With winter approaching, a large-SUV isn’t to everyone’s taste, so can an all-wheel drive supermini tick the right boxes
What do we have here?
It’s the third-generation of Suzuki’s loveable supermini and continues with the firm’s strategy of offering all-wheel drive traction across most of its range.
It gets five-doors and comes in two variants, SZ3 and SZ4. The lower spec SZ3 gets a 1.2-litre petrol engine which develops 93bhp and is priced from £12,499. The higher spec model in SZ4 guise gets a 1.2-litre dualjet petrol engine developing 89bhp and is priced from £14,599. Both come with a five-speed manual gearbox.
Due to dualjet technology (where the fuel injectors are positioned close to the engine inlet value) fuel efficiency is improved and engine emissions are reduced compared to the standard engine. The SZ3 returns 51.5mpg and emits 126g/km of CO2 with the SZ4 dualjet returning 58.9mpg and emitting 111g/km of CO2.
Aside from the 4x4 badging, the all-wheel drive version has a 25mm higher ride height than the standard Swift plus a more rugged appearance with front and rear skid plates, black side skirts and wheel arch extensions.
Power and torque is sent to all four wheels through the automatic and permanent ‘4-wheel drive system’, although more torque can be sent the rear to enhance the driving dynamics of the Swift 4x4.
SZ3 models get 16in alloy wheels, air-conditioning, Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights, tyre pressure monitoring system, remote central locking, tilt-adjustable steering wheel and electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors.
While SZ4 adds automatic air conditioning, satellite navigation, DAB radio, keyless entry and go, cruise control, tilt and telescopic adjustable steering wheel, automatic headlamps and rear privacy glass.
We’re testing the Swift 4x4 in higher spec SZ4 trim with its 1.2-litre dualjet petrol engine.
How does it drive?
Despite the raising of the suspension, the Swift’s handling has been little affected. It has little body roll while the ride comfort is good, only spoilt by the harshest of potholes.
A benefit of the all-wheel drive system is added grip, and not only in the wet. The Swift has always been classed as a fun car to drive and the AWD system enhances this further. With plenty of grip, you can push the Swift 4x4 pretty hard in the knowledge that you’re unlikely to fall off the road.
The final ingredient needed to complete this good looking recipe is decent steering. Well rest assured as it’s excellent, accurate and precise, and is well weighted, meaning the Swift 4x4 is great fun to drive.
It might be peppy and has a little growl but the engine is short on power and needs a sixth gear. For the majority of the time you’ll get on well enough with the 89bhp, however, you’ll notice the lack of top end grunt when on the motorway or ascending steeper hills.
The five-speed gearbox is good to use, with a fluid and accurate action. What lets the Swift down is a combination of road and suspension noise.
What's it like inside?
From the driver’s seat the instruments are clear and easy to read and in this spec, the steering wheel adjusts for height and reach. The dashboard is dominated with hard and dark plastics, although some splashes of satin-effect trim do their best to break it up.
All the dials are easy to reach and simple to use, the sat-nav features postcode recognition but is feeling particularly dated. It’s a simple three-stage process to connect your phone to Bluetooth.
The steering wheel lacks some padding while the seating position is quite high, making for excellent visibility and the seats are supportive. There’s also plenty of room and head room is excellent due to a high roof line. There is, however, a lack of storage and cupholders.
In the back, head and leg room is less abundant than in the front making the rear more suited for children rather than adults.
The boot is pretty deep and well-shaped and will easily swallow your weekly grocery shop. It is let down by a high load lip, though, meaning lots of lifting up and over of those shopping bags.
The Swift, even in this 4x4 guise, is a pretty affordable car to run with fuel economy ranging from 51.4mpg to 58.8mpg on a combined cycle.
Emissions range from 111 to 126g/km of CO2 in the SZ4 and SZ3, respectively. This means it costs just £30 to tax the SZ4 for a year road fund licence, with the SZ3 much higher at £110.
Company car users in the SZ3 face a BIK banding of 22% but this drops to 19% in the cleaner SZ4 with its dualjet technology.
Both versions are placed in insurance group 9E.
The Swift gets Suzuki’s standard three-year 60,000-mile new vehicle warranty, which includes one year AA Suzuki Assistance, providing 24-hour UK and European roadside assistance, recovery and associated services.
To many, a supermini with four-wheel drive makes little sense. To others, a high-riding large-SUVs has the same reaction. Therefore, The Suzuki fills a void for those who don’t want to leave their supermini-sized car but want the surefootedness of all-wheel traction for when the roads become slippery.
There are few direct rivals to the Swift 4x4, so while some rivals are nicer inside or cheaper to buy, none can match the entertaining handling and year-round traction that the Swift 4x4 offers.
So can an all-wheel drive supermini tick the right boxes? Yes it can, emphatically.