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Click to view picture gallery“For a supermini that
  goes out of its way
  not to be a hot hatch,
  Suzuki’s new Swift is,
  well... surprisingly hot!
  It’s also a competent
  all-rounder with a price
  that’s as welcome as
  its cute looks...”

SUZUKI DESCRIBES its all-new Swift as a 'compact' car. While that may be perfectly true seen from the outside, it's somewhat misleading overall because if you open a door and sit inside, you'll see that it's anything but compact. In fact, there's practical room for our adults along with a boot that will take four medium-sized suit-cases. Add to that the Swift's neat supermini styling (I want to keep saying 'cute' but it could give the wrong impression), decent driving dynamics, good economy and prices from 7,499 and it's not hard to predict that the Swift is going to go places. And pretty quickly.

The range consists of an entry-level three-door 1.3-litre and two five-door models — 1.3 and the 101bhp 1.5 tested here, both with five-speed manual gearboxes. A four-speed auto is optional on the 1.5-litre model and there's a recently-added range-topping 1.6-litre Sport.

Actually, I take back what I said about the Swift being cute. Cute it is, in the similar but unique way that the MINI is cute. In fact, the Swift's wraparound glasshouse and 'wheel at each corner' design has a touch of the sauciness of BMW's iconic supermini.

From the front, the Swift is distinctive. With bold headlights, strongly curved bonnet emphasised by a deep front apron topped with a mesh grille — all flanked by broad-shouldered wheel arches. At the rear, there are distinctive boomerang-style tail lamps and a smartly styled tailgate with a built-in spoiler that — as well as improving the aero-dynamics — also saves the kilogramme a conventional bolt-on item would add.

Look again at the space between the muscular wheel arches and
you'll understand where the interior comfort comes from — its width. Measuring 1,690mm wide, the Swift has one of the widest bodies
in its class.

And Suzuki has managed to pack quite a lot inside. The 1.5 GLX we tested came well equipped as standard with front, side and curtain airbags, a radio/CD, remote central locking and immobiliser, keyless entry and start, power steering, electric front windows, electric/
heated door mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, tinted glass, air conditioning and front fog lamps. Plus it comes fitted with a set of four smart 15-inch five-spoke alloy wheels shod with 185/60 rubber.

GLX models feature keyless entry for simple door unlocking, engine start-up and locking — as long as you're carrying the key somewhere upon your person, the system detects its presence and unlocks the
car once you're close enough. The doors are opened simply by pressing a button on either front door handle and the engine is started by twisting the ignition key housing. As soon as you walk away from the car, the system detects the key's absence and the car is locked and immobilised.

And it gets better. The cabin is smartly laid out with a high-quality
and stylish dash that, together with the tight fit and finish and aluminium trim highlights, creates a pleasant and inviting ambience. Controls are intuitively sited and light and positive to use. The front seats, upholstered in cloth, are comfortably supportive with fine bolstering and offer class-leading fore and aft adjustment of 240mm, with the driver getting pump-up seat height adjustment.

An average driver should have a good four inches of space between the top of his head and the roof and, although the tilt-adjustable steering column only adjusts the steering wheel for rake, a good driving position is still easily attainable. There's good knee-room for the driver, too. Forward visibility is excellent despite the 'fall-away' bonnet line and positioning the Swift on the road or in a car park is no trouble whatsoever.

The instrument binnacle is set relatively low for clear visibility and adds to the open feel of the cabin. The triple-gauge instrument cluster grouped around a central 130mph speedometer features a rev-counter with a needle that, reflecting sports bike convention, rests in the six o'clock position. Dials are easy to read and a digital information display that shows time, instant fuel consumption and outside temperature is mounted centrally atop a fascia.

The radio/CD unit is neatly integrated into the central fascia and can be operated using either the straightforward, one-touch push button controls or by those on the three-spoke steering wheel. Sited below the radio/CD are large, dial-type controls for the very efficient air conditioning that — more good news for the winter months — comes with a very quick and hot heater. Another plus is that the A/C controls are also easy to use by 'feel' while on the move.

Spread about the cabin are a number of storage cubbies including a handy compartment in the instrument panel, a cylindrical ashtray that can be moved around or placed in any of the three cupholders — and which offers other uses for non-smokers — along with a 'hidden' tray under the front passenger seat. The glovebox is a good size and the slim front door pockets are usefully deep. Other nice touches include the outer air vents that swivel and adjust through a full 360 degrees with a genuine, engineered feel.

The rear seat is comfortable and easily accessed through doors that open wide. A number of longer journeys we made were with two
adults riding up back, without a murmur of complaint from any of them. No doubt due to the good head, leg and shoulder room back there and the nicely raked angle of the rear backrest. The rear side windows might not be electric, but they do wind all the way down into the doors and rear passengers enjoy good views out.

The rear headrests, designed to drop down over the rear backrest to maximise the driver's rearward visibility when not in use — although the rear parking sensors did come in handy! — came high on the comfort scale when in use. Collapse the 60:40 split, tumble-folding rear seat (with three headrests in place), and the 213-litre boot becomes a use-ful 562-litre flat-floored load bay. Easy-to-use retaining straps keep the folded seats firmly in place and making the supermarket shop even easier is an electric tailgate catch that just needs a light touch to release it.

The Swift scores highly in the safety stakes, too. Even the base model has twin front, side and full length curtain airbags, leg-injury mitigating brake and clutch pedals, front seatbelt pre-tensioners and force limiters and child seat ISOFIX attachments on the rear seat. Anti-
lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and a brake assist function are also standard. The Swift comes with a 4-star NCAP occupant protection rating and three stars for pedestrian safety.

Power comes from a gutsy 1.5-litre four-cylinder 16-valve twin-cam unit that — thanks to its variable valve timing — generates 101bhp and 98lb ft of torque at 4,100 rpm. Enough to deliver 0-62mph acceleration in 10 seconds and a top speed of 115mph that is superior to many of its more costly rivals.

Work the engine hard and the Swift really zips along. Around town the 1.5-litre injected petrol engine serves up good low and mid-range power. Keep the accelerator pressed to the floor and the eager twin-cam unit will rev right around the clock to its 6,400rpm red-line for you. And you'll need to keep a watchful eye on the speedo when you're overtaking slower-moving motorway traffic, or even joining from a slip road, as the Swift has a mischievous tendency to race up to 95mph without making enough fuss to have you lifting off.

On motorways the high top gear keeps you to a stable and law-abiding 70mph at an agreeably low 3,000rpm — good news for both refinement and economy. The snappy, accurate gear change action (and five well-stacked ratios) means keeping the engine cooking happily is a no-fuss affair. Nicely weighted pedals and a clean-acting clutch do their bit to take the strain out of driving in heavy traffic, as does the Swift's responsive and agile front-drive chassis.

Suspension-wise, the Swift makes good use of MacPherson struts and coil springs at the front end with a torsion beam and coil spring at
the back. Ride quality is another unexpected surprise, with the Swift effectively smoothing out even pretty poor blacktop.

However, like most cars it doesn't especially like potholes and sharp-edged speed bumps which can sometimes be felt — particularly by back seat passengers. That said, most of the time it's more than supple enough and even when it does encounter a particularly nasty jolt it reassuringly holds the driver's chosen line.

At this stage, we must remind you that the Swift makes no claims to being a hot hatch, and driver entertainment is not generally the headline characteristic that persuades people to opt for a supermini. Even so, the Swift feels nimble and grips enthusiastically and yes, you can really sling it around.

Another advantage here is its wide track — 1,470mm front; 1,480mm rear — which, combined with a 2,380mm wheelbase, delivers notable handling stability. Throw in a 3.2 turn lock-to-lock rack and pinion steering set-up with a tight 9.4-metre turning circle and threading the manoeuvrable Swift through traffic and along twisty B-roads becomes surprisingly enjoyable. And when it comes to stopping we had no cause to find fault. The Swift's brakes — ventilated discs up front; drums to the rear — provide progressive feel and strong, drama-free retardation.

Naturally, driving hard like this doesn't exactly help the economy. Official fuel consumption figures are 32.8, 43.5 and 53.3mpg respect-ively for the city, combined and touring cycles. Our overall test figure came out at 41.2mpg, recorded over a good mix of motorways and town driving. Those keen to maximise the distance between forecourt visits will, we feel sure, be able to match Suzuki's figures.

Overall, the Swift scores on price, accommodation and performance. In addition, not only is it impressively well equipped for the money, but it is as enjoyable to drive as it is to drive around in. And all packaged in a rather fetching body that looks a lot more expensive than it actually is.

If peace of mind hits the spot for you, then you'll appreciate the
Swift all the more for its 3 years/60,000-mile and 12-year perforation warranties that also includes 24-hour UK and European roadside assistance, recovery and associated services for 36 months.

It has been some time since we test drove a Suzuki and it augurs
well for the manufacturers that we can honestly say it has not only improved in leaps and bounds but it is now a true contender in its class. Got it made, haven't you!

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Suzuki Swift 1.5 GLX 5-door
| 8,999
Maximum speed: 115mph | 0-62mph: 10 seconds
Overall test MPG: 41.2mpg | Power: 101bhp | Torque: 98lb ft

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