The Korean company has gone all stars and stripes
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£12,444 when new
Well, we’re happy to admit that we didn’t see this one coming. A four-wheel-drive version of a perfectly acceptable city car? Suzuki has got it all wrong. The idea, post-Juke, is to make it look off-roaderish but avoid fitting the clanky bits, not the other way round. Already on sale in Europe and Japan, Suzuki decided that - with Britain experiencing quite a long blanket of terrible weather last year - we could probably use the Swift 4x4 over here too. It’s almost identical to the standard Swift, and gets a permanent four-wheel-drive system that adds an extra 65kg worth of gubbins, 10g/km more of CO2 and a 25mm taller ride height. Ah yes, that 4WD. It’s a viscous-coupling set-up, meaning 2WD for normal conditions, with extra torque sent to the rear wheels should the fronts slip. Simple, old-school and effective. It retains the Swift’s lovely handling traits, which means you can throw it around with merry abandon, hacking away at roundabouts, country lanes and the like with zeal. It would be peppier still were it not for the 1.2-litre engine. Despite the extra 65kg, the Swift 4x4 still only weighs just over a tonne, but up against that the four-pot produces only 93bhp. So you need to thrash it to get anywhere, peak torque coming in at 4,800rpm, and peak power cresting in at 6,000rpm. Motorway overtakes require careful planning and preparation. It did seem to enjoy a bit of a lashing, though, the engine getting all zingy at the top. Still, this is a minor complaint. That extra 25mm ride height has polished the ride quality a touch, so it’s more comfortable over upsettingly rough tarmac. Which, in Britain, is most of it. The steering’s nice and accurate, if a little light, but overall it’s an honest, unpretentious little thing that’s still a hoot to drive. However, there are others cars like this clamouring for your attention out there. Chiefly, the Fiat Panda 4x4, itself another viscously-coupled city car that’s a lot cheerier, more enthusiastic and, crucially, a bit more fun. Sure, the Swift does everything you could ask of a dinky 4x4, but the Panda’s interior is better, and the car has more character.
There’s also one more big problem for the Swift. For the next two weeks a competitive introductory offer means you can pick one up for a reasonable £13,546, but come October the price rises by over £2,500. Bet Suzuki’s praying for another cold winter.
£13,395 – £21,595
Renault has rediscovered its form with a loveable car in a class that lacks them
£15,410 – £22,060
Price cuts and head-turning new trims aim to encourage more into the fun but flawed 500
£12,905 – £18,080
Loads of space and equipment with well-rounded dynamics and sharp styling, all at tempting prices