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First drive: 2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.

First drive: 2017 Suzuki Swift
Simplify and add lightness; Suzuki has done one of these two things to its Swift, and we heartily approve.

 



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2017 Suzuki Swift

4 4 4 4 4

Suzuki updates the Swift for its fourth generation, the evergreen hatchback slotting into a range that now includes two similar-sized cars in the form of the Baleno and the Ignis. Indeed, the new Swift uses the same 'Heartect' platform as these two stablemates and the best news here is that this supermini challenger has lost some weight... um, quite a lot of weight, in fact. And it was hardly fat in the first place. This makes it a much more competitive hatchback in the B-segment than it has been previously.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Suzuki Swift 1.0 SHVS SZ5
Pricing: starts at 10,999; 14,499 as tested
Engine: 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder petrol with SHVS mild hybrid augmentation
Transmission: front-wheel drive, five-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 97g/km (120 first 12 months, 140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 65.7mpg
Top speed: 121mph
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Power: 111hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 170Nm at 2,000- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

The Suzuki Swift, evolving into its fourth generation. Now, you might be wondering why the company is bothering to overhaul the Swift, seeing as it already has the capacious Baleno and shrink-washed-SUV Ignis in its ranks. But this particular nameplate stretches back to the 1980s and the Swift has been a highly popular car for the Japanese marque in that time, with the old Sport model winning particular critical acclaim. Powered by a 1.6-litre engine rated at 136hp and weighing in at 1,045kg, it might not have been an out-and-out hot hatch, but it remains a brilliant everyday performance car with a jewel of a chassis.

We can't tell you much about the all-new Sport, other than it will appear in 2018 and will most likely use the 1.4-litre Boosterjet motor from the Vitara S, but don't despair, because the cute appearance of the regular MkIV Swift hides a startling fact. It is, incredibly, up to 120kg lighter than its predecessor. This is something like 11 per cent less bulky, which is a huge reduction to have enacted on a car that was scarcely more than a tonne in the first place. The four-model launch range of the Swift, due on sale in the UK in June, now tips the scales at anything between 890kg and 980kg - and that latter figure is for the solitary four-wheel-drive variant. That's incredibly trim, even for a car that's significantly less than four metres long.

This enforced diet promises much for the dynamics of the regular range (not to mention the forthcoming Sport, which should have a phenomenal power-to-weight ratio for this class if Suzuki decides to take the 1.4 beyond 140hp), yet the Swift is also a clever piece of packaging. It's actually 10mm shorter and 15mm lower than its predecessor, yet it has a 265-litre boot (which is up by 54 litres) and more space in the cabin. How so? Well, the wheelbase has been extended by 20mm and there's been some intelligent redesigning of the cockpit to make the best use of the space within the body.

Shame there wasn't more flair put into the dashboard design - if you're after a conscientiously funky interior, you'd be better off in the Suzuki Ignis. The Swift also has some questionable plastics and a steering wheel that feels curiously underfed in your hands, but the layout of all the major controls is superb and, as befits any Suzuki, there are plenty of toys. SZ3 entry level cars have DAB, Bluetooth and air conditioning, SZ-T mid-spec machines enjoy 16-inch alloys, smartphone compatibility on the touchscreen and a rear-view camera, while flagship SZ5s gain climate control, satnav, LED headlights, polished 16-inch wheels, Dual Sensor Brake Support, electric windows in the back as well as the front and adaptive cruise control.

That just leaves the looks, about which most people will have already made up their minds. Seems there's a good proportion of folk who aren't fans, but we're happy to admit we quite like the Swift. It's tidy rather than jaw-dropping and it's possibly a little too sweet, especially with that upturned lower airdam that makes the car look as if it's smiling all the time, but it features some strong Swift features, like the wraparound glasshouse, slanting roof, chunky C-pillars - now with a 'fad of the moment' floating-roof effect - and very similar light clusters to the model that it supersedes. You can have the Swift in a few two-tone colours with a contrast roof as well, but it's not as wilfully funky, nor blessed with such an eye-catching paint palette, as its Ignis sibling, and it'll look pretty bland up against something like Nissan's edgy, daring Micra.

How does it drive?

It makes up for any gripes about the quality of the cabin finishing by being a little belter to drive. Perhaps not quite Ford Fiesta-rivalling, or even up there with the new SEAT Ibiza, but there's a verve and peppiness to the Swift that speaks volumes about its lack of weight. We drove the 1.0-litre Boosterjet three-cylinder petrol model with the Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS) mild hybrid augmentation and a five-speed manual gearbox. You can have this engine without the SHVS and if you do, there's a six-speed automatic option, while a 1.2-litre normally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine is also offered with and without SHVS; go hybrid and it gets Allgrip four-wheel drive.

Neither capacity engine is astonishingly powerful, the 1.2 delivering 90hp and 120Nm, the 1.0 a more fulsome 111hp and 170Nm (160Nm for the auto), and neither gets any on-paper performance or peak output improvements courtesy of the SHVS. But what the hybrid system - incorporating an Integrated Starter Generator of 2.3kW and 50Nm with a 12-volt lithium-ion battery under the passenger seat - does do is fill in any torque gaps at lower revs and use regenerative braking to harvest energy to recharge the battery. These two items alone improve the economy and emissions marginally, enough to make the 1.0 SHVS the cleanest Swift of a frugal launch line-up.

The on-paper stats don't do justice to the way the 1.0 smoothly accumulates speed, nor its crisp throttle response. Nor do they give you the slightest inclination as to the Suzuki's marvellous handling. Understeer is minimal, body roll is present but constrained to a decent level and turn-in is remarkable. The Swift is happy to rapidly switch directions without getting all of a fluster and it even feels like there's a little bit of rear-axle involvement in the way it traces a line through a given bend.

Furthermore, despite the appealing sound of the three-cylinder motor, refinement on-board is pretty good for a car of this class and the ride, if not the finest in the segment, is certainly not below average. Indeed, as a simple, day-to-day runner, the Swift is as amenable as it ever has been - there's great visibility out of the cabin, the controls are all nicely calibrated and reasonably light and it'll potter as civilly as most other machines in the class. All in all, we really like the way the Swift drives in a variety of scenarios.

Verdict

No longer just an intriguing alternative to a whole host of mainstream players, the Suzuki Swift MkIV now feels like it is genuinely sitting among the leading supermini pack, albeit it's not quite special enough to take a place on the podium. It is ultimately let down by its mediocre interior finishing and ride comfort that's acceptable rather than cosseting.

But it has a lively chassis, a fine drivetrain, loads of equipment across the board and attractive styling, with the final tempter likely to be highly competitive pricing when it is finally announced in late April. You'd still have to wilfully ignore thoroughly polished products like the Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Skoda Fabia to end up in this Japanese B-segment challenger before all else, but - given it drives in such a fun fashion - no one would criticise you if you do decide to opt for the Suzuki. Roll on the 2018 Swift Sport...

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

4 4 4 4 4 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 23 Mar 2017









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2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.

2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.2017 Suzuki Swift. Image by Suzuki.








 

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