Will It Suit Me?
Suzuki's Swift supermini has reinvented itself - but you wouldn't know it from a quick glance. Check out this fourth generation model, as I did recently, and you might be forgiven for thinking that you were looking at the previous MK3 model version. Get familiar with the car though, and it becomes easy to see where improvements had been made.
As with the old Swift, this one's certainly very shapely, familiar cues including the wraparound windscreen, the upright headlamps and the smiley lower air intake. This five-door-only MK4 model is 40mm wider than its predecessor, but also 10mm shorter and 15mm lower. More significantly, thanks to its new platform, it's also significantly lighter, tipping the scales at a mere 890kgs in entry-level trim. Even the hybrid version is just 925kg.
Cabin space is improved but the designers couldn't work miracles, so this is still 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 265-litre 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
There are two engines for customers to choose from. There's an 90bhp 1.2-litre four cylinder Dualjet unit mated to a 5-speed gearbox. Or a 1.0-litre three cylinder turbocharged 'Boosterjet' powerplant which offers 111bhp and can be ordered with auto transmission.
The 'Bosterjet' powerplant can be had with the option of mild hybrid assistance. Suzuki calls it 'SHVS' or 'Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki' technology and it's based around the use of what's called an 'Integrated Starter Generator' powered by a tiny 0.2 kWh lithium-ion battery that sits under the driver's seat. This set-up harvests kinetic energy when you brake and converts it into electrical energy. Not the kind that could take you short distances on electric power alone - the battery isn't big enough to allow for that. Instead, the regenerated energy is used to power the standard engine stop/start system and also to provide a mild extra power boost as you accelerate - around 50Nm of extra torque for up to 30 seconds.
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 90bhp 1.2-litre variant manages 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and 98g/km of CO2. The 1.0-litre turbo 'Boosterjet' engine manages 61.4mpg on the combined cycle and 104g/km of CO2. It's worth looking at the mild hybrid option. This set-up reduces CO2 emissions by 7g/km, improves fuel economy by 4.3mpg and saves £20 on first year VED tax.
Value For Money
Affordability has always been a Swift strength and like so much else, that hasn't changed with the latest car. There's no three-door bodystyle any more and prices start at around £11,000 for the 'SZ3' variant, but most models will be sold in the £13,000 to £15,000 bracket. The 'SZ3'-trimmed variant comes with six airbags, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel, a DAB radio with Bluetooth and four speakers, rear privacy glass, LED daytime running lights, 15-inch wheels, body coloured door mirrors and front electric windows.
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.