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First drive: Suzuki Swift - on sale this month



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The all-new Swift is the start of a five-model product offensive by Suzuki over the next two years, designed to cement its position as the UK’s third most valued franchise.

It’s the first Suzuki to have been designed specifically for European customers and takes the brand upmarket. It looks good, with styling that echoes the Mini, is sporty to drive and better built than any Suzuki before.

Rivals are value-for-money superminis like the new Daihatsu Sirion and Hyundai Getz. From launch this month there’s a choice of three or five doors with 90bhp 1.3 and 100bhp 1.5 petrol engines. A 70bhp 1.3 DDiS diesel – developed in conjunction with GM – will go on sale in September. Suzuki expects the Swift to sell 6,000 units in 2005 (the manufacturer sold a total of 37,000 cars in 2004).

Swift is designed for town and city driving and thanks to its tight dimensions, light steering and a snappy gearchange, it performs well.

It’s accomplished on backroads, too, where it feels tight with neutral handling, precise steering and little bodyroll. Torsion beam suspension in the rear gives a supple ride and one that is smoother than anything else the company has ever produced. However, all engines are geared to city driving, which means it can feel strained on the open road. A 1.6 GTi with 120bhp planned for 2006 should solve that problem.

The greatest improvement over previous Suzukis is the interior. The cheap, shiny plastics are gone and have been replaced with quality materials and a cabin look that’s clear and almost chic.

The driver gets a sporty-looking three-spoke steering wheel with audio controls and there are supportive, well trimmed, seats all round. Space in the back is a tight, although the five-door is slightly roomier. Luggage room is acceptable and the seats fold flat for increased practicality.

GL is the base model with power steering, electric front windows, heated door mirrors and a radio/CD player. GLX adds keyless entry, air conditioning and alloy wheels. Six airbags as standard.

Strengths:Sporty drive
Weaknesses: 1.5 VVT lacks power; interior quality could be better
Opportunity: Bring fresh buyers to the Suzuki brand
Threats: Strong competition
USP: Sharp styling and rewarding drive
Prices: £7,800-£8,500 (est)
Engines: Petrol: 1,328cc 90bhp 4cyl 16v; 1,490cc 100bhp 4cyl 16v. Diesel: 1,248cc 70bhp 4cyl 16v
Transmissions: 5sp manual; 4sp auto
Performance: 11.0sec 0-62mph, 108mph top speed; 12.5sec 0-62mph, 108mph top speed. Diesel TBA.
Efficiency: 46mpg, 143g/km C02; 43.5.mpg 159g/km C02. Diesel TBA
Rivals: Getz, Sirion, Kalos

Long term: Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4

This surprisingly competent package is expected to steal sales from rivals

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