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Does this facelifted supermini have more than niche four-wheel drive appeal?
16in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, leather steering wheel, DAB, 7in touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors, automatic LED lights, air conditioning, adaptive cruise control, reversing camera, autonomous emergency braking, hill hold control, tyre pressure indicator.
Petrol mild hybrid:
SZ-L, SZ-T, SZ-5
Five-speed manual, CVT auto
The current generation of Suzuki's Swift supermini was introduced in 2017, and a facelift has now been carried out for the 2021 model year, featuring cosmetic tweaks such as a new front grille and headlight design, and the introduction of blacked out door pillars designed to create a 'floating roof' effect.
Following the facelift there's only one engine option available with the range (excluding the Sport performance model). It's an 83hp petrol mild hybrid, with previous pure petrol options discontinued. The 12V mild hybrid system is designed to assist the 1.2-litre petrol engine when accelerating, and allow smoother engine restarts.
The version we drove came with an optional four-wheel drive system, the Swift being the only supermini on the market available with this feature. This might give it an added appeal for some drivers in rural areas - however, most people will want to steer clear, since for regular road driving its only effect is to make the Swift heavier, slower, and less efficient - at 121g/km, official CO2 emissions are 15g/km higher than with the two-wheel drive version, meaning the four-wheel drive sits three BIK bands higher.
That's a problem on the balance sheet, but from behind the wheel the most pressing concern is the extra weight and its effect on performance. OK, this isn't a performance car, but the mild hybrid powertrain's 83hp output is on the low side even by regular supermini standards, and while it's sprightly enough pulling away and OK around town, when the driver needs to venture out onto an A-road or motorway, which even city-based users inevitably have to do from time to time, they'll find they need to work the engine quite hard to get up to speed. On the plus side, the manual gearbox has a nice shift action and, even though it only offers five-speeds, we didn't overly miss a sixth ratio when cruising - in fact it would probably be more helpful to have an extra gear lower down to help with that ponderous acceleration. In general terms, once up to speed the Swift is fun to drive, feeling agile and willing to change direction.
The facelift saw Suzuki add to the list of equipment that comes as standard throughout the Swift range, and the basic spec now looks impressive, having gained features such as adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, and Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Our top-spec SZ-5 test car comes with extras such as sat-nav and climate control, as well as an extensive portfolio of safety systems that also features on the mid-range SZ-T grade, such as lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
For a range-topping model, interior trim quality with the SZ-5 isn't great, with big areas of scratchy plastics on the doors and dashboard, but given the Swift range overall is generally a bit cheaper than the supermini norm this seems acceptable. There's no full digital instrument display, but the combined TFT screen and analogue cluster is an attractive arrangement. A 7in infotainment screen is on the small side and with outdated graphics, though smartphone connectivity means drivers can substitute their own Apple or Android interface.
During the facelift Suzuki's engineers lowered and repositioned the Swift's seats to slightly increase cabin room - however, boot capacity remains at a below-par 265 litres and there's quite a high lip to lift items over.
As we mentioned earlier, the four-wheel drive system fitted to our test car means worse economy and emissions for the Swift, but these still aren't too bad compared with the wider supermini class and, in that context, two-wheel drive versions look very competitive. Given how that's also something that can be said for the Swift range's pricing, we would conclude that while the four-wheel drive version has little more than niche appeal, regular two-wheel drive models look worth considering for fleets on a budget, at the expense of some perceived quality and practicality.