What is it?
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% 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, tbut that's not to say the Swift has gone upmarket. The five-door range kicks off with the £11,000 SZ-T, which gets steel 15in alloys, rear drum brakes, a DAB radio, Bluetooth, a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and air conditioning. The SZ-T trim introduces the three-cylinder turbocharged motor and is predicted to take around half of UK sales, offering 16in alloys, a rear parking camera and a smartphone link.
Top-trim SZ5 has a 4.2-in colour information screen between its dials, all-round disc brakes, a central 3D infotainment touchscreen with sat-nav, and a new monocular camera/laser sensor system, which provides assisted and automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, as well as lane-departure warning and a weaving sensor which warns inattentive drivers. Prices for top models are expected to be knocking on the door of £14,000.
The 89bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol comes as 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.