SWIFT FLY­ING HIGH

Swift seller from Suzuki. Four mil­lion and ris­ing. Fred­eric Manby tries the lat­est.

Yorkshire Post - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE -

IN a world of au­to­mo­bile con­form­ity, Suzuki’s Swift man­ages to stand out.

It has won 63 “car of the year” awards, is sold in more than 100 coun­tries and is pro­duced in seven fac­to­ries. This month, the lat­est ver­sion of a 27-year-old model lin­eage ar­rived in Bri­tain. Like its pre­de­ces­sor, it has three or five doors in a chunky body that is all-new but looks very much a Swift. Ad­ven­tur­ous? Not a bit.

This one for the United King­dom is made in Hun­gary, along with the Splash and SX4. It is evo­lu­tion not revo­lu­tion, says Tet­suya Ozasa, who led the de­sign team, which was based in Europe.

Some of the road-test­ing devel­op­ment was done in the York area. Mine was done on a Press event in the Mu­nich area and I have this sneaky thought that York­shire’s roads will be more de­mand­ing than the pleas­ant Bavar­ian mo­tor­ways and by­ways.

So the Swift looks like a Swift, just a bit more sculpted and with ever more dra­matic front and rear lamps: those at the back roam over the car’s cor­ners, with a white lens cover on the outer edge.

You’ll need to be a cur­rent Swift owner or be in the in­ner loop of car spot­ting to know if you are look­ing at new or old. The best tell-tale is the new ‘60’ reg­is­tra­tion plate.

For me, the Swift looks fine, rather like a pret­tier ver­sion of a Skoda Fabia, that Czech su­per­mini which is a val­ue­for-money ri­val. Both cars have a long flat roof for good head­room but I think the Swift looks smarter.

It comes to mar­ket with a top 5-star rat­ing for crash safety from Euro Ncap, and boast­ing a new 1.2-litre petrol en­gine which re­turns av­er­age mileage in the mid50s and a tax-friendly 116gkm of car­bon diox­ide This means an­nual road duty of £30. A stop-start ver­sion with 113g is un­likely to be im­ported (CO2 be­low 110g/km means com­pa­nies can write-off the car on the tax sheet).

“There’s no point in us hav­ing a stop-start model at 113g,”" says Alun Parry, PR chief for Bri­tain. “If it gets be­low 110g, we would look at it again.”

How­ever, a 1.3 diesel, which ar­rives next spring, reg­is­ters just 109g/km.

Stan­dard equip­ment on the £9,995 three-door SZ2 in­cludes seven airbags and elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, plus re­mote lock­ing, pow­ered and heated door mir­rors, power front wid­ows and au­dio con­trols on the steer­ing wheel.

The SZ3, at £10,995, adds air con­di­tion­ing and 16in al­loys.

The SZ4, at £11,795, brings lots of ex­tras such as auto air con, Blue­tooth, push-but­ton key-less start­ing, au­to­matic head­lamps, cruise con­trol and, on five-door ver­sions, rear pri­vacy glass and power rear win­dows.

All grades are avail­able with five doors for an ad­di­tional £500.

En­vi­ron­men­tal per­for­mance is what Suzuki is chas­ing, that green halo of con­scious care.The quoted CO2 rat­ing shows it is on tar­get, down from a too-high 140g on the out­go­ing 1.3 mo­tor. Its op­er­at­ing arena is “mod­ern ur­ban” but I’d say it feels tough enough for trad ru­ral, too.

The doors close with an im­proved qual­ity and the in­te­rior is well planned with large door pock­ets, a deep and roomy hold-all area at the base of the cen­tral con­sole, a use­ful ledge over the gloves­box and smaller pock­ets in the rear doors.

So, there’s space for all your bits and pieces, al­beit with a sur­faces in hard plas­tics and grab han­dles that are un­damped, a small cost-saver which re­flects sharpeyed Yen coun­ters.

The launch ral­ly­ing cry is “More Swift”, so it is a bit longer, a bit roomier, built lighter, has more rigid and stiffer sus­pen­sion units for re­duced roll and beefier brakes, all steered with a bit more alacrity.

Gear­boxes are a five-speed man­ual with a re­laxed top gear, plus a four-speed au­to­matic for the petrol en­gine in the five-door body in SZ3 and SZ4 grades for an ad­di­tional £1,000. The au­to­matic’s eco stats are 50.4mpg and 129g/km CO2.

Its new mo­tor ben­e­fits from re­duc­tion in fric­tion, lighter com­po­nents and gives a smoother power curve than the old 1.3. It pro­duces 92.7bhp (94ps). The 0-62mph time is 12.3 sec­onds. Cor­rect, that is not go­ing to raise many glances at the Small­bore Bar but the new Swift is not meant to be a hot hatch. It is all about that eco-sense, but the car doesn’t feel slow ei­ther. The torquey mo­tor pulls well, thanks to the less peaky power band, and it out­per­forms the old 1.3.

The Swift ap­peals to all age groups. You’ll see “young­sters” in them, maybe the cars hav­ing bon­net stripes to give some ad­di­tional coo­lio fac­tor.

Ob­vi­ous ri­vals in­clude Clio, Peu­geot 207 and Fi­esta – the lat­ter with the most in­ter­est­ing body shapes and cre­den­tials which are win­ning new Ford prof­its around the world.

The Swift is Suzuki’s best­selling car, in a range which in­cludes the smaller Alto, from In­dia, and the Vi­tara 4x4 mod­els. It also makes mo­tor­bikes, of course. New Swift feels and looks more sub­stan­tial. The 1.2 en­gine is smooth and easy on the pocket. It should do well.

SUZUKI’S SWIFT: Stands out.

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