The Car Connection Suzuki Swift Overview
The Suzuki Swift minicar, sold from 1990 through 2001, may be more familiar to U.S. drivers as the Geo Metro, and to Canadians as the Chevrolet Sprint and the Pontiac Firefly. It was minimalist transport of the most basic kind, with wind-up windows and no stereo as standard, but it was inexpensive to buy and returned very high fuel-efficiency numbers for its day.
The Swift was built in Japan from 1989 through 1994. After that, through 2001, all Suzuki Swifts sold in North America were assembled in a plant shared with General Motors in Ontario, Canada, that also built various Suzuki small sport-utility models.
The 1989 Suzuki Swift was introduced in both three-door (GTi) and five-door (GLX) hatchback body styles, with a four-door sedan (in GA, GL, and GS models) following the next year. At the same time, the top-end GLX model was dropped and a less expensive GA trim level added for the three-door as well, with a four-speed manual gearbox, plastic wheel covers, and cloth trim. The GL model, by contrast, had a five-speed gearbox, alloy wheels, power mirrors, intermittent wipers, tinted glass, and a rear defroster. The GS sedan included all those items and added an AM/FM stereo system with a cassette deck.
In 1990, Suzuki was forced to rename the GTi model to GT, given the previous name's conflict with Volkswagen's well-known "hot hatch" GTI model. The Swift GTi/GT used the most powerful engine offered in any Sprint, a 100-horsepower high-compression 1.3-liter four-cylinder. It had also had larger 14-inch wheels (standard Swifts ran on 13-inch wheels), disc brakes on all four wheels, sport seats, and a roof spoiler.
In the the United States, all Sprints except the GTi/GT used a less powerful version of the 1.3-liter four, with only eight valves against the GT's 16, that produced 70 hp. A five-speed manual gearbox was standard, although a three-speed automatic was added later--and should be avoided, as it significantly compromised what little performance the Swift had.
A modest restyle came for the 1992 model year, with changes to the Swift's bumpers, taillights, and interior trim and features. Larger sway bars were added to the sporting GT models the same year.
When assembly shifted from Japan to North America for the 1995 model year, the Suzuki Swift was trimmed down to one body style (the three-door hatchback), though its Chevrolet siblings continued to offer multiple styles. There was also only one trim level from 1995 through 1999. The sole factory option was an anti-lock braking system (ABS) from 1995 through 1998. Buyers who wanted an audio system or air conditioning could have them installed at the dealer.
In 1998, the 1.3-liter engine was upgraded to a 16-valve head, boosting its power slightly to 79 hp. Then for 2000 and 2001, Suzuki made the basic car into the GA trim level, while a new GL trim level included air conditioning and an audio system with cassette deck as standard. Safety equipment on the very spartan Swift included two front airbags, three-point seat belts for the four outboard seating positions (plus a lap belt for a center rear passenger, if one could be made to fit), and daytime running lights.