Suzuki Swift surprises

If you are in the market for a vehicle in the supermini class, Suzuki has made a strong bid for your custom. Whereas most manufacturers will have, at most, two vehicles to offer the compact hatchback market, Suzuki has four.

You can chose from the Suzuki Alto, the Suzuki Splash, the Suzuki SX4 and the Suzuki Swift. It’s the latest version of the latter that came our way recently.

Suzuki Swift

This is the third generation of the Suzuki Swift and it is produced, for the European market, at the Magyar Suzuki Corporation factory at Esztergom, in Hungary. The new model has grown a little. It is 90 mm longer, 10 mm taller and 5 mm wider than the previous Swift.

If you will excuse the cliché, the styling of the new model is more evolutionary than revolutionary. So much so that you may, like me, find yourself trying to remember what the previous Swift looked like to try and imagine the differences. But, take Suzuki’s word for it, every external panel is new. So, it is a neat but unremarkable exterior.

Inside, the story is similar. There is no hiding the fact that the trim materials have been chosen to fit the budget, but – with its muted black with silver highlights – I even found myself comparing it favourably to the products of the Volkswagen group. Perhaps that is not so surprising as Volkswagen now has a 20% stake in Suzuki.

The bigger external dimensions and 50 mm increase in wheelbase translates into a car that feels quite spacious inside for a small supermini. The view from the driver’s seat is good, although the rising waistline means the view to the rear is a tad restricted.

Most of the increased dimensions, however, have been dedicated to passenger space. Round the back the boot is quite short with the rear seats up. Try to pack a reasonable-sized box in there and you will have to fold down at least one section of the rear seat. The load sill is also quite high. So, at 211 litres, the Swift is not as voluminous, or convenient, a load carrier as some of its obvious opposition.

Finally, before turning to the driving, I wish to award a gold star to Suzuki for not having caught the Japanese disease of pointless beeps and bongs that assail the eardrums and cry ‘wolf’ every time you so much as open a door, or switch off the engine.

So, I was already impressed before I set off for my first drive in the five-door Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4.

Suzuki Swift interior

But, as the miles unfolded on that first drive, I could almost feel my eyebrows elevating. I had expected the Swift to be a worthy but hardly an engaging set of wheels. But the more I drove, the more I realised the effort that has gone into the fine tuning of the steering, gearchange, clutch, brake and throttle to ensure that they are all easy to use, but also precise and progressive.

I remember Sir Jackie Stewart talking about his role with Ford in being so pernickety about how everything had to be smooth and progressive, just like his driving crusade. All this enhances the driving experience and is the key to how the Swift surprised me and rapidly gained my admiration.

So, combined with a remarkably good ride on all but the worst of our rapidly deteriorating roads and a relatively low level of cabin noise, the Suzuki Swift scores well on refinement.

Even the performance surprised me. I had spotted the 0-62 mph time of 12.3 seconds and was fearing that the Swift might feel horribly underpowered, like the Chevrolet Spark that came weeks before. But the power output of 94 bhp is quite remarkable for such a small, normally aspirated engine.

Although this is obviously no sports hatch, it really does feel a good deal livelier than the engine size or that the 0-62 time might suggest.

Diverting from city streets and main roads, more surprises awaited as I headed onto twisty country roads.

The Swift is quite a lively companion on the twists and turns, but it all feels very well balanced. Sharp and precise steering responses provide good feedback for the driver, making this a pleasant rural-road companion. The improvements here may well be because of Suzuki’s efforts to stiffen the bodyshell, combined with the increased track and larger wheels with low-profile tyres.

Suzuki Swift

The combined fuel consumption figure is 56.5 mpg. While I easily managed figures in the mid 40s on more restrained trips, I have to admit my overall figure dropped to around 40 mpg because I was driving this little engine quite hard. But, the fact that I felt confident to squeeze the performance out of the Swift is a compliment about how well it drives.

Carbon dioxide emissions are 116 g/km, putting this Swift into band C for UK car tax.

The price of the test Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 5-door is £12,248, with the range starting at £9,995.
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