Small but perfectly-formed and aptly-named Suzuki Swift
Some carmakers experience real nightmares in naming their models but, for Suzuki, highlights Iain Robertson, the exercise remains simple, uncomplicated, informative and precise…much like the rest of the company.
Since the mid-1980s, Suzuki has marketed a compact hatchback bearing the name Swift. It remains as appropriate a model name today, as it was thirty years ago, which is as good a reason for Suzuki to leave it alone and not mess with a sound formula.
Yet, the Swift is a model that has delivered on several counts, not all of them related to speed of reaction, or promptness. Of course, the model has changed significantly to meet modern demands. In its original form, it was so lightweight that a decent breeze might have shifted it off the driver-chosen line. Today’s examples are significantly larger than they used to be, partly to meet crash damage resistance requirements and also to accommodate the airbags and associated equipment levels expected of today’s cars, however teensy they might be.
Recognising that I am not a lone voice speaking in favour of the new Swift, if there existed one minor issue that the company seemed to be failing to address with any competence, it was its CO2 exhaust emissions, which have become such critical figures for the buyers of all new cars. The Swift is powered normally by a 1.2-litre, four cylinder, 16-valve petrol engine, which delivers an unspectacular 91bhp, allied to 87lbs ft of torque, or pulling potency. It is designated: K12B. However, let us not make any pretence here. It is a small capacity unit. It needs to be worked hard to obtain the best performance.
Considering its kerb weight, at just over a metric tonne, a factor borne out by its outstanding body rigidity and overall chunkiness, that it is capable of topping out at 103mph, while cracking the 0-60mph benchmark in exactly 12 seconds, is to the Swift’s credit. However, the figures have never done it justice, because the car actually feels a lot livelier and more responsive than is suggested. However, the more telling results lie in the amount of frugality that can be attained.
Boasting an Official Combined fuel return of 56.5mpg, the nine-and-a-quarter gallon tank presents a usable range of around 450 miles, if driven with a modicum of skill and leaving enough fuel to reach a petrol station to replenish the tank contents. For the typical commuting-type of Swift buyer, the car remains easy to park, thanks to its compact dimensions, practical in its use of cabin space and with enough range available to last for a fortnight’s operation, without having to fork out another £45 to fill the tank. On the face of it, this creates a serious ownership proposition that Swift satisfies to perfection.
However, when it comes to yearly bills, 116g/km of CO2 equates to £30 to be paid annually to The Exchequer. It is not a large sum of money but being ‘free of tax’ is always the preferable position for owners, or business users. While a lot of rot is talked about the exhaust emissions of motorcars and Suzuki is hardly a sinner in that arena, reducing them to below the notional 100g/km hurdle can mean a lot to those of us seeking to drive vehicles that have a reduced impact on the environment.
Thanks to the generosity of Suzuki GB, I have been sampling a ‘one-off’ version of the Swift, which it is hoped will be introduced to the current 1.2-litre models early in 2015. While the engine looks similar and is all but identical to the current unit, it is, in fact, known as the K12B Dualjet. Thanks to some judicious re-programming of the car’s engine management system and the introduction of fresh technology, a cleaner and greener engine results.
In essence, by repositioning the fuel injectors much closer to the engine’s inlet valves, greater atomisation of the fuel and air mixture ensures that the ignition (and subsequent burn period of the inlet stroke) is made in a conveniently swift manner. It is not a major alteration but it is enough to drop the CO2 emissions to 99g/km, which means a ‘zero tax rate’. In addition, the Official Combined fuel economy figure is hiked to a significantly better 65.7mpg, which equates to a massive improvement of almost 16% on the standard engine. Supplementary changes made to the car’s gearing, with lower ratios on first and second gears but a longer final drive ratio, also add value to the cause of the Dualjet engine.
Of course, the acid test lies in how that performance is translated into normal road use. As it happens, I have created a 60-miles test route on public roads in my locale that allow fast open roads, winding back lanes and city centre driving conditions to be replicated from car to car that I test. Having used this means for a number of years, I know that it constitutes the most realistically repeatable situation to allow a decent figures comparison to be made, with the fuel tank being brimmed prior to testing and re-brimmed thereafter.
My first test was carried out in intense economy driving mode. I did not exceed 60mph and I used all of my experience of MPG competitions to attain a phenomenal 83.7mpg from the Swift Dualjet. Apart from being even better than the government figure, I was surprised at how readily the new engine delivered the fuel economy. Interestingly, the Dualjet unit produces 3bhp less than the standard 1.2-litre engine, although its torque figure is increased by just 2lbs ft, delivered at 4,400rpm, only 400rpm less than the non-Dualjet unit.
These figures are really small but the results are tangibly large. Just to add some spice to the mix, I waited a couple of days and drove the route again, this time using the engine’s rev-ability and exploiting the car’s delightful handling. I still managed a more than acceptable 54.4mpg in the brim-to-brim test. Again, a hugely impressive result.
I realise that Suzuki is intending to charge an extra £500 for the new engine in SZ4 trim, in the New Year. A stock Swift SZ4 costs presently £14,639 in 5-door manual form, in a range that starts at £10,799. The bottom-line is that the improvements to the model will amortise the extra charge in a very short time. However, it is worth highlighting that the new Dualjet engine feels markedly livelier, when it is revved, while being capable of lugging up hills in top (5th) gear, when seeking greater frugality. Although there is hardly a ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ character shift between the two modes, the differences can be felt and the results are significant.
As far as the rest of the Swift is concerned, it provides good access to a roomy cabin in five-door form, with a good build quality, excellent comfort, refinement and plenty of equipment in SZ4 guise. The stereo system offers decent reproduction and the standard sat-nav and touch-screen control works efficiently. There is nothing to dislike about the wee car and its sporty handling ensures that most drivers will be able to exploit its potential to the maximum.
Conclusions: The Suzuki Swift has created a strong following among enthusiasts, business users and regular drivers. Nobody speaks ill of the car and the amount of goodwill levelled at the Swift is abundantly obvious. It is a delightful car to wield on any driving route, with positive responses at the helm and copious driver appeal. The new Dualjet engine simply increases the established values inherent to the model.