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Suzuki Swift 1.3 DDiS

Click to view picture galleryIf you like the idea of a MINI but feel
  its ‘iconic
looks are a touch on the
  pretentious side, then look no further
  than Suzuki
s Swift. The Swift also
  has contemporary style and eye-
  catching good looks
  with a dash of traditional Japanese
  modesty and fettled
with European
  driving dynamics

THE SWIFT APPEALS from the very first glance. Wheels pushed out to each corner, prominent wheel arches, bold sills and a broad-shouldered beltline that runs all the way to the tail lights all combine to give it unmistakable but understated street cred. The front-end is refreshingly uncluttered and, framed by deep, square-cut headlamp housings that sweep back into the wings to mirror the shape of the tail lights, presents a distinctive yet friendly face to the world. Finished in a lustrous metallic black, out test car was frequently admired in car parks across the south of England.

Having driven all the models in the Swift range, we can honestly say that these Suzuki superminis really are a great buy. Not only are they economical but they're great fun to drive, offer a sporty ride, come with decent standard kit and, with prices from 8,750, they certainly won't break the bank.

The Swift goes one
better than many of its
supermini rivals
because while it does
indeed shine in the
cut-and-thrust of
city driving, it’s also
equally at home darting
round twisting
country roads or
bombing along the
As to specification, all models incorporate driver and passenger front and side airbags as standard, together with full length curtain airbags, radio/CD player, remote central locking and immobiliser, electric front windows (rear windows are wind-up), electric and heated door mirrors, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, parking ticket holder and tinted glass.

The 1.3 DDiS adds air conditioning with a pollen filter, 6-spoke alloy wheels, front fog lamps and keyless entry and start. So, no fumbling to insert a key in the lock or press a remote — all you need do is have the key on your person and press the small black button on the door handle (or the bootlid) to unlock.

Once inside the car, the ignition barrel can simply be twisted to start and stop the engine. Once you've parked, simply press the door handle button and the car will be locked and immobilised.

The 1.3-litre common rail diesel engine delivers a wide spread of torque, peaking at 140lb ft at just 1,750rpm. On the move the DDiS feels as eager as a puppy. The Swift's mechanical eagerness fits well with its chassis, rewarding bursts of spirited driving with a smile on your face.

But be warned: if you don't keep a watchful eye on the speedometer you'll find yourself bowling along at a points-incurring 85mph — at which speed, incidentally, it is pleasantly refined and quiet, particularly for a diesel.

Be in no doubt, it's a brilliant, gutsy and smooth little engine: it revs like a petrol engine and it sounds like a petrol engine; but it drinks like a diesel — a week's real-world hard driving saw a very impressive average of 58.3mpg. CO2 emissions of 119g/km mean road tax is a painless 35 a year. For the record, official fuel consumption figures are 62.8mpg combined, 50.4 urban and 72.4mpg extra-urban.

As you would expect of a car designed to excel in urban landscapes, it turns in keenly and precisely; the rack and pinion steering may be electrically-assisted but feedback is nevertheless good. Good enough, in fact, for you to exploit the grip that comes from the Swift's wheel-at-each-corner set-up.

Add in a widest-in-class track (1,470mm at the front, 1,480mm at the rear) that benefits passenger room as much as it does handling, and the Swift feels as 'planted' as a MINI. Adding to the pleasure of driving spiritedly is a smooth and satisfyingly accurate gearshift action.

You can really chuck
this Swift about if you’ve
a mind to, and it just
comes back for more
But the Swift goes one better than many of its supermini rivals because while it does indeed shine in the cut-and-thrust of city driving, it's also equally at home darting round twisting country roads or bombing along the motorway.

The ride, too, is good and the well-damped suspension keeps the Swift riding level as well as contributing towards its accurate handling. And it's forgiving, too: come off the power in a corner and the Swift obligingly tucks in its nose without fuss to sharpen your line.

Not to mince words, you can really chuck this Swift about if you've a mind to, and it just comes back for more. Even urbanised owners, who may have bought one for its stand-out economy, will appreciate the Swift's road holding as much as enthusiasts.

We haven't mentioned them yet but the brakes — ventilated discs up front and drums at the rear — are progressive and equally reassuring. Backing them up is ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and a brake assist function.

While it's not so tall that it stands out, the Swift is of a good height and consequently the cabin is without doubt genuinely roomy. Five-door models will seat five; three in the back no problem. Rear passengers have outer armrests and the rear head restraints, the kind that park low on the seat when not in use, support your head in just the right place. The rear seat bases are set about five inches higher than the fronts, so the view out for rear passengers is always interesting. Travelling in the back of a Swift is definitely no hardship.

Adding to the pleasant cabin ambience, the seats are upholstered in a two-tone cloth material — on our test car, black with patterned blue centre panels. The front seats are well shaped and very accommodating and, also being set higher than usual, provide a better and more comfortable angle for your lower legs. Sit in the front or the back and you'll find there's headroom to spare.

Cabin architecture is as clean and uncluttered as the outside and fit and finish is tight. The triple-gauge instrument cluster includes a rev-counter whose 'zero' — following Suzuki's sport bike convention — is at the six o'clock position. Revs to the left of the speedo and to the right, two smaller 'stacked' gauges for the fuel and coolant temperature.

You certainly don’t
have to tarry
on the tarmac to get
60-plus to the gallon!
The hi-fi is neatly integrated into the dash with easy-to-use one touch push buttons for the front passenger and remote controls mounted on the three-spoke, tilt-adjustable steering wheel for the driver. A digital driver's information display is mounted centrally on the leading edge of the fascia and provides readouts for time, fuel consumption and outside temperature.

Ample height adjustment for the driver's seat as well as the steering column make it easy to find a good driving position even if you can't see the front of the car due to the bonnet's fall-away styling; not that it matters because it's short and you quickly become aware of where it ends. Apart from which, the driver enjoys first-rate visibility. Another plus is the roomy footwell which provides plenty of space for the driver's feet and knees. We test a large number and variety of cars and you'd be surprised how many times we bang our knees. But not in the Swift!

Elsewhere in the cabin you'll find an assortment of handy cubbyholes and cupholders including a 'secret' drawer under the front passenger seat along with two 12v power sockets. The boot itself has a 213-litre capacity and the sturdy two-section floor panel can be removed to add an additional eight inches of boot height. Alternatively, you can leave the panel in situ and use the space underneath for secure storage. If you need more carrying space, the 60:40 split rear seatback tumble-folds easily to create a load bay of 562 litres.

The sensibly-priced Swift DDiS is a genuinely likeable and brilliant little car. It's functional and engaging to drive both in town and out on the open roads. And you certainly don't have to tarry on the tarmac to get 60-plus to the gallon! — MotorBar

Suzuki Swift 1.3 DDiS 5-door
| 10,950
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 13.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 58.3mpg
Power: 74bhp | Torque: 140lb ft | CO2 119g/km | Insurance group 4