What is it?
The updated all-wheel drive version of the popular Suzuki Swift supermini now features Dualjet technology on its 89bhp 1.2 petrol engine. However, going for this more efficient 1.2 with 4x4 restricts you to one trim: range-topping SZ4.
The Dualjet engine sends its power to the wheels through a permanent four-wheel drive system, which can direct additional torque to the rear wheels when needed. It gets twin fuel injectors, which are positioned close to the engine inlet, allowing for better fuel optimisation. The changes improve fuel economy by 7.5mpg and reduce emissions to 111g/km, helping drop the VED rating to band C.
All of this sounds pretty impressive, and so is the list of standard equipment of the SZ4. Keyless entry, automatic air conditioning, sat-nav, Bluetooth connectivity, seven airbags, cruise control and automatic headlights are all included.
In an effort to set the 4x4 apart from its front-wheel drive siblings, the ride height has been raised by 25mm. It also gets front and rear skid plates and extended wheel arches, adding some all-terrain design cues.
What's it like?
Is Suzuki answering a question that nobody asked: “Can I have a four-wheel-drive supermini?” Possibly, and looking around for competitors, there are slim pickings. In reality, the list is limited to the Fiat Panda. Alternatively, has Suzuki cornered a little bit of the market for itself?
With all-wheel drive traction, the handling is further enhanced over the already-competent standard car in poor conditions. It clings to the road well, only suffering understeer when pushed hard. Body lean is well contained, while the steering is accurate and precise, making the Swift an absolute hoot along twisty roads. Ride quality is pretty good, too; only rougher surfaces disturb your journey.
The 1.2-litre engine is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. There’s enough power at the ready most of the time, but on motorways you will need to shift down a gear or two for overtaking. The gearbox is slick, accurate and easy to use. However, the engine would benefit from a sixth gear because it sounds strained in fifth at motorway speeds. Combined with a lot of road and suspension noise, this means motorway journeys can be tiresome.
Inside, Suzuki has done a good job of trying to disguise the hard plastics that make up the dashboard with splashes of satin-effect trim. The instrument cluster is clear and most of the buttons on the dash are easy to use. The sat-nav is simple, but the graphics look a little dated compared with the latest supermini systems.
Even with the driver’s seat at its lowest position, you still sit rather high up. However, combined with large glass areas, the visibility is excellent. Taller drivers will appreciate the amount of head room on offer, while reach and rake adjustability for the steering wheel make it easy to get comfortable. Overall, the cabin feels roomy, although there is a shortage of cubby storage and cupholders.
Rear leg and head room is more limited, and only fit for short journeys for a couple of adults. The boot is deep and well shaped, however, the boot lip is exceptionally high making it awkward to lift and load heavier bags.
Should I buy one?
Absolutely. If you’re (admittedly one of the few people) after a fun, generously equipped, well-made supermini with the security of all-wheel drive, but on the proviso that you make few long motorway trips, then this car deserves serious consideration. Company car and private buyers will also benefit from the tax savings brought by its cleaner engine.
The Swift has few direct competitors, is cheap to buy and has low running costs, even if it will only retain a little over a third of its value after three years. That said, the slightly more expensive Fiat Panda 4x4 will hold on to even less, and that should count in the Suzuki's favour when it comes to personal finance.
Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 4x4 Dualjet 5dr
Location Surrey; On sale now; Price £14,199; Engine 1242cc, petrol; Power 89bhp; Torque 88lb ft; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 1095kg; 0-62mph 13.4sec; Top speed 103mph; Economy 58.8mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 111g/km, 17%