Here comes Suzuki's new-generation supermini to do battle in one of the most hotly-contested sectors of the new car market, up against some tough rivals.
There is no shortage of choice if you are looking for a moderately-sized, reasonably good fun-to-drive, affordable supermini. Out in front is Ford's top-selling Fiesta, closely rivalled by the Vauxhall Corsa and a host of others including the Renault Clio, Peugeot 208, Kia Rio, Hyundai i20, Skoda Fabia, Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz – and Suzuki Swift.
Little Suzuki continues to punch above its weight with its model line-up of keenly-priced cars, including the likeable and good-looking Swift, which has just been updated in a new generation model that goes on sale next month.
The Swift name has been in the Suzuki portfolio for more than three decades, and this new one is the third generation of the car in the UK. It moves forward in quality, efficiency, and also price. The previous model was on a tighter budget, with a starting price below £10,000, and included a three-door version. Now it's five-doors only, and the kick-off price is just one pound short of £11,000.
The new Swift at 3,840 mm in overall length is a whisker shorter than its predecessor, but has a fractionally longer wheelbase and is four cm wider. It has a new chassis and is slightly lighter in weight than the previous model. The boot has gone up in size, now 54 litres bigger at 265 litres. That's about average amongst its peers, smaller than a Fiesta's but on a par with others.
The engine choice is petrol only, no diesels. There is a 1.2 litre, four-cylinder, 89 bhp Dualjet engine, teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox, that has CO2 emissions of 98 g/km and a combined fuel figure of 65.7 mpg. The more popular choice is likely to be the one-litre, three-cylinder Boosterjet turbo engine with 104 g/km and 61.4 mpg in the manual version, and there's also a six-speed automatic option.
The range-topper at £15,499 is the 1.2 SZ5 SHVS Allgrip, a mild hybrid with four-wheel-drive. It comes pretty well equipped with auto air conditioning, a 4.2-inch screen with satnav, advanced forward detection system, keyless entry and electric rear windows as well as front ones.
Smarter, but hard-touch
Suzuki's designers have spruced up the Swift's cabin, although it's a bit disappointing that all the plastic surfaces are still hard to the touch, and budget-looking. The decor isn't as chic as that of some of its rivals.
It's quite comfortable for a relatively budget car though, with very adequately supportive seats and a good all-round visibility. There are three trim levels: SZ3, SZ-T and SZ5, and all versions have a good level of standard equipment that includes six airbags, air conditioning, a leather steering wheel, DAB radio with Bluetooth and four speakers, LED daytime running lights, electric front windows and rear privacy glass.
What's it like to drive? Sprightly and likeable, although candidly not quite up with the most capable of its rivals, like the Fiesta, Fabia and Astra, for driving calibre. The Swift does a good competent job of hustling you along, handles nicely and has a roomy practicality for its size. It's nimble, decently poised, with good steering feel, and mostly good composure except that the ride becomes a bit unsettled over some of the coarser road surfaces.
Otherwise, it has quite a lot going for it. It is reasonably priced, seems to have relatively modest running costs, is quite stylish to look at, sounds characterful with the lively little three-cylinder Boosterjet engine, and has the bonus of being a bit less common on the roads than a Fiesta or Astra. It's group nine for insurance on all versions.
Suzuki Swift Stats Review
Model tested: Swift 1.0 SZ5 Boosterjet SHVS
Top speed: 121 mph
0-62 mph: 10.6 secs
Economy: 61.4 mpg
CO2: 104 g/km
Images: Sue Baker & Suzuki