Suzuki Swift underscores that adequacy is often better than abundance
We wander through life at various paces, suggests Iain P W Robertson, sometimes ambling, sometimes accelerating, invariably moving at an amiably adequate rate, until we reach our conclusion; such is life and a Suzuki slots into it deliciously.
Having enjoyed some history with a brand, because brand association is so important (according to advertisers, mainly) in our otherwise, surprisingly hum-drum existences, I can tell you that Pierre Cardin trousers and shirts seem to fit my lifestyle so well that I can perceive no need to change brands at all. The same applies to Timberland for footwear, since I first became acquainted with the brand in Norwalk, Connecticut, in the very early 1980s, although a recently dispatched pair of US size 14.5 extra-wide deck shoes that turned out to be UK size 13, might cause an unfortunate blip in our relationship.
The problem facing any carmaker is that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ policy has to form part of its remit. Oh, I know that seats move fore and aft and up and down, while steering columns telescope in and out and are up and down rake adjustable too, yet there is an optimum frame that becomes the set target for each model. Fortunately, Suzuki has always stretched its envelope just that little bit further and is unprepared to settle for the Oriental model, preferring to gauge its ‘norm’ at the northern European. Guess what? Despite my otherwise, two-metre, other-worldly enormity, I fit.
That I fit into a Suzuki Swift somewhat better than UK size 13 Timberlands, a compact hatchback that is not quite twice my height in length and only a smidgen over three-quarters my height in width, is much to the tiddler’s credit. I mentioned ‘history’ earlier and the forerunner to this Swift, notably in the incredibly zesty 1.3-litre, 101bhp and significantly smaller but no less accommodating Swift GTi, was a car that I bought twice over. No. Not to obtain one per foot, although the thought did occur.
In fact, on the occasion of my eldest laddie’s ‘coming of age’, I presented him with the keys to a virginal white example. While he was grateful, so was I. My other car was a family car and this Swift was anything but. As long as I could prise the keys from the child’s whitened knuckles, on occasion, I, too, could dip into its remarkable range of capabilities and enjoy a spirited drive upon demand. Both he and I took off for a European ‘Grand Tour’ in 1990, which took in France, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and that nation’s wondrous ‘Green Hell’ of the Nurburgring racing circuit, located within the Eifel mountain range, before we arrived at my ex-father-in-law‘s Belgian abode.
In some ways, it is understandable that my marital manacling lasted for not much longer (although the great friendship with the out-laws survived until both turned up their toes just a year ago). By way of stilted celebration, which coincided with offspring’s 21st coming-of-age nonsense, I acquired the improved version of the Swift GTi for him, this time in satanic black (I should point out that these were not the official colours but are applied for reasons of journalistic incredulity). I loved both versions of that little car (it was smaller than the current Swift), as my eldest would affirm.
As you might imagine, my Swift fascination continues and the latest variant of a very successful package actually proves to be as right for the time, as the original was. No longer powered by a squirrelly, small capacity, techno-fest that demanded sky-high engine revs (it would reach 8,300rpm in the intermediate ratios) and made a noise like a racing car, the current version is significantly more refined.
Firstly, the numbers. The 16v power unit displaces 1.6-litres and develops 136bhp at a less stratospheric 7,000rpm. Thanks to variable valve technology in its twin-camshaft controlled head, the low-end pull belies its torpid 118lbs ft figure. It does perform far better than expectations, despite the fact that the car tips the scales at 45kgs over a tonne. Unfortunately, it emits 147g/km of CO2 from its exhaust, which equates to an annual VED charge of £140, which is likely to increase. It is also not so fuel efficient, returning a consistent 40.7mpg in a mix of driving conditions, despite not venturing anywhere near to its stated 121mph top speed, or testing the 0-60mph dash in 8.4 seconds at every available opportunity. The Swift feels good but the numbers do not quite add up in a more modern vein.
As the five-door Swift Sport is, at £14,499, the priciest of a compact hatchback line-up that commences at a very affordable £10,799, albeit powered modestly at that level by a 1.2-litre engine, it truly has very few rivals. In some ways, that explains its popularity. However, some of it might be due to the Mini-esque treatment of its roof panel, which offers a similar ‘floating’ aspect to that of its notional Teutonic but British-built rival and can be customised in similar ways.
Yet, the Swift is a significantly better packaging exercise than the BMW product, which even occupies a slightly larger footprint than it. The cockpit is a paragon of simple virtue. As with every Suzuki model, annoying blank switches do not exist but the overall specification and quality of the build is pre-eminent. Boasting adequate amounts of space up front, with equally impressive rear seat accommodation, while the boot area is small, it can still carry a week’s shopping for a family of four, or two golf-bags, to underline the adequacy of its packaging.
Because the Sport is the swiftest version, it gains a pair of sporty, cloth-covered seats up front, all nicely bolstered and supportive, which works out useful, when indulging in the car’s first-rate grip and dynamic balance out in the boondocks. With the usual ‘nanny-controls’ disabled (antilock brakes cannot be disconnected, while the stability program can), the Swift can make, well, surprisingly swift cross-country progress and the suspension, although firm, provides a compliant ride quality and absolutely no, on-limit waywardness. This Swift is as safe as houses.
As you can expect of a top model, there is heaps of equipment, although in-cabin storage is somewhat adequate and most owners could do with a little bit more. The standard sat-nav system works very competently and the CD stereo can belt out plenty of Gladys Knight, Pink Floyd, or Moby, to suit most owners’ musical requirements.
Conclusion: The Swift is a typical Suzuki. It does everything exceedingly well and delivers much of what is required of a sporty little hatchback, all without bursting the bank, or busting preconceptions. It is a good looking small car intended for everyman. If there is one issue, it lies in the fact that ‘blue-rinsers’ form the majority of Swift owners, despite the fact that youngsters would not want for anything else from the car. In a case of adequacy over abundance, the Suzuki Swift wins hand over fist.