about extravagance, opulence, performance, craft, or rarity. Luxury is also about time, convenience, and modesty, but these are difficult qualities to express in physical form, especially in the image-conscious world of the automobile. Suzuki’s Swift is a decent attempt at embodying these values.

The modest hatchback has been a mainstay of the company’s range since 2004. Before that, the ‘Swift’ nameplate was attached to various Suzuki models around the world, none of which had any real pretence of living up to the name. Sparky, yes. Out and out sports? Certainly not. There is a much-admired Swift Sport model, which won’t bother any supercars but is delightfully crisp to drive. This, however, is the very vanilla hybrid version, which has less power, less verve and isn’t quite as engaging. But frankly, does it really matter? 

Suzuki Swift Hybrid 2021

Suzuki’s origin story is similar to Toyota’s, in that both companies started out as industrial textile firms, specialising in big weaving machines. Suzuki dates back further, to 1909, but it was slightly later into car-making than its rival. It wasn’t until the early 1950s that Suzuki decided to re-focus on mobility, starting with hugely successful motorbikes, and eventually tackling the more modest end of the automotive spectrum. In particular, Suzuki became a market leader in the Japan-only kei car segment, the micro-car designation that requires strict legal limits on size and power of cars, trucks and vans. Small doesn’t necessarily mean beautiful, but it does mean ingenious, with smart packaging squeezed into compact forms. Suzuki models such as the Mighty Boy, Lapin, Palette, and Cappuccino were as distinctive as their names, and many of them garnered a cult following.

For example, the excellent Suzuki Jimny had a short-lived spell on sale in Europe, becoming a cult miniature off-roader, before it was unceremoniously cut due to emissions legislation (you can still get a commercial version). The Swift absorbs all this heritage without becoming too eccentric. It’s by no means as compact as a kei car, nor even the more bitesize offerings from Fiat and Smart, but it is well under 4m long and feels positively diminutive alongside the endless deluge of modern SUVs, both electric and ICE-powered. The Swift’s ‘hybrid’ badge is something of a misnomer, for it gets only the mildest of battery assistance, with no EV mode, let alone anything to actually plug in. What you can connect instead is your smartphone, with a direct link to Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, while the dashboard visibility and controls are no nonsense and straightforward, feeling almost old-fashioned in their layout. 

Black car dashboard

The same goes for the exterior design. There’s just the faintest whiff of retro directness about the Swift’s front end, with its neat arrangement of headlights and oval grill. The C pillar is also distinctive, with a rising tab of bodywork intersecting with the blacked-out glasshouse, as well as a concealed rear door handle that keeps the car’s flanks looking elegantly curved. Taken as a whole, it’s almost (almost) reminiscent of the purist simplicity of 1960s sports cars, rather than the occasionally florid curves of some of its rivals from Japan.

The Suzuki Swift does a lot of things right, all for a price that could easily be swallowed up by ticking a few option boxes on a new Audi, Porsche, or Mercedes. Although the Japanese car might not be an obvious example of luxury, by virtue of being compact, competent, and extremely easy to live with, the little Swift will enhance your life while keeping things low-key. §

Suzuki Swift Hybrid 2021