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Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 4x4

Click to view picture gallery“For once we were hoping for snow
  and ice. It was April so, being the
  UK, we were in with a chance… but,
  no, all we got were downpours and
  flooded roads
fortunately severe
  enough to put the Swift
s all-wheel
  grip to the test...”

AFTER SELLING WELL in Japan, Germany and Switzerland, Suzuki's 4WD Swift has finally made it across to good old Blighty. However, not all Swifts will be getting the extra grip only the 1.2-litre versions, and then only in five-door SZ3 and SZ4 trim.

Given its size and what's trending engine-wise these days, you might expect the 1.2-litre to be a three-pot. It's not; it's a revvable and high-revving four-cylinder petrol engine that puts out 92bhp and 87lb ft of torque.

Enough to get it to just over the 'ton' 103mph to those who missed the Sixties. Put your foot down you'll reach 62mph in 13.4 seconds from standstill. That's just one single second behind the FWD 1.2 Swift. Officially you could see 51.3mpg (43.4 town and 57.6 touring) but a week behind the wheel saw an acceptable real-life average of 43.9mpg.

“Choosing the 4x4 lifts
the £13,939 price for the
2WD SZ4 to £15,739.
However, you could
always go for less kit, in
which case a SZ3 4x4 can
be yours for a lot less
money — £13,819...
Compare that to the 49.1mpg we saw in the 2WD 1.2 Swift and we'd consider that to be a fair trade-off fuel-wise for the extra safety and handling benefits of 4WD.

But as is the way of the world, 4x4 always means more weight and more money. In the Swift's case, the 'more weight' has been kept to just 65kg for Suzuki's simple, fully automatic and permanent four-wheel drive system.

In a nutshell, in normal running, power is put down through the front pair of wheels but the instant any grip is lost it transfers extra torque via a viscous coupling to the rear wheels. There's no button to push; it's all done automatically for you. The only important thing drivers need to know about it is that it works and works smoothly and effectively.

And the 'more money' bit? Choosing the 4x4 lifts the £13,939 price for the 2WD five-door 1.2 SZ4 to £15,739. As the Americans would say, we've done the math for you the difference is £1,800. However, you could always go for less kit, in which case a SZ3 4x4 can be yours for a lot less money £13,819.

Kit-wise, choosing the better specced SZ4 adds, over the SZ3, automatic AirCon with pollen filter, keyless entry and push button engine Start, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, auto headlamps, powerfold mirrors with integrated turn indicators, four (instead of two) electric windows with one-shot driver's feature, and rear privacy glass.

For the record you'll also have all of the kit that comes on the SZ3 Bluetooth connectivity, 6-speaker MP3/WMA-compatible CD turner with USB port, electrically-operated and heated door mirrors, 60:40 split folding rear seat, headlamp levelling, rear wash-wipe, power steering, multifunction three-spoke leather-rimmed wheel, fuel consumption and range display, green tinted glass, skid plates, wheel arch extensions and side skirts, black A and B pillars, front fogs, and a set of 16-inch alloy wheels.

“The seats are effectively
bolstered and nicely
supportive, as confirmed
by several 100-mile+
trips with no complaints;
and space is abundant,
particularly above
your head...
Topping the Swift's safety features is a maximum five-star EuroNCAP rating; in addition you'll find seven airbags (includes one for the driver's knee), Electronic Stability Program, foot-protecting brake and clutch pedals, height adjustable front belts, Isofix child seat anchorages, childproof rear door locks, automatic headlamps, and a rear wash/wipe.

Identifying the 4x4 Swifts from their 2WD sisters are silver-finish front and rear underbody-protecting skid plates along with black wheelarch extensions and black side skirts on our bright red test car, alongside the black A and B pillars and black upper and lower grilles, the black-themed body kit made for a particularly striking look. But unless you walk around with a tape measure in your pocket, the additional 25mm ride height of the 4x4 models is almost impossible to spot.

Apart from the 4x4 system it's business as usual in the cabin. Getting aboard is easy; all four doors are not only of an 'easy-entry' shape but open wide. The driver is well-served with three-spoke, leather-wrapped wheel and steering wheel-mounted controls (voice, phone, cruise, and audio), one-shot up/down electric window, electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, and plenty of height and reach adjustment of the wheel.

Glass areas are large, and combined with slim A-pillars ensure excellent visibility (even to the rear, courtesy of the wide back screen), that makes placing the Swift, and parking, as easy as a walk in the park.

The accommodating seats are upholstered in a smart black fabric (with blue-and-grey pinstriped centre panels) that are as pleasant to sit on through the summer as during the winter. They're also effectively bolstered and nicely supportive (several 100-mile+ trips with no complaints); and space is abundant, particularly above your head.

“The 4x4-equipped Swift
is happy to show
what it can do —
on tricksy country lanes
it feels safe and
predictable, a perceptible
notch up on the FWD
model, doing the job of
keeping you stuck to the
blacktop unobtrusively
but very effectively...
Those using the higher-set rear bench enjoy ample legroom plus good foot room, comfy headrests and backrests that are set at a relaxing angle. Door bins are usable, which is handy, while outer armrests help make it all more relaxing. Three side-by-side is definitely doable.

There's also privacy glass for protection from the rays as well as the paparazzi so much easier than carting round one of the anti-paparazzi devices New York artist Adam Harvey recently invented (it fires a bright light back at the photographer when they take a picture, so burning-out their images).

The Swift measures a city-perfect 3.85m from nose to tail but there's still room for a 211-litre boot; a flat-floored 528 litres can be had by folding down the 60:40-split seatbacks although there is a 'step-up' not a problem between the folded seats and the boot floor. The 4x4 Swift is also good for towing, pulling as much as 1,000kg braked.

Accessing the boot is no effort thanks to a high-reaching tailgate. And under the floor is a real spare wheel and tyre, albeit a space-saver (hopefully a trend is starting with carmakers to jettison the less practical 'puncture repair kits' you usually get instead of a 'real deal' wheel). The luggage cover-cum-rear parcel shelf is lightweight, and can be quickly removed and stowed out of the way.

Fit and finish is good, switchgear and controls are laid out logically, dials are of the unbeatable 'classic' white-on-black design and the limited use of silver and chrome finishing is not overdone and looks attractive. There's also plenty of in-cabin storage including a large glovebox, cupholders, a handy lidded bin in the top of the dash, and bottle-holding pockets on all four doors. A very liveable cabin indeed.

On our regular but irritatingly irregular road surfaces, the 4x4-equipped Swift is happy to show what it can do on tricksy country lanes it feels safe and predictable, a perceptible notch up on the FWD model, doing the job of keeping you stuck to the blacktop unobtrusively but very effectively. It's as agile as the standard car and while it's no Swift Sport, it does get you from A-B surprisingly swiftly and, with a compliant suspension set-up, in decent comfort. This is a supermini that, wherever you're sitting, you'll be happy travelling in on an everyday basis.

The 1.2 Swift serves up
an enjoyable drive,
satisfies as a cheeky
everyday car that’s
ideally sized for today’s
traffic-clogged roads, and
meets all real-world
motoring needs.
The 4x4 version does all
of the above, only
with more grip and in
all weather and over
rougher terrain than
you’ll find in the city...”
Neither has the FWD Swift's tidy body control been harmed by the extra ground clearance. The steering still reacts crisply, and the brakes are, as with all Swifts, up to scratch with decent pedal feel and strong stopping power. So, gains only and no losses for upgrading to all-weather capability.

You most likely would have expected Suzuki to choose the 1.3 diesel or 1.6 petrol over the 1.2 version to receive all-wheel drive. For whatever reason, they didn't, but fortunately the 1.2-litre can cope okay, if you want to match the official 0-62 figure you'll need to work the five-speed manual 'box some, but its slick nature, short throw and a well-weighted clutch make that no hardship. Entertaining, actually.

Heavy rain and waterlogged roads almost as dangerous as the 'white divils' (as an Irish friend likes to call them) of snow and ice were on hand for us to test the 4x4's mettle. Obviously you take care as, like snow, you've no idea what's just beneath the water's surface at least snow sometimes gives you a clue.

Water doesn't, and over the years we've come across all sorts of nasties including submerged bottles, scaffold poles, broken exhausts and, the ultimate hazard, missing drain covers. But in hard, wind-driven rain and on soaking tarmac, the 4x4 Swift' grip proved to be reassuringly unbreakable.

For those motorists who would have bought a 1.2 Swift anyway, the extra cost of a 4x4 version is not much for the peace of mind it will bring them. Not just during the few days or occasionally weeks of snow and ice during the winter but, as we've experienced during the early part of this year, global wetting: torrential rain and flooded roads. For those who would shun a conventional 4x4 SUV and prefer to drive a supermini, but would feel happier knowing they've got maximum traction whenever and wherever it's needed, a test run in a 4x4 Swift is strongly recommended.

As we said about the regular FWD 1.2 Swift, it serves up an enjoyable drive, satisfies as a cheeky everyday car that's ideally sized for today's traffic-clogged roads, and meets all real-world motoring needs. The smart-looking 4x4 version does all of the above, only with more grip and in all weather and over rougher terrain than you'll find in the city.

Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 4x4 | £15,739
Maximum speed: 103mph | 0-62mph: 13.4 seconds | Test Average: 43.9mpg
Power: 92bhp | Torque: 87lb ft | CO2 126g/km