Sunday, September 12, 2010
The Suzuki Swift has always been a distinctive, if slightly leftfield, choice, but the latest model aims to bring it into the supermini mainstream. While the new car looks similar to the cheeky previous generation, it has a revised range of engines and promises more interior space – and is on the hunt for victory.
At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss the Swift as a facelifted model, because it looks exactly the same as its predecessor. Examine it more closely, though, and there are some major differences. For a start, it’s 90mm longer and 10mm taller than before.
Redesigned front lights, a more upright grille and revised rear are some of the more obvious changes – the headlamps in particular seem very large. The rest of the car sticks to the familiar formula set out by its predecessor, with a wide stance, strong shoulders and a rising window line from the wraparound screen to the C-pillar – it resembles the visor on a motorsport helmet. The result won’t be to everyone’s taste and, for our money, the Mazda is the best looker here.
From the driver’s seat, the changes are much more obvious. While the previous Swift was a bit basic inside, the latest model feels grown-up and is generously equipped. The instruments are clear and neatly designed, while it’s easy to get into the right driving position. Plastic quality is still a little patchy, although the materials used for the switchgear itself have a rubberised feel, and are much better than the previous version’s.
The Suzuki has the kind of kit tally you’d expect from cars in the class above, too, with seven airbags, air-con, stability control and iPod connection as standard. There’s a little more room in the rear, although it can’t match the spacious accommodation offered in the bigger Hyundai.
In particular, the rising window line and pinched upper cabin can leave rear passengers feeling claustrophobic, with their shoulders squeezed.
That impression continues when you open the tailgate, as the boot capacity is still disappointing. The 213-litre load area is 82 litres down on the i20’s, and the sill is also quite high, although the Suzuki does benefit from a 60:40-split rear seat.
Size is less of an issue under the bonnet, where the new 1.2-litre petrol engine punches above its weight. It’s highly strung, with peak torque delivered at a heady 4,800rpm – that’s 1,300rpm higher than in the Mazda.
Still, the smooth powerplant thrives on revs and happily spins to the red line. The harder you work it, the sweeter it sounds, and you’re rewarded by decent, if not blistering, acceleration.
Braking on our test was hampered by the wet weather conditions, but the Swift’s pedal felt positive and the figures we attained were similar to those in the 2. There isn’t as much feedback as in the Mazda, but the light steering is well judged and makes the Suzuki easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces.
On the open road, it continues to impress, and its relatively soft but controlled suspension does a good job of smoothing out bumps and ruts. Critically, the Swift drives like its predecessor, thanks to its well balanced chassis.
What really stood out on test was the fuel economy. The car returned a creditable 37.6mpg, which included our performance tests. What’s more, a CO2 output of 116g/km means a year’s road tax costs Suzuki buyers only £30. It’s not only the most efficient model here, but should also be kindest to owners’ wallets.
So don’t be fooled by the styling of the new Swift – delve deeper and you’ll discover a car that addresses many of the old model’s biggest flaws.