Comparison: Kia Picanto 1.2 vs Suzuki Swift 1.2

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Entry level cars don’t all have to be crude and unrefined. Gone are the days when the entry-level segment was a car with seats and a steering wheel, and not much else. We’ve assembled two of the better prospects if you’re looking to get your first new car. Kia’s Picanto 1.2 EX and Suzuki’s Swift 1.2 GL. Which is best?

Skin Deep

From the outside these two rivals may look vastly different, but are actually fairly similar in dimensions with the Swift being slightly bigger in length, width and height. If it is looks you’re after however, the Picanto has the Swift licked. The Picanto comes standard with those funky 15-inch alloy wheels that give it a lot more attitude.

The Picanto’s front grille is also lined with some red trim and it’s these sort of small touches around the Picanto that make it look more sophisticated and attractive to young buyers. The Swift though isn’t an ugly duckling by any means, it just lacks the exterior flair the Picanto possesses. The optional 15-inch wheels might be worth the extra cost as the 14-inchers with wheel covers don’t fill the arches as well.

Inside Story

Both of these models are fairly well equipped as standard and for starter vehicles have most of the quintessential needs covered. The Picanto has got the added luxury of a Bluetooth compatible radio that the Swift doesn’t, but other than that they are almost identical in spec. You get electric windows all-round, air-conditioning and power steering for starters, then there’s a CD player with AUX and USB slots and buttons on the steering wheel to control the radio. The Swift has the better trip computer giving range readout and average fuel consumption.

Space wise the Swift feels the bigger car, passenger in the front and rear have more space to move around and there’s more rear legroom in the Swift. The boot size on both cars is very similar the Picanto has the slightly smaller boot at 200-Litres, while the Swift’s is 210-Litres. We expected the Swift to have a clearer advantage in luggage space, but the Swift seems to rank passenger space above luggage space. Both are reasonably comfortable cars to sit in with what feels like durable and long-lasting materials all-round, while not feeling like hard and scratchy plastics.

Up to Pace

The Swift and Picanto both have 1.2-litre naturally aspirated engines. They put out similar power figures with the Swift at 63 kW and the Picanto at 65 kW, torque is 113 Nm and 120 Nm respectively. The tiny bit of extra torque the Picanto has makes it the slightly more fun car to nip around town in as it climbs the revs just that bit faster than the Swift does.

Weight doesn’t even factor into the equation as both cars are within 20kg of each other but the Picanto is the faster of the two in a 0-100kph sprint managing 11.6 seconds where the Swift is a full second slower at 12.6 seconds. Another major factor with these budget beaters are the fuel consumption figures. Kia claims it has the better average consumption with 5L/100km with the Swift at 5.7L/100km but over our week of driving the two cars we found the Swift to be the more economic, often returning well under 6L/100km (I got 4.7L/100km - Ed) where the Picanto could only manage 7L/100km.

Get a Handle on it

While the ride and handling are probably not top of the requirements list of entry level cars like these, it’s still nice to know that you’re in a well-balanced and controllable car should you ever need to pull off some emergency cornering. The Swift nudges comfortably ahead of the Picanto in this respect as it feels the more controllable car and gives the driver a greater sense of feel.

The Picanto isn’t going to fall over the first time you have to yank the steering wheel, but it feels narrow and has a tendency to lean over a bit more than expected in the bends. That said it’s actually a fun car to thrash around in as the handling nuances become enjoyable in a comical sense.


At the end of it all price is going to be a key point of sale here and the Swift undercuts the Picanto by just over R7 000. The Picanto does have a five-year warranty compared to the Swift’s three-year, but then the Swift has a standard two-year/30 000km service plan where the service plan on the Picanto is an optional extra. If looks matter to you and you want something quite cheeky and peppy around town then you can’t go wrong with the Picanto, but if it’s a killer value for money budget hatchback that’s built with Japanese reliability then the Swift is the better buy here.

Comparison Specs: Kia Picanto 1.2 EX vs Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL

See a full side-by-side comparison between the Picanto and the Swift here
Kia Picanto 1.2 EX Suzuki Swift 1.2 GL
Price R143 995 R136 900
Engine 1.2-Litre petrol 1.2-Litre petrol
Power 65 kW 63 kW
Torque 120 Nm 113 Nm
Acceleration 0-100kph in 11.6s 0-100kph in 12.6s
Top Speed 169kph 160kph
Fuel consumption 5.0 litres/100km 5.7 litres/100km