Used Car Reviews – 2000 Suzuki Swift GLX drains my life force

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I feel pretty sympathetic towards most compact and sub-compact cars from days gone by. Granted, it helps that I haven’t driven a whole lot of them in my time, but judge them mostly according to their image, their outlook and the way they’re portrayed in marketing material from their heyday. Horizon, Sundance, Alliance, Colt, GLC, cars such as those. “How bad can they be, really? Besides, those period-correct graphics really suit them in that Japanese commercial.”

Then there’s the inevitable moment of truth when you have to actually drive a real bargain-basement car, a vigorously de-contented appliance that serves only the purpose of being the one off the production line after the previous one and before the next one. This is what it felt like to cover a 100km distance in a Suzuki Swift long past its best before date.

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The Swift bodystyle you see here was originally unveiled as the Suzuki Cultus in September 1988. Back in the day, it offered either fuel-efficient starter-level commuting no worse than its comparisons, as the car is unmistakably late-80s in its execution, or sporty progress provided by the 1.3-litre, 100hp GTi model. Not a bad thing by 1988 standards, and the car soon made it to the States badged as the Geo Metro.

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But, possibly due to budget constraints and the possibility that no-one told them to stop producing it, the Swift soldiered on  mostly unchanged until 2003, also seen in saloon form. It was produced in Hungary from 1992 onward, and actually is still made in Pakistan. One shouldn’t discount the fact that every other car on the roads of India is one of these. The other cars are mostly Maruti Suzuki Altos, which are a size smaller.

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This five-door, GLX specification car was built in 2000. It was bought new by an older man, and apparently stood unused for a number of years, after which it was sold on by the estate. A couple years ago, a work colleague of my friend paid something to the tune of 4000 eur for it, despite protests by said friend, and here it is. And I needed to drive it to another county so I could pick up my freshly-serviced Peugeot.

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The Suzuki has only covered some 63 000 km, and the five-digit odo is on its first round. Despite that, it feels superbly worn. The brakes feel terrible, and there’s definitely something wrong with them as the pedal goes as deep as the clutch. The gearbox and clutch make horrible noises, and the tire roar in any speeds is indescribably loud. At over 100 km/h, I recorded 90db on my iPhone app. Next to a racing car, I felt closer to death in this doing 120 km/h than anything else.

You sit low on flat seats, close to the road, and hold a clammy, sticky steering wheel that’s finished in something the colour of a mushroom. You just want it to end.

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120 isn’t even that easy to reach. Featuring the 67-horsepower 1.3-litre four and saddled with the longest gear ratios they could choose, the car takes ages to accelerate. It does nothing on fifth, fourth or third. Second gear provides some acceleration, but that’s it. Giving it gas in first gear makes it sound suspiciously horrible.

In highway speeds, the car droned on at 2000-something rpm. In comparison, the short-geared 205 is easily at 4000rpm – and it accelerates from those speeds without an issue. The shoutiness of the 205 isn’t an issue compared to the Swift, as the tire noise is so overpowering in the Suzuki that the relatively calmly running engine is no merit.

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The earlier decontentment gripe might have been a touch unfair, in all honesty. The Suzuki is surprisingly well-equipped, featuring a rev counter, central locking, electric windows and dual airbags – but no power steering to turn those aftermarket rims. And the construction of the car just makes you feel it was built to haul those airbags around, and nothing else. As the fuel prices recently rose to a new level, demand for useable old Metros returned in the States; whoever sold their large car and went for an overpriced Metro, I feel sad for thee.

The plastics are dire, the textures saddening and the tacked-on, GLX-spec switchgear haphazard. Now, don’t get me wrong: I like a good old ’80s plastic Japanese car interior. They just used the wrong grey materials here.

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A note found on the windscreen a little while ago: “If you can’t afford a parking spot, sell your piece of junk. This isn’t your spot.”

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Having reached our destination, I was exhausted. As I picked up my Peugeot with its new cambelt and water pump and audible stereo speakers, the journey home was a complete joy. It’s an interesting comparison: the 205 is from a vaguely similar time period, made for quite a long time (until 1998 actually), but somehow manages to be a joy in its simplicity and exuberant hoonability. You can’t hoon the Suzuki, as it only appears to suffer for it and drags you down in its miserability. It’s not a good bad car, just a regular bad bad car that’s bad at it. The step taken forwards with the new generation 2004 Swift is immense.

It does have five doors, though. And a tow bar.

[Images: Copyright 2013 Hooniverse/Antti Kautonen]

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31 responses to “Used Car Reviews – 2000 Suzuki Swift GLX drains my life force”

  1. mdharrell Avatar

    "Next to a racing car, I felt closer to death in this doing 120 km/h than anything else."
    Our team's solution is to field a race car that can't go that fast.

  2. Sjalabais Avatar

    The Suzuki Baleno is the poor man's car in Norway. You can dress nice and smart, but showing up in a Baleno will kill any sense of style. The Swift is a step below it.
    That said, for a cheap appliance, I hear these cars are surprisingly well-made, easy to keep running, and easy to service. But even a little rust may kill the vehicle, since a bigger service/job will easily be worth more than the car.

  3. Devin Avatar

    My family has wrecked several of these, with different badges on the back.
    They do have excellent brakes. We know this partially because we lost two to people rear ending them because they didn't expect it to stop so quickly, and partially because of my aunt's enthusiastic driving style, which often required serious braking when unexpected obstacles were found in her way, such as her own garage door.
    She was also clocked doing over 120 in it, and told the officer that she needed to speed because the ice cream was melting.
    Maybe get my aunt to drive you around in one?

  4. TurboBrick Avatar

    You think that car was miserable? You should try a 1991 Suzuki Swift. In the category of "street legal daily drivers" that still is the worst thing I've ever driven. It's owner thought it was awesome but to be fair, he was coming off a string of Ladas before that.

    1. julkinen Avatar

      Same shape as this?

      1. TurboBrick Avatar

        Oh no, that was a 4 door sedan. You know, more structural stiffness for better handHAHAHAaaa… The most entertaining aspect was the screwed up speedometer that doubled everything. Gear shifter had a very agricultural feel to it, and the steering wheel looked like it came from a piece of old hospital equipment, it had that weird smooth gray coating to it, like plastidip.

  5. Rust-MyEnemy Avatar

    By way of a counterpoint:
    1998 Suzuki Swift GLS
    This was my take on the Swift. I absolutely fell in love with it, mainly because it seemed to represent the mirror opposite of every car today. Rubbish, but hilarious, and therefore, good. Or maybe I need to recalibrate my quality control a tad.

    1. julkinen Avatar

      The 1.0-litre triple would've improved this car. At least if it has different gearing.

  6. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    Let's see: it has four wheels; moves forward under its own power; and it keeps your butt from dragging on the asphalt. What more do you want? It should be priced accordingly, but I think you suffer from elevated expectations.

    1. julkinen Avatar

      Well, I expected it to at least match the '90s vintage Toyota Starlet, another econobox I recently drove. On that note, watch this space. Or that space where the write-ups go, not IntenseDebate.

  7. Senor Smee Avatar

    We had the turbo version in Canada, they were a blast to drive.

    1. 1slowvw Avatar

      I have a friend with one of these motors and wiring harness in his shed. Always wondered how stout the motors were. How much boost could it handle, could I take a comperitively large turbo off a saab (or more conservatively a turbo dodge 2.2) and make some sort of sleeper out of a turbo sprint/firefly/metro.

      1. Senor Smee Avatar

        Don't know how much "pumping up" it could take, but the dealership I worked never saw any melt-downs with them, unlike the Buick turbos and Sunbird turbos. I know when i drove the Fireflys every trip was a Villeneuve-inspired qualifying lap. Being that Suzuki makes stout motorcycle engines, I'd guess they're pretty strong.

  8. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

    "The 205. . . manages to be a joy in its simplicity and exuberant hoonability."
    Funny–that's exactly what I love about my 1991 Metro.
    52 horses from a three cylinder isn't much by any standard, but the 1988-1992-ish Metros/Swifts/Fireflies were the lightest cars (~1600 lbs) sold in the USA since the 1960s (guessing this one's got a lot of added metal for newer safety standards). As long as you had the standard transmission (the auto robbed about 10 hp, or 20% of your power) the car was everything a car actually *needed* to be.
    And absolutely nothing else.
    Mine got new, bigger hubs and brakes from a convertible because I couldn't find 12" tires anymore and upgraded to 13 inchers, added a sway bar from a 2001 sedan (it came with none, but had the mounting holes) and nothing–NOTHING–gets away from me going downhill on a twisty road.
    Chris's article linked above is great. And though I loath padding their unique page views, here's another. Wodjyla's name's on the article but this bit of genius was written by, uh, some guy I know.
    http://jalopnik.com/5533480/the-geo-metro-is-one-

    1. mdharrell Avatar

      "52 horses from a three cylinder isn't much by any standard…."
      Not true.
      <img src="http://fbcdn-sphotos-f-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/1000325_694666293880864_1230833058_n.jpg&quot; width="500">
      You've got my 96 beat by 12 hp.

      1. Irishzombieman☆ Avatar

        Dang. I forgot about you. /wink
        And a correction: The Metro has 55 horses. 52 is for my motorcycle.

        1. mdharrell Avatar

          I once had a similar conversation at a gas station with a guy on a Gold Wing as he slowly realized that his bike had a larger, more powerful engine than the one in my MG Metro that I was using to pull a trailer with another car on it. Then he noticed that my plates were from several states away and shook his head.

          1. longrooffan Avatar

            This olelongrooffan can't wait to meet you in some random gas station driving whatever crazy, but lovable, vehicle. Hopefully it will be sooner than later.

            1. Sjalabais Avatar

              …and for those who certainly won't meet you in person, I know you have the patience to put up some hauling stories here?

  9. quattrovalvole Avatar

    My dad bought one new back in '93, a dark green sedan with the same 1.3 engine. The only thing I remember about it is that it was dark green and it met its end in '96 after it rear-ended a box van.

  10. Stu_Rock Avatar

    I like the notions of a "good bad car" and a "bad bad car." I think I may use them for my own classifications of vehicles, as well as the implied "bad good car."

    1. Devin Avatar

      What would a bad good car be? Something that is well made and theoretically well engineered that somehow is awful anyway?

      1. RegalRegalia Avatar

        Bad good cars?
        Bricklin, DeLorean, nineties v12 german saloons just for their claim to prestige but their frailty.

        1. C³-Cool Cadillac Cat Avatar

          A few bad good cars I, to this day, lust for.
          1991 Porsche 928 S4
          1991 Jaaaaaag XJS HE, 'vert
          1991 Dodge Spirit R/T
          1982 Chrylser Imperial, with intact fuel injection
          and inexplicably, a 1984 Buick Park Avenue, 2-door
          Actually, I can explain those last two…I'm a bit titched in the head

          1. RegalRegalia Avatar

            My first car was a 1990 Plymouth Acclaim, so I too have some lust for the Spirit R/Ts, with the right amount of power, that chasis would be a hoot, a scary off-balance hoot, but a hoot the same.

      2. Kogashiwa Avatar

        So basically the proverbial Camry?

        1. Stu_Rock Avatar

          No, I was imagining the Camry to be a good bad car–a car that doesn't aspire to be anything but in the end turns out OK for a lot of people. Devin, RegalRegalia, and C3 are in line with my thinking.

  11. Ayrton77 Avatar

    What a ridiculous and pointless review. Just because this particular car wasn't maintained well doesn't mean Swifts are bad cars. They were made non stop not because "nobody told them to stop" (i see your views on how multi million companies operate are based on deep knowledge of the subject) but because they were profitable, obviously.
    Check the brakes at a suzuki dealer, and change these wheels that are probably square by now. Low mileage doesn't mean a thing. I still drive one of these, and i wouldn't change it for the world. it has 176.000 kilometers on it, i usually drive to work and back at around 120 km in the highway. And trust me, it's so light it hits 120 in a jiffy. When it was out, around 2000, it had faster acceleration than most 80+hp cars, and this car makes 67hp! It's not made for torque or high speeds though, i also have a Civic b16a and if i need speed, i take the civic and the difference is chaotic.
    The car performs well with it's factory wheels and factory tire dimensions, trust me on this. It follows the K-car philosophy and it should be driven like one.
    The swift is an EXCELLENT city car, even though very aged by today's standards. it is swift as it name says, agile, it can be parked and driven ridiculously easily, it doesn't break (so far nothing off the usual maintenance was needed) it's brakes are wonderful (it's aerodynamics and brakes were praised by magazines when it came out) and have never let me down, not even once in one too many emergency situations.
    It's a cheap car and does what it was designed for: trouble-free city transit. Every time i take it for an oil change i hear the same comments from the mechanics: "oh these damn cars never break down" . TELL ME ABOUT IT! the Peugeot 205 is a wonderful car, i've driven it, but it doesn't even come close to the Japanese reliability standards (please tell me, how many 2000 Peugeots are still on the road? almost none here (athens, greece), but I still see dozens of swifts everyday that refuse to die) . If you go from driving an expensive car to a 2000 swift, you'll feel uncomfortable. If you want an cheap economic car that won't let you down, this is one of the last truly well made straight to the point (take me from place a to place b) cars of the late 90s. I've seen cars with half it's years and 2 times its price tag break down for numerous reasons. And i'm at my friend's service shop 2-3 times a week, and i have seen a LOT of cars coming in.
    Each japanese brand follows a certain philosophy. I see two different ones when i drive my Civic and when i drive my Swift. Please drive a car the way it's supposed to be driven. Cheers
    ps. if you knew anything about cars, you would know that
    a) a car is damaged more if it sits undriven and not maintained for a long time, than a car driven regularly. Check it's fuel pumps, how lack of use destroys them. maybe that's were your acceleration problems come from
    b) a car that works (or drones, as you said, you probably have a light foot cause mine revs up easily) at 2000rpm needs a lot less gas than a car that works at 4000rpm, It's factory top speed is 165km and it was designed with low consumption in mind. If you change from fourth to fifth at 2000 rpm (granny driving) of course it will take forever for a 10kg torque car to accelerate. Are you serious? You mean you can't rev it up to 5000 and change gear?
    b) the tire noise has to do more with tire quality and brand than interior sound-proofing…you HAVE to know that, if you have changed tires in your car even once.
    c) the suspiciously horrible sound you hear at first gear, when you rev it high, is because this is an 8 valve car, and suzuki cars have a distinct valve sound (loud and harsh, yes. Bulletproof, yes).

  12. Wooxer Pt Avatar

    WOW, you’re reviewing a car filled with mechanical problems due to neglect and then conclude that the car itself sucks, are you joking? It’s like if I had a new ferrari, crashed it into a tree and then you came around for a test drive and said that that ferrari model sucks because it had no front bumper, had crooked steering, a bent hood and one wheel came off.
    1 – …it feels superbly worn. …120 isn’t even that easy to reach. Featuring the 67-horsepower 1.3-litre four…
    – Considering you only need about 20hp to do that speed that’s an outrageous claim, also, didn’t you said that you felt that it was worn? Maybe it was actually worn for some reason and no longer has 67hp but 30 something hp.
    2 – The brakes feel terrible and there’s definitely something wrong with them as the pedal goes as deep as the clutch.
    – If you know the brakes have problems then what igood is your insight about how much they suck? Are you a brakes with problems reviewer? If you are I have news for you, your services are not needed, everyone in the world knows that brakes with problems are not good.
    3 – The gearbox and clutch make horrible noises. … Giving it gas in first gear makes it sound suspiciously horrible.
    – Sure it must’ve come straight from the factory like that, I bet that the service manual even tells how to adjust things so that the “horrible noise” parameter gets within spec /sarcasm off
    4 – …and the tire roar in any speeds is indescribably loud … At over 100 km/h, I recorded 90db on my iPhone app.
    – Did it have performance tires, or touring tires? Are they recent as in less than 5 years? 90db is crazy loud and no sane person will think that’s normal in a production car, in fact, manufactures since long years ago always try to keep cabin noise below 80db as prolonged exposure to more than that can prematurely damage your hearing, and I know for a fact that cabin noise in a well maintained suzuki swift is less than 80 as I also have an app and tested one.
    5 – …you sit low on flat seats, close to the road…
    – And the problem is? I don’t know if you realize that over the years ground clearances have been shrinking across the board but if you don’t like that then there are many cars which can make you feel taller, that can’t be considered a problem, however, as it helps with grip and fuel consumption at no comfort penalty.
    6 -…and hold a clammy, sticky steering wheel…
    – Yes, paper towels, soap and water are hugely expensive these days…
    7 – In highway speeds, the car droned on at 2000-something rpm. In comparison, the short-geared 205 is easily at 4000rpm – and it accelerates from those speeds without an issue.
    – I’m all for free speech and all but what you said now is just absolutely appauling. If you don’t like “droning” at 2000rpm and prefer 4000rpm, DOWNSHIFT, DOH, and sure the 205 accelerates from highway speed well if it’s at 4000RPM because you’re right into it’s powerband and it can go up to 6000-something rpm where it develops peak power, the suzuki swift engine in that department is pretty much THE SAME THING, similar power band and similar peak power at similar RPM, meaning, the acceleration of a suzuki swift from 120kph @ roughly 4000RPM is the pretty much the same as the peugeot from 120kph @ roughly 4000RPM, just because a car has 5 gears it doesn’t mean you need to use them. 2000RPM at highway speed is good to save gas, not to accelerate, didn’t basic highschool physics classes teach you something? Like, power=torque*rpm.
    8 – …but no power steering to turn those aftermarket rims.
    – Power steering was optional because very lightweight cars don’t absolutely need it (due to the weight), a good example is the newest alfa romeo 4c sports car. The great 205 that you seem to love also didn’t have it and it’s layout and weight distribution was similar to the suzuki.
    P.S. The car can have many problems but in the power department is seems that it’s biggest problem, even bigger than it’s long gears, was you, 2000RPM @120KPH with a low hp car and then complaining about trouble to accelerate, come on, you’re a lousy driver and your critique/opinion should therefore be taken with slightly more than a pinch of salt.

    1. THATGIRLSYNNOVE Avatar

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6b95a64b2971ad1a37bf80536087ab6b2e8242f787e41d6e746fb10ef34c3af5.jpg I have a suzuki swift glx 2000 model, its been driven 49 000 km when I bought it and the third and fourth gear works just fine as the second. The fifth one is a bit lazy if i dont have speed above 90-100km/h. This is my first car and people who actually knows about cars, like “real” mechanics knows that this glx is a rare and special car. Ofc its not a gtr or a good looking supra but this car got potential. Third day of owning my suzuki I was on a veteran meetup even tho its not veteran because the veterans loved my car because its special and og is orgininally purple. So im cruising with a glx together with two 10″ kicker subwoofers and everyone is looking B) And all though its front wheel its basically allroad…trust me ive tried. Its so small it goes where all other cars cant go. This guy posting the “review” of the car doesnt even know one single thing about cars and probably riced up his peugeot to try to look cool but ended becoming i ricer 😉

      1. THATGIRLSYNNOVE Avatar

        and also, making horribly noises? i think its just you who cant drive a car cuz mine dont 😉

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