T Lee Horwich tests the Suzuki Swift

Call a car 'Swift' and you expect a bit of oomph. Unfortunately, Suzuki's latest doesn't exactly do what it says on the tin. Melanie Bien reports

Price: £9,055
Engine: 1.5 GLX
Performance: 0-62mph in 10 seconds, 43.5mpg
Worth considering: VW Polo, Citroën C3, Nissan Micra
CO2: 159g/km

One of the biggest potential pitfalls when naming a car is that you get it so horribly wrong that it is laughably nothing like the motor's character. Most manufacturers play it safe with Leons, Scenics, Fiestas - none of which has much to do with cars.

But "swift" is another matter. There is no mistaking what swift means - fast, fleet of foot or wheel, quick off the mark. Yet if you are expecting swiftness when you drive the Suzuki Swift, you should prepare to be disappointed - at least if it's the plush 1.5 GLX, which our reader panel tested. "How big did you say the engine was?" was a question frequently asked in disbelief. There simply wasn't any oomph. Heaven knows what the 1.3-litre petrol is like, although the 1.3-litre diesel is said to pack more punch.

But this is affordable motoring, with prices from £7,546 for the 1.3-litre petrol version to £10,194 for the diesel. The five-speed manual 1.5-litre GLX came in at £9,055, but there is an automatic transmission available at a slight premium.

On the road, the Swift offers a smooth drive, making light work of bumps. The steering is accurate, giving the driver confidence. But the engine really lets it down: you want more response from it, but it simply doesn't deliver.

The panel liked the keyless entry system, which is a feature on the GLX version. Approach the car with your fob in your pocket or bag, and just press the button on the door to unlock it. There is a rotary knob, rather than a key, which stays in the ignition: you simply turn this to start the car. And the car locks automatically when you walk away with your fob.

One wonders whether opportunistic car thieves would be attracted by what looks like a key left in the ignition, should the car be unattended. Although the car wouldn't start if it was broken into, that's an inconveniently smashed window. But would-be thieves wouldn't be able to console themselves with stealing the stereo, as it is integrated into the dashboard, which makes for a lovely, smooth-lined finish. Indeed, the interior is well-built and far from cheap looking, which is usually the case with budget cars. There may be a bit too much hard plastic, but, overall, it looks like something you'd find in a car twice the price -a bonus for drivers of superminis, as such luxuries tend to be few and far between.

But they don't make up for the fact that the 1.5-litre GLX is not an easy car to drive. "Wanna play?" the adverts ask in a desperate attempt to appeal to a young, trend-conscious audience. No, not when it requires this much effort to get it up to a decent speed.

T Lee Horwich, 54, project director from Ealing

Finding the right gear is difficult and it isn't smooth on the clutch. But the engine is nice and quiet when the car is at a standstill. The steering is unnervingly woolly. The mpg seems a little optimistic. The interior is nice, with plenty of smooth lines. The controls are reasonably intuitive, but the sides of the car seem high: is this a safety feature? Otherwise, it feels quite roomy. But the biggest problem is that when I put my foot flat on the floor, nothing happens. Its performance is hardly earth-shattering. It just doesn't have much "go" and certainly has less than my ageing Volvo diesel. I quite like the exterior of the car, although it is a bit stubby. I think it is a bit pricey.

Richard Johnson, 36, teacher from Watford

This is like one of those little nondescript cars you hire when you go abroad on holiday. The steering is dreadful and makes it feel a bit like a boat. The interior feels roomy, but, strangely, I still feel cramped in the driving position. The clutch is quite smooth, but the same can't be said for the gearbox. It's not a racing car, that's for sure. It's quite sluggish, which surprises me as I thought it would have more zip for a smaller car. I like the speedometer, as it's easy to read, but it's quite basic: I thought it would be digital, as most cars are nowadays. It looks better than its predecessor and is quite good for parking. The engine is noisy - really, it is just a cheap car.

Nick Wall, 32, and Christopher, 4, resuscitation officer from West Molesey

I like that you don't have to put a key in the ignition to start the engine. The clutch is very sensitive, which makes for quite a light drive. The engine is responsive when I put my foot down and the gear changes are smooth. The engine sounds a little bit tinny, though. Steering isn't bad on tight corners and you feel in control. It is easy to reverse, although visibility out of the back isn't great. But I like the nice, big open windscreen. The interior is quite space-age. I like that the CD and radio are incorporated into the dashboard. The interior is quite plasticky. It would make a nice, comfortable family runaround, but probably isn't ideal for long-distance journeys.


If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@independent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.

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