Used car buying guide: ZC21 Suzuki Swift – Which variant to get, what to look out for

Eric · Oct 18, 2020 03:00 PM

If you're in the market for a fun-to-drive hatchback that won't cost an arm and a leg to maintain, truth is, there aren't many options out there.  

One such car is the Suzuki Swift.

History of the Suzuki Swift in Malaysia

The ZC21-generation Suzuki Swift made its Malaysian debut way back in 2005, fitted with a run-of-the-mill 1.5-litre petrol engine that does 100 PS and 133 Nm, mated to a four-speed automatic.

Suzuki Malaysia also offered the sportier Swift Sport, powered by a high-revving 1.6-litre petrol engine that does 125 PS and 148 Nm. The Swift Sport is available with a four-speed automatic or a slick-shifting five-speed manual.

VOC of a CBU Suzuki Swift. Photo via Mudah

Upon the models' introduction in 2005, both the Swift and Swift Sport were initially imported (CBU) from Japan, with local assembly (CKD) of the Swift commencing in 2007. The Swift Sport remained a CBU affair.

Note the restyled front-end

The Swift received a number of running changes throughout its lifespan in Malaysia. The first notable change came in 2008 when the model received a styling update, giving it refreshed front and rear bumpers and new tail lights.

Despite being a keyless model, you still need to twist this faux key to start the car

A year later in 2009, the Swift received yet another update, this time Suzuki Malaysia gave the little B-segment hatchback a new keyless entry system and side mirrors with integrated turn signals.

2011 witnessed the introduction of two updates to the Swift.

Looks like a Swift Sport, but it isn't. Photo via suzukimalaysiachimomoi.wordpress.com

The first was the new 1.5 GLX variant, which featured a Swift Sport-inspired design, incorporating new front and rear bumpers as well as new tail lights. This Swift also received a new engine cover, mimicking the more expensive Swift Sport.

So basic that you don't even get a rear wiper or a parcel shelf

Following the introduction of the Swift 1.5 GLX, Suzuki Malaysia also introduced a cheaper Swift 1.5 GX a couple of months later – essentially a cut-cost version of the regular Swift. In an effort to keep prices low (RM 65,888 vs RM 75,788), it loses the front fog lights, multi-info display (replaced with a simple clock), rear head rests, four speakers (now with just two speakers), integrated audio system and steering audio controls (replaced with a single-DIN unit), rear parcel shelf, and rear wiper. Despite all that, it still retained the dual airbags, ABS, EBD, and BA from the full-spec Swift.

Is the Suzuki Swift problematic?

As fun as the Suzuki Swift is to drive, potential owners need to keep an eye out for these items.

I've replaced two steering racks 

The first is the steering rack. While not exactly life-threatening, the Suzuki Swift’s steering rack has a nasty habit of developing an annoying knocking noise over the years. It is more evident when traveling over broken/poorer road surfaces.

Not related to the VVT actuator gasket

Following that is the rubber gasket for the variable valve timing (VVT) actuator. The easiest way to spot this is by looking at the engine bay. An oil leak on the driver’s side of the engine would indicate a possible gasket failure. Fret not as a replacement gasket shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.

Keep an eye out for this. Image via tykoh88.blogspot.com

Apart from that, considering the age of the Swift, you will also need to check the condition of the hoses. One such hose is the hose for the rear windshield washer, as the rubber hose and plastic joints can get brittle over time. A water leak in the car is not something fun to diagnose.

Another thing to keep in mind is that spare parts might be tough to come by, considering that Suzuki Malaysia has shuttered in Malaysia. It is possible to find spare parts in selected workshops, but your result may vary. 

Personally, I've got my usual contacts for wear and tear items as well as spare parts, so establishing a good relationship is crucial.

Which model to get?

Considering that the mechanical and safety aspects of the ZC21-generation Suzuki Swift barely changed over the years (2005 to 2012), any model that suits your budget is good to go.

However, if you want something with a stick shift, then your only choice is the ZC31-generation Suzuki Swift Sport.

What about prices?

Prices start from the RM 15k mark for a 2005 example, while a 2012 model is sold around the RM 23k mark.

Clean, unmodified examples are far and between

For those looking at a Swift Sport, expect to pay upwards of RM 30k for one. Swift Sport units that cost in the RM 25k region could be converted from a regular Swift, so keep an eye out for that.

Keep in mind that prices you see on Mudah are not the final prices. What most used car dealers won't tell you is that the prices they advertise do not include their customary processing fees, which usually amounts to several thousand Ringgit.

If possible, we recommend potential buyers to purchase directly from owners, as this is a good method to avoid hidden charges and tampered meters. A full service record is an added bonus.

What to check or look out for?

As with any other used car, check and see when was the last time the car you’re looking at was serviced. Not just engine oil, but also every other necessary fluid, including transmission fluid, radiator coolant, and brake fluid.

At the same time, it is a good idea to check and see if the car you're looking at has been in a flood or an accident.

Conclusion

While the Suzuki Swift may be a relatively old model by today’s standards, it’s hard finding another car within the same price bracket that offers the same level of driving dynamics without breaking the bank.

We are aware that age is catching up with the Swift, but as with any car, given the right amount of maintenance and servicing, it will be a reliable mode of transport. I know, because I own one.

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