Suzuki's Swift 4x4 might be a minority player in the range but it offers supermini buyers something decidedly different. Jonathan Crouch reports.
Ten Second Review
The Suzuki Swift 4x4 brings all-weather ability to the buyer who wants a new car but doesn't need the bulk of an SUV. With modest 1.2-litre petrol power and the fresh option of the brand's clever Dualjet technology, it's not going to cost a lot to run. Just budget for a set of winter tyres to really get the best from it in more inclement seasons.
Suzuki have history with four-wheel drive cars. Although we like to kid ourselves that modern stability and traction control systems will get a two-wheel drive car most places that a four-wheel drive model will go, when the chips are really down, Suzuki knows there's no substitute for sending drive to each corner. It's sold thousands of Vitaras and Jimny SUVs but the Japanese company has also shifted quite a few rather less overtly four-wheel drive cars. Vehicles such as the SX4, the Kizashi and this, the Swift 4x4.
The Swift's had a bit of a wash and brush up of late and the introduction of the Swift 4x4 delivers supermini buyers an option that's at once a little different to the mainstream and with no little ability at its elbow. If you don't think along the same straight lines as most, this one might well appeal.
The basics first. There's a choice in the engine department, this Swift 4x4 coming with two 1.2-litre petrol four-cylinder units. The cheaper one is good for a wholly unexceptional 94bhp, so don't get any illusions that you're at the wheel of a shrunken Audi RS3. If you can get this thing off the line and through 62mph in less than thirteen seconds, count yourself as a pretty deft driver, or at least one who is deft while displaying zero mechanical sympathy. Better is the 90bhp Dualjet petrol 1.2 powerplant, which offers greater torque and efficiency.
Whatever your engine choice, on the move, you have to prod the five-speed manual transmission around the gate, although nothing's really happening at a particularly frenetic pace. The all-wheel drive mechanicals are simple and rely on a permanent 4-wheel drive system which transfers additional torque to the rear wheels when required via a viscous coupling. You'll appreciate the added security this brings in wintry conditions but remember two things. In such conditions, any car is only as good as its tyres and four wheel drive traction advantages aren't equalled by commensurate braking benefits, so it's always best to err on the side of caution.
Design and Build
The slightly increased ride height might give you a clue that this is no ordinary Swift but other than that, the Swift 4x4 is extremely discreet. Like the rest of the Swift range, the 4x4 gets the latest styling refreshments including a revised front bumper and grille and silver detailing to the lower front bumper. For added safety and style, an LED high level brake lamp has been added. The interior design has been given some thought too, with better quality seat fabric featuring black as its keynote colour, with lined accents of blue and grey.
The fascia remains very driver focused, with a trio of overlapping dials in the instrument binnacle and a tapered centre console that draws the eye to the gear lever that marshals the five-speed manual transmission. The view out of the car is better than in most rivals, thanks again to that upright seating position and big glass area.
Market and Model
The 4WD Swift is priced at just over £12,000 for the base SZ3 version and just over £14,000 for the higher specified SZ4 Dualjet model which includes power folding door mirrors with integral indicators and Daylight Running Lamps as standard equipment. Apart from 4x4 badging and that slightly increased body ride height of 25mm, the look of an SZ3 grade 4x4 model appears identical to that of an ordinary Swift SZ3 five-door. The SZ4 variant has a more rugged appearance and offers extra protection over rough ground by adding front and rear skid plates, black wheel arch extensions and black side skirts.
This car's most obvious similarly-sized rival is Fiat's Panda 4x4 0.9 TwinAir. That car's turbocharged 85bhp engine offers more performance but it's priced at around £1,000 more than the most expensive version of this Swift.
Cost of Ownership
Weighing in at just 65kg over its front-wheel drive sibling, the Swift 4x4 isn't burdened by excess bulk. That said, the base 94bhp 1242cc engine isn't one of the class-leading performers even in front-wheel drive guise when it comes top economy and emission metrics. Still, it's hard to judge 126g/km of CO2 overly harshly when balanced against the security the all-wheel drive system affords. You'll fare considerably better if you opt for the more modern 90bhp Dualjet unit of course. Insurance cover is pricier than the supermini average so you'll probably be best served getting a few quotes before committing.
The Suzuki Swift 4x4 is a modern supermini that's also slightly old-school. In execution, look and feel, the Swift feels bang up to date but the engineering seems to hark back to a short-lived craze for all-wheel drive everything that briefly blossomed and then died in the late eighties. Still, some old ideas are well worth reviving and the added ride height and grip offered by this Swift will doubtless come in handy during tough winter conditions. It's ideal as a low cost, low worry second car for country people who can't afford to be cut off when the Land Rover is in use. Best if you can to go for he more modern Dualjet engine and the more interesting-looking SZ4 trim level.
And overall? Well, this car is clearly never going to be a massive seller but models like this serve to remind us why Suzuki continues to be one of the most interesting auto manufacturers around. If you don't like mainstream cars with their 'one size fits all' approach, here's one that may well pique your interest.