Suzuki Swift (2005-2010)

When the Suzuki Swift arrived in the mid-1980s, it failed to make much of an impact. But when the fifth-generation Swift was unveiled in 2005, Suzuki had really nailed it. Now, this left-field supermini is a used car bargain. Suzuki may not have got carried away with the choice of engine and trim options, but that doesn’t stop the Swift from being an enticing used buy thanks to the value, style and performance on offer. There are plenty of low-mileage cherished examples out there as the Swift is a popular private buy. With zesty handling and decent economy there’s plenty of fun to be had – at keen prices. 

Key dates

4/05: The fifth-generation Swift hatchback debuts, with 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol engines and three- or five-door bodystyles. There’s an automatic gearbox option, but only with the 1.5-litre engine. 

1/06: A turbodiesel (badged 1.3 DDiS) appears, with a Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre engine; it comes in five-door guise only. 

9/06: A new flagship model joins the range; the 125bhp 1.6-litre Swift Sport, which comes solely in three-door form. 

1/10: The GL and GLX trims are replaced by SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4.


  • Go up and down through the gearbox several times, as a notchy gearchange is common.
  • There’s no reach adjustment for the steering wheel, so the ideal driving position can be hard to find.
  • The Sport’s suspension is very firm; if you’re considering one of these, give it an extended test drive.
  • Dampers can be weak, so sharply push the car down at each corner and see if it quickly settles. If it doesn’t, the shock absorbers need replacing, in pairs.
  • All sorts of squeaks, creaks and rattles can emanate from the cabin. Many come from behind the dash, which means they need major surgery to fix.
  • Watch for uneven tyre wear, as the wheel alignment is usually thrown out if the car has been jacked up by its suspension at the rear.
  • Listen out for a noisy gearbox on high-mileage cars, as the bearings can fail. Once this happens, an expensive gearbox rebuild is the only solution.

We like

  • Sharp looks
  • Keen prices
  • Economical engines
  • Reliability
  • Sharp handling

We don’t like

  • Low-rent cabin
  • Limited engine/trim line-up
  • Unrefined
  • Firm ride
  • Small boot

Richard Dredge


Suzuki Alto (2003-2008)

If ever there was a car to divide opinion between professional road testers and owners, this is it. Usually slated by journalists keen to get into something more powerful, you'll struggle to find an owner who has a bad word to say about Suzuki's city car. Pretty much unfailingly reliable and ludicrously cheap to buy and run, the Alto is an unusual alternative to some far more well known machinery - which is invariably more costly to buy and run but not necessarily much more effective.

Key Dates

1/03: The sixth-generation Alto goes on sale, as a 1061cc petrol-engined five-door hatch only.

4/04: A facelift brings standard anti-lock brakes, an upgraded interior and a radio/CD player.

1/06: The Alto's 1.1-litre engine is now Euro IV compliant.

Suzuki Alto (2003-2008) Checklist

  • The fuse for the cigarette lighter can blow, leading to failure of the radio and clock. The fuse isn't in the under-bonnet fuse box though; it's under the dash.
  • Starter motors can stick, leading to whirring instead of starting, as though the battery is dead. The fix is simple; remove the starter, clean and lubricate it then refit it.
  • The Alto is definitely a city car, so watch out for scraped paintwork and uneven panel gaps from poorly repaired crash repairs.
  • All that city driving may well have taken its toll on the steering and suspension, so look for damaged suspension from speed bumps and knocked-out tracking from kerbed wheels.

We Like

  • Economy
  • Reliability
  • Handling
  • Comfort
  • Equipment levels
  • Agility

We Don't Like

  • Rear seat space
  • High-speed refinement
  • Performance


Suzuki Wagon R (2000-2007)

It's got practicality and reliability too, but unless you're the sort of person who sees things from a seriously alternative perspective, there's not much chance of loving the Wagon R's looks. However, that bizarre roof line comes into its own when it comes to cabin space; this is one supermini in which you won't need to remove your top hat before you set off each journey. How marvelously useful.

Key Dates

5/00: The second-generation Wagon R is unveiled, with a 75bhp 1298cc petrol engine only. There are just two trim levels:GA or GL.

4/02: The range-topping Special is introduced.

7/02: The Special is now offered with an automatic transmission.

10/03: There's now an all-new 1328cc engine, giving 91bhp.

1/04: A facelift brings a revised nose and fresh interior trim.

Suzuki Wagon R (2000-2007) Checklist

  • The automatic transmission can prove fragile, as an internal lug can fail, leading to the whole transmission failing when the gears are damaged.
  • The switchgear isn't especially robust; ham-fisted drivers can break it without really trying.
  • The 1.3 auto is well suited to urban driving, but with this use the fuel consumption can be as much as 30mpg; not impressive for such a small engine.
  • The clutch is sharp, leading to jerky progress in stop/start traffic.
  • As with most urban runabouts, watch out for speed bump damage, plus kerbed wheels and tracking that's out of alignment as a result.

We Like

  • Practicality
  • Reliability
  • Interior space

We Don't Like

  • Exterior design
  • Interior plastics