Our Cars: Suzuki Swift 1.2

21 November 2011: Revelations

The Details

Current mileage 944
Claimed economy 56.5mpg
Actual economy 44.9mpg

I’ve always been a fan of small cars. They’re what I grew up with – when I was a child my brother had a Mk1 Ford Fiesta with Lucas spotlights and a big eagle graphic on the bonnet. One of my early cars was a Citroen Saxo VTR, known for its entertaining handling.

Having grown up in a village in the Yorkshire Dales, I’m used to the merits of a small car. The nearest roundabout to my home for the most part of my life was eight miles - and it was just as far to a set of traffic lights. Between me and them there was nothing but twists and turns, with straight stretches of road never lasting more than a few hundred yards.

Over such winding roads, larger cars tend to wallow around – they feel as heavy as they are and don’t really inspire much confidence. Smaller, lighter machines like the Swift feel much more at home – so I was expecting competence, at the very least, from the Suzuki.

What I actually found was something of a revelation. The Swift, despite a little 1.2-litre engine, is excellent fun to drive, thanks in no small part to a communicative, precise steering set-up. The turn-in (the way in which the car reacts the instant you steer) is extremely precise and immediate. There’s no delay between you making a movement of the wheel and the resulting change of direction.

It makes you feel connected to the car and - more importantly - to the road. That’s also helped by the suspension, which is fairly firm and keeps unnerving body roll at bay in tight bends. Unfortunately, while the suspension is ideal for country roads it’s far from perfect elsewhere.

Find a rough piece of tarmac and all of the lumps, bumps and potholes are relayed into the cabin with a thud. In fact, on one occasion I was convinced that I’d broken the car because of how loudly it crashed over an admittedly huge pothole, but luckily it was fine.

Back to that little engine. It’s a 1.2-litre four-cylinder and produces 94PS, which is hardly a figure to write home about. But consider the fact that about ten years ago you’d expect that from a 1.6-litre engine (My Saxo VTR produced 96PS) and it sounds a little more interesting, combining fun with frugality. All of the power arrives in a large chunk at the top of the rev range, accompanied by a sporty, addictive exhaust note.

It means that you have to push on quite hard to make the most of the engine, which is entertaining on the right road. Thanks to that high-up power delivery, the Swift is a little more relaxed in and around town and the gearing means you can drive at a quiet, steady 30mph in fourth gear, and even fifth with a clear road. 

Unfortunately it’s a little loud on a motorway cruise, but that’s not the environment for which the Swift is designed, despite the fitment of cruise control. But for someone who learned to drive on twisting country lanes, the Swift is ideal. 

What's good:

The steering: It's about as pointy as steering gets. It's extremely easy to drive the Swift precisely on a country lane, and it's very enjoyable.

And what's not:

Where's the Aux-In?: This is a little cruel, given the fact there's a USB port, but why's there no Aux-in? I find it much easier to set the iPod on random and just plug it in via an audio jack. 


« Earlier: All the toys     Later: On a journey »

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21 November 2011: Revelations
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Value my car