I think I’m turning Japanese

Swift: at home on the A-roads

Suziki’s supermini, the Swift, has been on our roads in various incarnations for nearly three decades.  In its latest guise,  it has been extremely popular with the press and I have been very much looking forward to driving it.  My previous experience of Suzuki was an early Liana – think Top Gear’s ‘Star in a Reasonably Priced Car’ – and it neither looked good nor drove well.  Time for Suzuki to set the record straight then, with its latest five door Swift DDiS.

The Swift has a clean, unfussy shape with squat stance and floating roof; in fact it has a little of the Tokyo street racer about it too – and I love cars with homeland character.  Its mechanical specification is good and it promises that rarest of commodities among new cars: fun.

My first drive home in the Swift ended in frustration – the roads were too choked to explore what it had to offer.  A hurtle across the Pennines and back the following day provided ample opportunity though: motorway, remote A- and B-roads plus some urban crawl.

The little Suzuki is very capable on the motorway, unlike the choppier ride of the shorter Fiat 500 with which it shares its engine.  It doesn’t take long to reach the national speed limit and motorway speeds are maintained with seemingly little effort.   80 mph is reached at 3,000 rpm, so it’s not too frantic for longer runs.

It is clear the Swift could take a much more powerful engine but the modest output of 75PS and healthy 190Nm of torque still provide a great deal of entertainment – as long as the turbo is kept on the boil.  Whether one chooses petrol or diesel is more a matter of personal preference over simple economics.  With small engines, the diesel provides that extra torque for low end pull, so in this installation it makes sense.  Suzuki doesn’t actually build its own diesels; this is a mildly fettled Fiat 1.3 litre block.  Suzuki has also just tweaked this DDiS engine to achieve a further 9% CO2 improvement and slightly better economy over the previous version.

Swift DDiS rearAway from the broad tarmac strip and onto the twisty minor roads is where the Swift really demonstrates its capabilities – it is a true driver’s car.  I don’t use that phrase lightly.  The short wheel base, wide track and accurate steering make it very nimble and a true delight through the corners.  When pushed hard, the little back end hunkers down and the car is launched out the other side, beautifully balanced.  Potholes don’t faze the Swift either – composure is retained even over the most challenging chunks of missing road.

It’s not just the handling which feels right.  The short, light and positive gear change could hardly be bettered and the brakes are both sensitive and powerful, allowing fine control.  Even the switch action of the indicator stalk has a proper positive, mechanical feel to it, unlike many.

The driving position is good, almost encouraging a ‘fixed input’ racing driver grip of the three-spoked, leather-trimmed wheel.  The seats are comfortable and well-bolstered, again an example of the sporty pretentions.

On the practicality front, there is sufficient (if not exactly ample) rear passenger space.  The back seat is significantly higher than the front ones though, so rear occupants do enjoy a good forward view.  Boot space is best described as modest.  Economy is excellent; after an enthusiastic 100 miles today, the fuel gauge still reads full.

Swift interiorTaking the rose-tinted driving goggles off, it is a bit plain on the inside – most of the trim is black, except some brushed aluminium-effect finishing on the dash.  It’s averagely specified and missing some of the small touches found on premium brands – cords to lift the parcel shelf when the hatch is opened, lights on the courtesy mirrors and so on.  However, this misses the point.  When behind the wheel, everything feels right.  Even the conventional, unfussy switchgear layout just allows driving enjoyment instead of trying to remember how to operate the wipers.

I suppose it’s almost a little understated for its capabilities.  I wonder how many will actually buy one without truly appreciating how good it is before handing over their cash.  None should be disappointed though.  Perhaps this is why some of those who are in the know opt for the bold stripes down the length of their cars to tell everyone how much fun they are having.  For me, there’s a warm feeling in just knowing how good a car is.  And this is one demo car I shall be very sorry to hand back.

Suzuki Swift DDiS from £12,890 for the five-door model including air conditioning, 16-inch alloys and USB.

Power: 75PS @ 4,000rpm, emissions: 109g/km, torque: 190Nm @ 1,750, 0-62 mph: 12.5s

Motor Writer rating: ●●●●●

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