Suzuki Swift 4x4The popular Suzuki Swift range has undergone a summer wardrobe change.

There are new five-door body features and styling, a new deep blue colour and the addition of new trim, while underneath there are revised powertrains with greener and cheaper to tax models as well as a 4x4 addition as the Swift tones up for the September sales fight.

With the sales growth in compact SUVs and crossovers, as autumn and winter approach, significantly the range is boosted by the inclusion of the Swift 4x4 which has been selling well in Germany and Switzerland. It comes with the latest five-door body and 4-cylinder 93bhp 1.2-litre, petrol engine with a 5-speed manual gearbox and self-sensing on demand all wheel drive that uses a viscous coupling to the rear wheels.

With the Swift 4x4 there are two 4x4 trim levels with a higher ride height in the SZ3 than the standard car and the SZ4 gains under-body skid plates and black detailing around the wheel arches and side skirts. The 4x4 owners can use Suzuki’s winter-tyres programme to rubber-up with courser grippers.

Suzuki believe their latest Swift 4x4 will have particularly good appeal to country dwellers and those who have to keep going in harsh conditions but who do not need the size or cost of a big off-roader.

There are now ten models in the new Swift 3/5 door series priced from £10,799 to £15,739 but a 4-speed automatic model is available only with the SZ4 1.2 priced at £14,949. But Suzuki are continuing to offer their Vat free deals, at least until the end of September, so prices start at just £8,999 and go up to £13,116 for the new 4x4 versions. The niche Sport models are excluded from the Vat free offer.

The 1.2-litre, four cylinder 93bhp petrol engines continue as before and remain amongst the lowest polluting in their class with CO2 of 116g/km for front wheel drive models. The 1.3-litre, 74bhp diesel has undergone some changes to its efficiency to reduce emissions to 101gkm and costs £20 road tax.

The new range can be distinguished from the previous series with new bumper and grille, revised rear end incorporating a high level LED for the brakes and new wheel covers, front fog lamps depending on trim grade. Inside there are no significant changes and boot capacity remains 211 to 528-litres, but 4x4 models now lose two-litres fuel tank capacity to accommodate the viscous differential underneath and it has a 40-litre tank.

Suzuki Swift SportWith the additional doors now going into the Swift Sport, which has been on sale since January only in three-door form, it also gets the new high level rear brake light and auto-up feature to the driver’s door window as well as a Boost Blue colour choice. There is no change to the powertrain so the 1.6-litre, 134bhp multi-valve engine gives it a 0-62mph time of 8.7 sec and maximum 121mph. It comes with air conditioning, keyless starting, Bluetooth, high performance head and fog lights and shaded rear glass. It also has sports suspension and close-ratio gearbox.

Although Suzuki’s UK sales showed a 34% increase for the first six months of this year, virtually all to retail customers, their UK product manager Ed Norman said that while the company currently has a relatively low share of the new car market we are growing and by the end of 2013 we expect to deliver 30,000 new cars, including 2,000 Swifts. Last year Suzuki sold 24,900 new cars in the UK which was a record year. He said, “The key for us is growing the fleet market, not by pushing sales with low profits, but by organic growth and finding the business channels which are profitable and not going to impact on future expansion.”

Norman added that the introduction of new models each year over the next four years would help grow registrations and widen the appeal of Suzuki to buyers who may not have considered them before as they did not have suitable products.

Dealers will not be under pressure to push buyers into schemes and finance deals they do not traditionally feel comfortable with and the comparatively small size of Suzuki UK – we employ fewer than 140 staff – means we can offer a more personal service to our 145 dealers and customers as well, he said.

To Swiftly go - first impressions
We were able to give the new 1.2 Swift 4x4 a reasonable test on unmade roads on forestry tracks in North Wales and it handled them well so dealing tarmac roads, probably potholed and from time to time covered with snow, ice, mud and standing water, should be doddle.

Suzuki Swift 4x4The modest ground clearance was no compromise crossing potholes and ridges made by logging trucks. On twisting single-track tarmac roads it also gripped well and admirably coped with some testing tight turns. It pulled reasonably well but needed judicious use of the 5-speed gearbox in certain situations and sometimes I found myself wishing it had another gear to improve on the 38.6mpg achieved.

Moving on to the new Swift 5-door Sport. Because it did not have to be pushed as hard as its sibling to perform, the 134bhp 1.6 six-speed Swift Sport five-door returned 46.9mpg on sweeping roads up the Horseshoe Pass, through North East Wales and across the Cheshire Plain.

The added practicality of five-doors will widen appeal without detracting from performance which can be readily, easily and safely enjoyed. At £14,249, it costs £500 more than the Sport three-door, which is still expected to remain the better seller of the two.

Suzuki Swift 4x4Both test cars were neatly detailed inside and had good room, rode well and provided good visibility to maximize performance, but I thought the 1.2 4x4 in particular suffered from a lot of road noise, possibly due to the courser treaded tyres.

MILESTONES: Suzuki Swift five-door 1.2 SZ4 manual 4x4. Price: £13,116 (Vat free offer until 30 September 2013). Engine/transmission: 1.2-litre, 4-cylinder, 16v, 93bhp, 87lb ft, petrol engine, 5-speed, front/ four-wheel drive. Performance: 103mph, 0-62mph 13.4 seconds, actual Combined Cycle consumption 38.6mpg, CO2 126g/km, VED road tax £0 First Year rate then £105 per annum year two onwards, BIK company car tax 17%. Insurance group: tba. Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles. For: Unchallenging to drive, effective on unmade roads, fairly roomy, agile, modest fuel consumption, added 4x4 grip. Against: Ground clearance not exceptional, road noise, limited boot space when used with all seats occupied. Robin Roberts   Miles Better News Agency

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