We’ve been putting the Suzuki Swift to the test, to see if the likeable supermini is capable of taking on the more serious role of family hack. Keith Adams reports
Okay, I admit it – the Suzuki Swift is being a little bit pampered at Adams’ Towers at the moment. It’s very much the second car in a multi-vehicle household – but the way I see it, most owners, and users, are going to treat their Swift as I am. And most of you know where I am coming from with that – it’s a supermini, and therefore is cast in role of urban runabout, scamping from one shopping trip to another.
And to be fair, the Swift is fulfilling all that’s been asked of it admirably. I could – once again – bemoan its lack of mechanical refinement in the engine department, but I’m not going to do that. Turbo-lag is a pain in the neck (literally when it comes on boost), and the vocal engine installation will no doubt be tamed, come the facelift. In the cut and thrust of town driving, it really is an excellent little tool.
The Suzuki shares the MINI’s excellent steering, but you sit much higher, and have a loftier view of the road around you.”
We’ve recently bought a MINI, and it’s interesting to compare the British and Japanese approach to small car engineering. In the MINI, you sit low, and steer as you would a go-kart – it’s confidence inspiring and perfect for nipping in and out of gaps. The Suzuki shares the MINI’s excellent steering, but you sit much higher, and have a loftier view of the road around you. It’s an approach that does work well – as visibility is all on crowded roads – but it won’t have you grinning quite the same way. It seems a little too grown up for such frivolousness.
But where the Suzuki leaves its British rival far behind is in terms of practicality. We treat the MINI as a two-seater, and for very good reason. The Suzuki on the other hand is commodious for four – and as long as you’re careful getting in the rear door, lofty passengers can sit behind a lanky driver. Putting it to the test this Christmas was the only thing to do – the Suzuki deserved nothing less. So in the interests of peace and harmony, we undertook the trips to various in-laws in the Swift, packed with four adults.
Hitting the motorway, the Swift feels on the pace, and far nippier than its 74bhp power output would have you believe. And once up to speed, it’s geared for distance, with the four-pot turning over at around 2,500rpm at that legal limit. It’s also quite hushed on the engine front – although wind noise could be better contained.
But the chassis – which I’ve praised before for its wonderful steering and responsive turn-in – did seem to wilt a little under the pressure. Okay, we’d weighed-up the Swift significantly, but the damping, basically, went to pieces. With the combination of firm springing and soft damping leaving us all unsettled – and some almost on the verge of travel sickness. Crosswind stability also seemed under-par when put to the test – again something I’d never noticed before under less trying circumstances.
Slightly more worrying was the average fuel consumption – 49mpg at motorway speed. It’s the first time I’ve seen the Swift dip into this territory, and we were running in some exceptionally windy conditions. So, the benefit of the doubt can be given here.
Okay, few owners would put a Swift to the test like this on anything approaching a regular basis, but these kinds of errands aren’t unusual. And I suspect as more people trade-down in the future, it might become a little more regular, but for now I’m left with the slightly unsettling feeling that a Ford Fiesta would have come away from our Christmas a whole lot less tarnished.
But we’ll not let this take away from what has so far been an exemplary performance from what is becoming an increasingly common sight on British roads. The first service is approaching rapidly now, and we’re looking forward to experiencing Suzuki’s excellent dealers for ourselves. And then it’s no doubt back to some proper urban pampering – just how the Swift likes it.
Date arrived: 16th June 2011
Mileage to date: 8,360miles
Fuel consumption: 67.3mpg (official combined) / 57.9mpg(on test)
After being bombarded with dire warnings about the upcoming Siberian winter, and the constant reminders from my colleagues that I really need to get the car ready, I succumbed to pressure, and invested in the Swift DDiS.
A trip to the local bargain shop elicited an ice scraper and integrated brush, a can of de-icer and a bottle of screenwash. Then I picked up a pack of Snickers bars and a bottle of drinking water for the glovebox. On my way out, I picked up a couple of sturdy cardboard boxes, split them down and left them in the boot. And, err, that’s it.
The chocolate, water (for sustenance) and cardboard (for digging, traction, or kneeling on) are for if the worst should happen, and we get stuck in the snow. I’ve slung a foot pump for the tyres in the boot – just in case I need to let the air out for additional traction. The only downside is the tiny boot looks quite full now, as there’s no meaningful under-floor storage for stuff like this. I could have purchased a set of winter tyres and wheels – but given past experience of being stuck behind everyone else, I really don’t see the point. I feel quite confident that little’s going to stop us.
Date arrived: 16th June 2011
Mileage to date: 7,787miles
Fuel consumption: 67.3mpg (official combined) / 58.5mpg(on test)
Any thoughts of preparing the Diesel Car Suzuki Swift for the upcoming winter have yet to be implemented. I make it a rule to check all aspects of the car on a weekly basis: giving the tyres a kick, checking the fluids and keeping the windows nice and clean. So, the Suzuki speeds on wearing its standard tyres, and is proving very enjoyable indeed.
In daily life, the Swift is still stacking up nicely. Its duties remain those of a motorway commuting car, and hack for the odd long distance assignment. It’s proving perfect for the former, thanks to its easy 60mpg-plus in typically gloopy three-lane UK traffic. Ample mid-range punch and strong brakes mean the Swift keeps up nicely with the ebbs and flows of the overtaking lane. The car’s seamless integration with my iPod – and brilliant sound quality – make ‘enjoying’ the inevitable hold-ups due to far too many people’s propensity to crash into each other a little more bearable.
I’m still amazed by the amount of room in it. You’d swear from looking at it that the Swift would have a MINI-style lack of rear space, but actually, an adult can fit quite comfortably in the rear – and that includes being behind me as the driver (and although I am not quite six foot tall, I do have the seat all the way back on its runner). And during a recent 200-mile four-up trip, the only grumbles I heard from the rear were from passengers who thought the stereo lacked oomph.
I do hope that when – or if – Suzuki thinks about building a three-door Swift DDiS, it does address my two biggest criticisms of the car. I remain critical about the turbo installation as ever, and every time I return to the Swift from another turbodiesel, it has me cursing in frustration. It’s laggy and hard to drive smoothly – you’re either off boost and cursing its flaccidness, or pulling like a banshee through its narrow power band. The engine’s also far too vocal. It’s not an unpleasant noise it makes, and you’ll certainly know it’s pulling hard – when it’s pulling – but a little less volume would be nice. A bit of soundproofing should do it.
Finally, the interior is solid, functions well, and looks good. But how about some jollier seat fabrics please? That would give us all something good to look at when we get stuck in the winter during our ‘Siberian snowdrifts’. Ahem…