As you might expect, it’s not quick, but it is willing. The engine feels hollow low down next to the current crop of torquey turbo superminis, especially beyond first and second gears, but that merely encourages you to give it a hiding. It gets more urgent beyond 3000rpm, then gives you a final burst of multi-valve goodness between 5000 and 6500rpm. It’s smooth, too, so while taking it to its upper reaches may hurt fuel economy, it won’t hurt your ears.
Blatting along an empty B-road, there’s just enough pace to tickle the fun glands in your frontal lobe, but at sensible speeds. The gearbox plays its part by being slick and precise, with a relatively short throw – a good thing, seeing as it gets plenty of use. The problem comes when you encounter someone dawdling along in front, because overtaking requires a strategy and a lengthy gap.
The SZ-L's handling is typical Suzuki Swift. For such a budget car, Suzuki doesn’t half do a good job on the damping side. The fact that the Swift rides bumps with aplomb doesn’t just make it comfortable, with an uncanny ability to absorb most of the undulations delivered by our woeful roads, but also keeps it stable. Returning to that B-road we were blasting along a moment ago, you’ll find the Swift quite settled where other small cars might get a little bouncy, even when thrown a mid-corner surprise.
It’s also got a decent amount of front-end grip, which, if you trail-brake into the corner to keep the front tyres loaded up, gives enough purchase for the mobile rear to rotate around – in a happy, safe sort of way. It all adds to the enjoyment that you can exploit at your leisure.
The only real issue is with the steering. The rack is sensibly geared, with 2.75 turns between the locks, but there’s no substance to it. Around the straight-ahead, there’s barely any self-centring action, and it hardly weights up as you add on more lock. The result is nothing in the way of feel as a precursor to the front tyres losing grip and no detectable sensation when they do. It’s a real shame, as it slightly nobbles the Swift, and it would be boosted enormously if it were improved.
To a lesser extent, refinement is also an issue. We know the engine is sweet, but with the five-speed manual gearbox you do tend to hear it buzzing at 70mph, along with a fair amount of wind noise. Road noise is a bit resonant over coarse ground, too, but then plenty of superminis suffer similarly.