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Suzuki Swift

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Suzuki Swift
7/10

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Road Test

Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 five-door

Driven January 2011

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We all know it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slowly. And a supermini with a 1.2-litre engine, and no turbo, probably fits most of our definitions of slow. But not too slow. It makes 94bhp, and it's only got 1,040kg to hold it back.

Part of the fun is that you have to absolutely cane it. Keep the rev needle fluctuating within a gnat's of the red. Carry every last bit of speed into a corner, the tyres howling obligingly. Work the gearstick into a blur - I've never been as busy with any transmission that wasn't a derailleur. And driven like this, the Suzuki Swift is thoroughly happy. It's got a big heart to offset its tiny lungs.

The old Swift was a successful and mildly alternative budget supermini. The new one really is new: all-new engine, new body, slightly bigger and definitely stronger than before, but slightly lighter with it. Yet the design has changed so little, you have to stare for a while to be sure that this is indeed the new one not the old. It's the Porsche 911 evolutionary technique, the designers acting like they're restoring a piece of art rather than drawing something new. The Swift isn't a bad looker but surely it doesn't quite deserve such a reverential curatorial approach.

The cabin design is smart enough but hardly original, and there's not a single piece of jewellery or soft-touch plastic. Never mind, the main point is it's cheap for the space and power.

Unlike the last Swift, it doesn't sound cheap. There's been progress in quelling the road and wind noise, making it a credible car for long trips. There's no sixth gear so at 85mph the little engine is panting away at a hectic 4200rpm, but even so the noise isn't too offensive. The ride helps too: it's taut but well-controlled and never harsh or bobbly either at town speeds or beyond.

This engine does just 116g/km, which equates to excellent economy for a petrol, matching most subminis never mind superminis. There's a 1.3 diesel option, but the extra price doesn't really add up. The five-star NCAP steelwork is lined in seven airbags. Our tester came with Bluetooth, cruise control, a USB port and alloys. Can't imagine all that will be fitted to the £10,000 three-door version, but you will get the right engine so don't grumble.

The old Swift came in a three-door Sport version, and it was a budget tearaway. There will be a new one next year and the signs are good.

Paul Horrell

On your drive for: £284pcm
Performance: 0-62mph in 12.3secs, max speed 103mph, 56.5mpg
Tech: 1200cc 4cyl, FWD, 94bhp, 87lb ft, 1040kg, 116g/km CO2

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