Suzuki Swift (2010 onwards) Key rivals - Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris

THIS is the ‘all new’ Suzuki Swift. Unadventurous exterior conceals a much improved interior though, while the petrol engine impresses and it’s more satisfying to drive, too.

Here’s the all-new Suzuki Swift. If you’re looking at the images and thinking “no, it’s not,” don’t worry. We did the same. But honestly, it really is the all-new Suzuki Swift - every panel is changed, the interior is new, chassis is new, the petrol engine shares not a single bit with the old.

While it’s bigger though, with a longer wheelbase and added overall length, this is MINIesque ‘all-new’, and it’s only the larger clear-lens rear lights and chunkier wheels that are the real giveaways. Good job, then, the Swift core is a pretty good-looking thing.

MINI comparisons are doubly relevant; retained are the black windscreen pillars and upright screen that so ape the Oxford Brit. Offered in 3-door and 5-door guise from its September launch, Suzuki has enhanced this one with crisper panel cuts and stronger detailing.

There will be just two engines - the petrol is an all-new 1.2-litre, while the diesel is a breathed-on version of the old 1.3-litre.

Performance

Moving down from 1.3-litres to 1.2-litres for the petrol engine may sound a regressive step, but it isn’t. This new motor is superb. With dual variable valve timing (like on Honda VTECs), it produces 94hp and also has more pulling power than the old engine - delivered across a wider range, too.

It is exceedingly smooth in regular use, and quite refined with it. There’s not a hint of vibration which means you’re happy to rev it; admittedly, something that’s necessary if you want to release meaningful go. It picks up around 4,000rpm and motors strongly over 5,000rpm. Even the noise is eager, albeit loud by this point.

The gear change is a cracker - swift, clean, short in throw and, again, worthy of Honda comparisons. It makes a mockery of the auto that we also drove, a self-shifter that simply couldn’t decide what gear it wanted to be in. The manual also works well on the diesel alternative.

The same can’t be said for the diesel engine itself. Suzuki’s expertise is in petrol engines - the clatter and vibration of the diesel installation proves this. It’s not a disaster as it has the low-rev pull lacking in the petrol. But test both and there will be no doubt which you’ll find the more pleasing.

Ride and handling

The Swift has always erred on the sporty side and this one continues the trend. It is a taut, agile car with little roll and really assured stability in bends. It’s wieldy and fun, with more grip than before, along with a more grown up and reassuring feel at all speeds.

We particularly like the variable-ratio steering, which is fast and responsive just off centre, while also being more sedately-geared as you wind on more lock. It helps make the Swift a direct-feeling machine that darts about cleanly, even if actual ‘feel’ from the electrically-assisted rack isn’t all that great.

The ride does suffer a little from this sportiness. There’s a taut edge that means it can pick out higher-speed intrusions, which jiggles the car and its occupants a bit. We found it better at lower speed though, where stronger suspension components mean it soaks up big potholes more maturely.

Indeed, the general driving feel from the car is one of high quality. This feels a really well-engineered motor, which details such as good brake pedal feel and a lack of steering kickback over mid-corner bumps help underline. With the enhanced stability too, it makes it a reassuring drive.

Interior

This is all-new - and actually looks it, too. It’s considerably more stylish than the old car, with more interesting detailing and, at last, some proper shape and sculpture. It’s more premium in appearance, with silver strips and intricate bezels for the neat-looking dials.

However, while the low-sheen plastics look soft-touch, they’re not. It’s all hard plastic, albeit generally high quality plastic that’s impeccably assembled. Pity there isn’t just a little padding on the shiny door trims, though, to make it feel more like the VWs many of the interior features mimic.

High seats in the front are firm, wide and comfortable; the rear bench is softer, but there’s lots of space back there. Both head and foot room is in plentiful supply, although passengers may find the windows shallow and the front seat head rests rather restrictive.

Drivers could grumble about the vertical front screen pillars getting in the way, and at the impracticality of the small boot. To stiffen the body shell, Suzuki has made the opening smaller; so there’s a high sill, which an awkward parcel shelf compounds. It’s also rather short; a Polo or Fiesta boot is way bigger.

Economy and safety

Forget the diesel; you don’t need it, when the petrol is so economical. Suzuki says it can average 56.5 mpg and emit just 116g/km of CO2. For a petrol unit that performs this well, that’s quite an achievement, and will play a key role in the car’s marketing proposition.

It’s a lot safer than before. There are 7 airbags (including a knee airbag) and standard ESP stability control across the range. Suzuki has also used more high-strength steel in the body, which means it’s stronger in a crash (despite, impressively, being lighter than before).

Verdict

No two ways about it - the new Suzuki Swift is a very impressive supermini. So much so, we find it baffling that the firm has kept it looking so much like the old one. The differences are more evident inside and on the road, and in fairness, it does ‘look’ more cohesive than the old one. Dealers, it’s over to you: because for customers, it’s a car worth the sell.PF