New Suzuki Swift 4×4 first drive

Suzuki SwiftDuring my Suzuki Swift 4×4 test drive period I didn’t encounter any ice or snow

– good news but those are the conditions needed for customers to justify the extra cost of the extra grip the 4×4 Swift offers over the well liked 4×2 versions. 

The latest Suzuki UK price list regularly changes in the customer’s favour with their popular VAT-free price offers. The Swift 4×4 is available with SZ3 and SZ4 levels of specification and their full price is £13,819 and £15,739 respectively. But continuing their VAT-free offer until the end of June the latest price list has them at £11,516 and £13,116. This means the SZ3 4WD variant is a £1,000 more than its 2WD version but the SZ4 4WD is £1,500 more than the comparable SZ4 2WD model because of the extra underbody skid plates and wheelarch mouldings it carries. 

The Swift 4×4 came to the UK after strong sales success in Japan as well as Europe and one thing for sure Suzuki knows about is selling small cars and 4x4s, the Swift 4×4 combines both. With record UK sales of over 33,000 units, a 33% increase over the previous record year of 2012, small cars and 4x4s are the core to Suzuki’s business. The new SX4 S-Cross crossover is priced from £14,999 and proving popular. The long serving but constantly updated Grand Vitara 4×4 costs from £15,999 and is still pulling in customers who want a rugged 4×4. The tiny Jimny 4×4 soldiers on with low prices from £11,995. 

In addition to 4x4s the Suzuki range has the budget priced Alto city car with prices until the end of June starting at £5,999, the slightly larger Splash from £7,999, the Swift three and five door two wheel drive hatchbacks from £8,999, the fast and fun Swift Sport from £13,999 and the roomier SX4 from £10,495. 

Suzuki SwiftSuzuki SwiftAs for the Swift 4×4, this is only available with the five door body and with SZ3 and SZ4 spec levels. Both are powered by a 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder, 93bhp petrol engine with a five speed manual gearbox. Maximum torque is a modest 87lb ft delivered at a high 4,800rpm so liberal use is needed from the gearbox to get the best response from the high revving unit. The 4×4 system adds 65kg to the weight of the car over the front wheel drive models and so increases CO2 emissions by 10g/km to 126g/km. Following the road tax changes in the Budget, from April it means both two and four wheel drive models have a £0 cost First Year rate of road tax. For Year Two onwards the front wheel drive model VED tax cost charge is £30 but the 4×4 version it’s now £110 because of the higher CO2 figure. The Swift 4x4s have insurance group rating of 11E, two more than the equivalent front wheel drive versions. 

The top speed for both two and four wheel drive Swifts is 103mph but the 4×4 version takes just over a second longer to go from zero to 62mph in 13.4 seconds. The official Combined Cycle fuel economy also suffers with 51.3mpg for the 4×4 against 56.5mpg for the two wheel drive model. My test drive fuel economy figure for the 4×4 Swift was a disappointing 41.7mpg and that didn’t include anything tougher off-road than driving along a couple of muddy farm tracks. Most of the test mileage was done on motorways and rural roads, just the sort of terrain most owners will use most often. 

The Swift 4×4 has a simple all wheel drive system where front wheel drive operate most of the time until they start to slip and then drive is pushed to the rear wheels as well through a viscous coupling. Suzuki is targeting country dwellers with the Swift 4×4 where added grip is most likely to be needed on muddy roads and tracks but of course during Winter months any UK driver will encounter ice, snow, or as this year, rain swamped roads where extra grip is comforting and potentially safer. 

It is just a shame Suzuki opted to ‘power’ – I use the word loosely – the Swift 4×4 with a 1.2-litre petrol engine with modest power and torque. It is just about acceptable but overtaking slow traffic on country roads needs care as several lower gears are needed to be engaged to get the power flowing. On motorways it takes time to get up to cruising speeds and going up hills will slow progress considerably. It is a pity that Suzuki didn’t fit the 4×4 version of the Swift with their 1.6-litre petrol engine from the highly rated Swift Sport model or their 1.3-litre turbodiesel unit. 

Suzuki SwiftApart from the badging and the slightly increased body ride height of 25mm the SZ3 version of the Swift Sport is identical to the two wheel drive SZ3 five door model. The SZ4 version I tried had a more rugged styling treatment with front and rear underbody skid plates for better protection, black wheelarch extensions and side skirts. The additional ride height didn’t adversely affect the Swift’s on-road handling during cornering and it felt just as sharp and agile at low to mid range speeds during on-road driving. When the engine was put under load for acceleration or when maintaining 70mph motorway speeds it felt and sounded stressed, under- powered and of course that effort was reflected in the relatively poor fuel economy. 

The cheapest Swift Sport 4×4 with SZ3 specification includes manual air conditioning, 16-inch alloys, Bluetooth connectivity, electric front windows, split folding rear seat, fuel consumption readout, electrically operated and heated door mirrors and a reasonable sound system. The upgrades for the SZ4 version include automatic air conditioning, front fog lights, automatic headlights with LED daytime running lights, push-button start, cruise control and rear privacy glass plus the additional skid plates and side skirts. 

The interior equipment for the SZ4 version is plentiful for the price and it appears the plastic trim seems likely to be durable and able to be wiped clean of muddy finger prints from country family use where it will be most at home. I’m not sure town folk will appreciate the modest advantages the 4×4 function brings to the Swift line-up at the expense of performance and higher running costs. 

MILESTONES: Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 4×4 5-door manual. Price: VAT free offer £13,116 until the end of June. Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder petrol, 93bhp, 87lb ft of torque at 4,800rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 103mph, 0-62mph 13.4 seconds, 51.3mpg Combined Cycle (41.7mpg on test), CO2 126g/km, VED road tax from April £0 First Year rate then £110 Year Two onwards. Insurance group: 11E. Warranty: 3-years/60,000 miles. Dimensions/capacities: L 3,850mm, W 1,695mm, H 1,535mm, boot/load space 211 to 528-litres, braked towing weight 1,000kg. For: Smart looks, the 4×4 added grip will be handy for some owners, well equipped, attractive price. Against: 1.2-litre engine struggles for acceleration, a significant reduction in fuel economy with higher CO2 emissions over 2WD versions, the 4×4 option would be more suited to a responsive fuel efficient diesel engine but there isn’t one offered. Miles better news agency

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