Suzuki's Swift is a rather left-field Supermini choice but for all that, a very good one, thinks June Neary
Will It Suit Me?
Suzuki's Swift supermini has reinvented itself for the second decade of the twenty first century - but you wouldn't know it from a quick glance. When one arrived in my driveway recently, I thought they'd sent the old version by mistake. But once I got familiar with the car, it was easy to see where improvements had been made.
As with the old Swift, this one's certainly very shapely. A wide airdam and big headlamps give the car a distinctive 'face' and the big wheels at each corner of the car give the impression that it's solidly planted to the road. Virtually every panel on this Swift is different to the previous generation model, just not very different. Established Swift design features like the curving bonnet and the blacked-out pillars that create a 'floating roof' effect remain but car has expanded in size while also growing lighter and stiffer. The use of higher strength steel in the chassis meant less metal had to be used and weight was shaved while the whole structure gained in rigidity. At 3,850mm long and 1,695mm wide, it still isn't one of the larger superminis but it is 90mm longer than the previous Swift, with 50mm of that gain in the wheelbase. Cabin space is improved but the designers couldn't work miracles, so this is one of the less generous superminis with regard to rear-seat occupant space. The cabin design has been edged upmarket but the sturdy simplicity that helped the old Swift stand out has been lost in favour of a design that apes other supermini products. The quality remains strong but many of the plastics feel less upmarket than they look. One bugbear of mine is the need to be constantly manipulating tiny, fiddly audio and climate buttons and Suzuki at least have made some attempt to get away from this irritating design practice, opting instead opted for big, easy to reach dial-type controls. The audio system can also be operated from a set of optional wheel-mounted switches. One thing you notice, particularly sitting in the back, is that the Swift is wide - wider in fact than most other cars in the supermini class. Coupled with a long wheelbase and compact engines, this frees up plenty of room in the cabin and allows for a decently sized luggage area. The plush model I tried featured keyless entry for simple door unlocking, engine start-up and locking. With this system, there's no fumbling, and no need to insert a key or press a remote. Instead, as long as you're carrying the key, or it's in a pocket or bag, the system detects its presence and unlocks the car. The doors are opened simply by pressing a button on either front door handle, while the engine is started by twisting the ignition key housing. As soon as you walk away from the car, the system detects the key's absence and the car is locked and immobilised. Neat.
Behind the Wheel
Compare the new Swift's cabin to that of its predecessor and you'll find it's undergone many changes. There's a real upmarket feel, giving the impression that you're in a much more expensive car. There are two engines for customers to choose from. The Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine was carried over from the old Swift. With its 75bhp and meaty torque output it's a tried and tested engine that usually works well in small cars but it's the 1.2-litre petrol engine that will attract more attention. Thanks to an advanced variable valve timing system that controls the intake and exhaust valves on each cylinder to optimise performance, it's reassuringly high-tech. It also produces some 93bhp which is a lot for a 1.2-litre engine, along with 118Nm of torque. The 0-60mph trial takes 12.2s and the top speed is 103mph. While the Swift has always been cheap to buy and reliable, its fuel economy and CO2 emissions tended to let the overall cost of ownership down a little. That's no longer the case, with the latest model achieving some standout returns at the pumps. The 1.3-litre diesel engine is capable of 67mpg on the combined cycle while the 1.2-litre petrol engine comes up with 56.5mpg. Emissions for the two engines are 109g/km and 116g/km respectively.
Value For Money
Affordability has always been a Swift strength and like so much else, that hasn't changed with the latest car. Prices start at around £10,000 and run up just over £13,500, so the Swift is reasonable value. Price-wise, it's positioned at the lower end of the supermini market and even looks attractive next to some city cars from a value for money point of view. All models get ESP stability control and seven airbags as standard which is very commendable on Suzuki's part.
Could I Live With One?
The best small Suzuki yet - by some margin. The trick for dealers of course will be in letting people know that this car actually exists, let alone getting them to try it. For those that take the plunge however, a trendier, more interesting view of supermini motoring awaits.