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This is the latest generation of the Suzuki Swift supermini (third or fourth generation, depending on who's counting), the blue-collar thinking man's hatchback, which traces its genesis back to 1983 and a derivative of the weirdly-named Cultus.

More than a million Swifts have found homes in Europe since 2005, with 127,000 of those in the UK, so there's a lot running on this new version, which goes on sale on June 1.

It was born out of Suzuki's spiffy new model plan unveiled two years ago and new Swift shares its high-strength-steel-rich 'Heartect' lightweight underbody with the Baleno and Ignis.

The platform is a claimed 30kg lighter and a good deal stiffer than its predecessor. The lightest Swift is a mere 890kg, with the 1.0-litre mild hybrid model driven here weighing 925kg and even the 1.2-litre 4x4 just 980kg.

While visibly still a Swift, with its wrap-around windscreen, upright headlamps and smiling lower air intake, the new model is 10mm shorter, 15mm lower and 40mm wider than its predecessor and has had its wheelbase extended by 20mm.

The interior is redesigned with more comfortable seats and a new dashboard, and there's more space thanks to that longer wheelbase, with the driver/passenger hip points lowered by 20mm in the front and 45mm in the rear. The boot is 25 percent larger, and now has a much-improved storage capacity of 265 litres.

There's no three-door model anymore, though the five-door models hide their rearmost door handles in the C-pillar. Also deep-sixed is the old nuclear-winter-spec £9,000 SZ2 trim level, but that's not to say the Swift has gone upmarket.

The five-door range kicks off with the entry-level SZ3, which gets steel 15in alloys, rear drum brakes, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, LED day-running-lights and air conditioning.

The SZ-T trim adds 16in alloys, a rear parking camera front fog lights, Suzuki’s touchscreen infotainment system and smartphone integration.

Topping the range is the SZ5 trim complete with a 4.2-in colour information screen, all-round disc brakes, sat-nav, assisted and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, as well as lane-departure warning and a weaving sensor which warns inattentive drivers.

Powering the new Suzuki Swift

There are two engine options for those considering the new Swift, including the 89bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol, which comes fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox and offers four-wheel drive as an option. The 109bhp/125bhp, 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged unit comes with front-wheel drive, and offers a choice of a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox.

Both engines have the option of a mild hybrid. This recoups lost energy in braking with a 0.37kWh lithium ion battery and a starter/generator. That starter spins the engine faster than a conventional system, which means quieter and more efficient stop/starting in traffic. It also helps the engine, with 2kW of power for a short period under hard acceleration. It reduces CO2 emissions by 7g/km, improves fuel economy by 4.3mpg and saves £20 on first-year VED tax, although on the larger Baleno, the same system costs an extra £700 or so.

Making Swift progress in the little Suzuki

Vivacious, brisk, and rather entertaining, Suzuki says it's done a lot of testing on UK roads for steering response and ride and handling, and it shows.

There's a lightness and a slight nervousness in a straight line on models with the 16in alloys, but this disappears as soon as you turn the wheel. The nose dives eagerly towards the apex and while the variable-ratio, electronically assisted steering is almost too light, with little on-centre feel, it is accurate, with a pleasant sharpness to it.

Body control is pretty good, although there is a fair bit of body roll through corners. Once turned in and heeled over, however, this little car is grippy, well-balanced and a lot more fun that it has any right to be. The ride isn't calamitous on longer undulations, but it does noisily clatter over broken surfaces. The disc brakes are generally good, but they are a bit grabby at very low speeds. 

On start-up, the 1.0-litre three-pot warbles mightily. Suzuki has adopted Ford's strategy of deliberately unbalancing the crank counterweights, turning side-to-side vibrations into vertical ones, which are dialled out with clever engine mounts. It works well with only a couple of periods of buzzing through the steering and pedals.

It's an eager little motor - although not quite as strong as Ford's Ecoboost - with a noticeable whoosh from just below 2,000rpm and a charismatic thrum. Against an official fuel consumption figure of 65.7mpg, we achieved 52.0mpg at a measured pace.

One fly in the ointment is the five-speed transmission, which feels stodgy and unwieldy with long gaps between the lower ratios. The six-speed auto trades a tiny bit of fuel economy (but no performance) for more refined progress.

The interior upgrade is largely successful, with an attractive and clear fascia and simple rotary dial controls. While fit and finish are exemplary, the materials choice isn't a match for supermini rivals such as the Skoda Fabia and Ford Fiesta, and the infotainment screen's icons aren't that intuitive.

Front seats are comfy and largely supportive, although the storage space is mean and the glovebox is a joke. The rear seat bench is commodious enough for two full-grown adults with leg and head room to spare and the boot is big enough for a couple of carry-on bags.

If you're looking around in this market, you should definitely consider it. The Swift is an unpretentiously charming small car, and its attributes of light weight, peppy power, enjoyable handling and an appropriately trimmed interior make it stand out in its non-premium sector, to the extent that it should not only be on your shortlist, but quite near the top of it.

Andrew English

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