Gareth Butterfield tests an all-wheel-drive version of the justifiably popular Suzuki Swift
THIS is the new Suzuki Swift 4×4. And what, I hear you ask, is the point of that? Why would you buy a small car with four-wheel-drive when there are so many “compact SUVs”, crossovers and the like on the market.
And I’d have to reply with the question: “Why not?” Small cars like the Swift, which I’ve already tested and I’m already very fond of, are just the ticket for many people. It’s fun to drive, easy to see out of, easy to park and manouvre and it isn’t trying to be something it’s not.
Adding a four-wheel-drive system to this newcomer, the Allgrip, just makes it more versatile without adding to the footprint and, because Suzuki is pretty adept at making all four wheels spin, it doesn’t compromise on space of economy.
So it’s made a really useful small car even more useful. What’s not to like? Well, not a lot to be honest.
Just like its predecessor the Swift is a cute and entertaining little thing, with sharp road manners and diminutive but economical engines.
Especially with the one-litre turbocharged engine it lives up to its name and it’s certainly swift. This is less the case with the 1.2 litre four cylinder engine, sadly, as that unit only has 90PS despite it being fitted with a “mild hybrid” electric system to give it a boost.
And unfortunately that’s the engine you’re stuck with if you do want a four-wheel-drive version of the Swift. The permanent four-wheel-drive Allgrip system is only available in the top-spec SZ5 and only with the slower petrol engine.
Truth be told, in isolation it’s actually not half bad. If you can ignore any sense of mechanical sympathy you might normally have and give the thing a bit of a workout, it is brisk enough for most normal driving conditions.
And, despite the added bulk and transmission burden of a four-wheel-drive system, economy figures are still really strong. Expect to reach 60mpg if you try really hard, and you’ll be putting out a thoroughly reasonable 101g/km of CO2 – which is decent enough for a 4×4.
Motoring journalists, including myself, will often tell you you don’t need four-wheel-drive in bad weather, just a decent set of tyres and a delicate right foot. But we also acknowledge it’s a very comforting safety net and, for the occasional buyer who lives down a muddy country lane, it’s invaluable. So it’s nice that the Swift has the option.
And while it might make the Allgrip version something of a niche product, it’s still as likeable as the 2wd version and, because the Allgrip system is only available on the top-spec model, it means you’ll get all the latest Suzuki gadgets, too.
This means, for less than £18,000, you could have a thoroughly practical car with a top-notch infotainment system, various safety additions, a mild hybrid engine, leather seats, adaptive cruise control AND four-wheel-drive. And that, in my book, is a bit of a bargain.
So it’s as an affordable, value-focused all-rounder that the Swift excels. And besides, do you really need a jacked-up SUV anyway? Why not save a few quid and have a bit more fun. I know I would.