Suzuki Swift

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SUZUKI’S Swift is the car that dispels the myth that familiarity breeds contempt, writes Robin Auchterlonie.

Because while the latest version bears more than a passing similarity to its predecessor, it’s more a case of admiration than contempt that’s your first impression.

The shape might be familiar but those headlights are certainly bigger, the grille stands to attention more and the rear lights have had a makeover, as has the cabin. Those with a tape measure will notice the Swift is now 90mm longer, and marginally wider.

Here’s a car that to my mind is an improvement on what was served up before but don’t just take my word for it. It was only launched two months or so ago but already is picking up accolades from those in the know – my colleagues in the Association of Scottish Motoring Writers have voted the Swift their Best Small Car in their Car of the Year awards. It won’t, believe me, be the last award it wins.

They know a thing or two north of Hadrian’s about carefully priced cars, and there was obviously a twitching of the sporran when Swift prices were announced as starting at under £10,000. A fiver under 10 grand, but that’s five tickets on the lottery, laddie.

With small car buyers now expecting comfort, quality, refinement and safety levels akin to executive cars then the Suzuki is ideally placed to rack up the plus points.

On our bumpy test route that sorts out the compliant from the ones that have you scrabbling in the footwells for the fillings from your teeth, the Swift’s soft suspension coped exceptionally well. You can’t escape the fact you’re on a poorly maintained road but occupants don’t suffer much discomfort because of it.

Steering is light and accurate, a necessary and welcome attribute when driving through a Buckinghamshire village with school run mums coming at you from all angles. Very user friendly and for a small car the Swift has a lot to commend it, not the least of which is the fact it’s not that small inside. It’s taller than many shape gives good headroom and you could get five decent sized humanoids inside, although room in the rear is hardly overgenerous and the boot space demands careful packing.

The interior is neat and uncluttered and the controls and dials are easily visible at night, a combination of white and red picking out the main gauges in the darkness. It’s functional without being over-burdened with things you don’t actually need for everyday motoring. But it has things you do need, like steering wheel mounted controls for the radio, and a light and precise clutch/gearbox set-up.

Seats are comfortable and there’s a soft feel headrest that is a pleasant change from the rock hard ones you find on a lot of cars.

It’s one of the cleanest petrol engined small cars available in the UK , giving you 56.5mpg, emissions of just 116g/km and £30 a year road tax. The 1.2 litre unit – the only one available at present until the diesel 1.3 arrives in the new year – is a perfectly adequate engine, quick off the mark around town and willing to keep up a decent speed on open roads and dual carriageways. Road noise can be a bit intrusive at times and there will be times when it feels a little out of its depth, notably in very windy conditions when the small engine struggles in headwinds and the square shaped body gets tugged about by sudden gusts of wind.

But it’s probably my most surprising car of the year. I always knew it was a good small car but they’ve somehow managed to make it a bit more of an attractive proposition.

Suzuki have a reputation of being the small car experts and this does nothing to burst that bubble.

AT A GLANCE

Suzuki Swift

Prices from £9,995

Three trim levels – SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4

1.2 litre petrol engine, 94PS, 118Nm torque

Equipment includes seven airbags, ESP, front electric windows, remote centre locking, electric door mirrors, MP3/WMA compatible CD tuner with USB port, aircon and alloys (SZ3) and bluetooth, keyless start and automatic headlights (SZ4).