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