Suzuki has never needed reminding that small cars are big business.

The very first Swift (or the Cultus, as the supermini was known in Japan) started life as a stillborn General Motors project, sold to the Minami-ku-based manufacturer in return for a 5 percent stake in the company.

Suzuki duly finished the car’s development, plastered whichever name seemed appropriate to the destination on the back and then proceeded to build it everywhere from Bogota to Nairobi.

The second generation, introduced in 1988, was still being made and sold in Pakistan last year.

The Swift as we know it departed on a separate tangent long before, solidifying as a recognisable concept in 2005.

That generation and its follow-up established the model as supermini manna: cheap, cheerful and just pretty enough to stand out from the crowd.

Naturally, the big-hitting Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa stomped all over it in broader terms – although that didn’t prevent Suzuki from shifting more than a million units in Europe over the course of a decade, making it the company’s biggest-selling car by some margin.

Its replacement, then, ideally needs to fill the same shoes. New from the ground up and sharing the same platform as the Baleno and Ignis, the latest Swift makes familiar boasts: bigger inside, more powerful, more efficient, lighter and better equipped – and even the prospect of a mildly hybridised powertrain.

But the old model was a purveyor of unpretentious dynamic charm, too, and retaining that attribute ought to be just as essential as before in distinguishing the Suzuki from rivals built by Hyundai, Kia, Toyota and every other mainstream manufacturer still in the business of producing inexpensive small cars.

Deleting the three-door option and spotlighting the newish three-cylinder Boosterjet engine are significant decisions.

We tested a top-spec model with the three-pot engine and mild hybrid set-up to gauge the full extent of the Swift’s latest offering.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Superminis

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Explore the Suzuki range

Driven this week

  • Jaguar E-Pace 2018 review hero front
    Car review
    20 April 2018
    Can Jaguar’s compact SUV bring flair and dynamic polish to a fast-growing class?
  • Audi TT RS Coupé
    First Drive
    20 April 2018
    The Audi TT RS has the looks, a vociferous engine and the supercar-baiting performance, but is it too uncompromising to use as a daily driver?
  • Lamborghini Urus review 2018 hero front
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    The supercar maker's new 4x4 is massively capable wherever it goes, while being extremely conspicuous and costly while it does it
  • Skoda Kodiaq
    First Drive
    19 April 2018
    High-spec seven-seater Kodiaq begins its family life with a lot to prove — for Skoda and SUVs
  • Ford Focus RS Race Red Edition front
    First Drive
    18 April 2018
    Ford drafts in some tasty extras for this limited-run Focus RS swansong edition