Road Test: Suzuki Swift Hybrid

There is an undeniable charm with the Suzuki Swift. Its cutesy styling packs in just the right amount of functionality and style without it being just another boring box on wheels. It’s got a friendly face thanks to the LED daytime running lights and that front bumper design that seems to almost smile at you. That large grille wouldn’t look out of place on the nose of the latest Audi, so it doesn’t detract from the Suzuki’s kerbside appeal either.

The black A-pillars give the appearance that the roof is floating, a trick we’re used to seeing on more premium products like a Land Rover, while the integration of the rear door handles into the rear C-pillar create the illusion of it being a three-door. You get machine-faced alloy wheels with black inserts too. These are are all desirable features that for a car costing a little over £14,000 makes it seem like a bit of a steal.

Then there’s the interior, which gets a touchscreen display with DAB radio, Bluetooth and a smartphone link with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. There is air conditioning and a reversing camera too. The rest of the Swift’s interior is a bit more on the basic side though it has everything you’ll need. A flat(ish)-bottomed steering wheel features multifunction controls on one side (an odd move, but hey, it’s quirky, right?), while the layout of the instrument display is clear and easy to read. My only gripe with the touchscreen is that the volume slider is a bit finicky. Otherwise, the physical controls are adequate, with a robust and solid feel that gives you the impression that they will all still function perfectly well in twenty years.

You get a reasonable amount of rear passenger space for a car of this size, with two adults fitting in comfortable, but it gets cosy with a third person. At 265 litres the boot isn’t bad either. You can create up to 579 litres of cargo volume by folding the rear seats down, though the seats don’t fold flush with the boot floor.

Suzuki equips the Swift with a mild hybrid system coupled onto the 1.2-litre Dualjet engine. Before you get excited about it, we must emphasise the mild in that hybrid description. A compact 12-volt lithium-ion battery is located beneath the front passenger seat and is used to store energy sent from the belt-driven integrated start generator (ISG).

The latter replaces the usual starter and enables much smoother engine restarts. As you roll up to a red light, the engine momentarily switches off until you’re ready to move away again. While accelerating away, the ISG can augment the engine by as much as 50Nm of torque to help give it a little more shove. Considering that the additional hardware weighs only 10kg more, it’s not much of a penalty to have to pay. While you’re unlikely to notice any considerable difference in fuel consumption, Suzuki claims that the hybrid system can reduce CO2 emissions by 11 per cent on average.

So how does the Swift drive? Well, as you can see from the performance figures, it’s not quite a hot hatch, but it doesn’t embarrass itself in the comfort and ride quality stakes. Its suspension is on the softer side, and while it can roll a bit in the bends, for the most part, it is an enjoyable car to drive around town. Thanks to its reasonably compact size and light steering it is very manoeuvrable and is happy to dart around the city streets. Beyond the city limits the Suzuki can still keep up with faster-moving traffic, but the lack of a sixth gear makes motorway journeys seem like more challenging work. According to Suzuki’s figures, the Swift is capable of returning 56.4mpg, which after driving it is entirely plausible. There will be some that will undoubtedly top that with ease.

Show slightly less consideration for extracting every last penny’s worth from the fuel tank and you’ll discover a cheekier side to how the Swift handles. Even with the hybrid gubbins onboard the Suzuki remains a very light car and this adds to the fun when you get it onto a twisty road. The engine revs keenly and it puts a smile on your face when you work it a bit harder. For those chasing something with a bit more poke there is a Swift Sport, though it’s best seeking out the pre-hybrid version of that model.

There’s a real underdog spirit with Suzuki these days and the Swift embodies that. There is plenty of stiff competition around this segment, with some excellent cars like the Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza to name but two. However, the Ford will cost you at least £2,500 more, as will the Seat. Suzuki also bolsters its Swift offering with the option of a four-wheel-drive variant to provide additional levels of grip in slippery or icy conditions. This Swift 4x4 also gets more distinctive styling with rugged hard-wearing plastic around its wheel arches and along the bottom of the doors.

As compact hatchbacks go, the Suzuki Swift is one that’s full of charm. It’s fun to drive, cheap to buy, comes well-equipped and is economical to run. Add in the robust nature of its cabin and you have a car that is hard to pass by if you’re wearing your sensible pants.

Model: Suzuki Swift SZ-T

Price: £14,049

Engine: 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol

Power: 89bhp at 6,000rpm

Torque: 120Nm at 4,400rpm

0-62mph: 11.9 seconds

Max speed: 111mph

WLTP fuel consumption: 56.4mpg

WLTP CO2: 113g/km

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