Once upon a time, a long time ago, a young boy was busy forging a lifelong love of cars by carving out roads on his parents’ dirt driveway where he could play with his Dinky toys. Now, many, many years later, he is again playing with a dinky – but this one is no toy.
This dinky is the new Suzuki Swift. And no, it is not some sort of performance fiend with an oversized engine stuffed into an undersized body. It is not a robot dragster and it is not a racecar disguised by road clothes.
Rather, it is a bit like the mild-mannered Clark Kent without the need for a phone booth to change into something with a rather special power.
Sitting where it does in the small hatch segment of the market, the Swift is surrounded by a plethora of opposition product with the same, or more, in the way of fixtures and fittings, power or torque – but it does have something they do not.
This is the car people will want to name; to imbue with a human persona, to talk to. . .and about.
I do not know the reason why (and, sometimes ours is not to) the Suzuki has this persona about it – and the Swift is not the only one as the Ignis prompts the same infusion of feeling it is a living entity as opposed to a bunch of nuts, bolts, sheet metal, plastic and an engine.
Suzuki will tell you the designers modelled the shape on a racing helmet and, with a bit of imagination the similarity can be seen. For this latest version, the overall length was shortened by 10 mm and the wheelbase and width adjusted to give it a better stance on the road.
For the 2018 model, Suzuki’s designers added new styling elements such as rear door handles in the C-pillar.
The Swift has a new grille with large Suzuki badge and a wide and narrow secondary grille. These elements visually lift the height of the nose, while retaining aerodynamic efficiency.
At the rear, the luggage door has an integrated bulge that rounds off the shoulder line, while an additional high-level LED stop lamp is integrated into the discreet roof-spoiler. The rear brake lights also incorporate LED technology.
From the outside, the high-spec GL-model – my test version – can be distinguished by its wheel cover design, colour-coded side mirrors with integrated turn signals and the addition of front fog lights.
The new dimensions allowed the designers to increase interior space, especially for rear passengers who get 23 mm of additional head room, while front occupants benefit the most from the additional body width with 10 mm extra shoulder room.
All versions of the new Suzuki Swift are equipped with air-conditioning, front and rear power windows, power steering and remote central locking. All models also have a tilt-adjustable steering column, a detailed information display that includes information such as fuel consumption and range, and a security alarm and immobiliser.
On the GL-models, Suzuki adds an audio system with Bluetooth-connectivity and USB socket, steering wheel controls for the audio system and electrically adjustable side view mirrors.
All versions of the new Swift have ample storage spaces inside the cabin, including two front and one rear cup holder, side door pockets, a console tray box, glove box with lid and a passenger seat pocket. The rear doors have additional bottle holders.
The Swift is powered by a K12M four-cylinder petrol engine that delivers 61 kW at 6 000 r/min and 113 Nm at 4 200 r/min and is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox or an Automated Manual Gearbox (AMT) with the same number of gears – ours being the manual option.
Safety kit includes anti-lock brakes with EBD, ISOFIX child seat anchors and two air bags.
All pretty much what one has come to expect from cars in this category these days, so where does the Suzuki differ?
Accepting people are different heights, have a wide spread of taste differences in terms of aesthetics and the like, the Suzuki just cuts across all of those by being suitably adaptable in the seating department to suit nearly all shapes and sizes and – without being bland – broadly acceptable in the sight and sense departments.
In all respects, the Swift is simply a ‘together’ car and this makes the driving experience all the better for it because, despite the limitations on power from the sewing machine engine, perambulation is a pleasant pastime.
It actually never really feels underpowered or that it needs to play second fiddle to the swankier stuff in the traffic. The Swift will hold its own – or certainly try very hard to – against the passing throng and will barrel along with enough velocity to become wallet challenging if you are not careful.
The revised dimensions give it a solid feel on the road, it turns on a 5c piece and has no objections to being force-fed into corners when the urge to play strikes. However, this is a city car and needs to be understood in that role.
Suzuki’s new HEARTECT platform received much attention when the Suzuki Swift was named one of the 2018 Urban World Car of the Year finalists.
The new platform is designed to use high-tensile and ultra-high tensile steel and has fewer joints than a traditional monocoque chassis. This creates a smooth shape and very stiff construction that helps to better dissipate energy in a crash, thus preserving the integrity of the cabin and keeping the occupants safe.
Moreover, the new rigid platform also benefits the new Swift’s driving dynamics, with further improved tracking and steering feel.
Suzuki has redesigned the MacPherson front suspension to best utilise the stiff platform and has added a variable ratio steering rack for more direct and sharper handling. The Swift’s steering set-up gives it a tight 4,8 m turning radius.
Suzuki’s engineers have also shortened the front stabiliser bars, redesigned the rear trailing arms and added a new cross-member to the rear suspension to make the driving experience even sportier.
The new HEARTECT platform integrates with Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), which applies the same design philosophy and engineering principles by using very high-tensile steel to lighten the body weight, while improving crash safety.
It is not positioned or set up to be a hot hatch challenger. Accept its limitations and the Swift will surprise and delight, which made it so much harder when I had to give Percival back to its rightful owners.