SUZUKI has always punched above its weight and size.
The range is not huge but it has a presence in the most popular sectors and it is highly competitive on price and specification.
The latest Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 with all-wheel-drive is a case in point, blending five-door practicality with very low running costs thanks to the latest dual-jet four-cylinder petrol engine, and delivering good winter-road grip when you need it.
It is a niche model but you probably wouldn't realise how accomplished it can be in everyday use.
There are seven airbags and ESP as standard, electric windows, remote central door locking with deadlocks, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors, MP3/WMA compatible CD tuner with USB port and steering wheel mounted audio controls.
The vehicle gets 16-inch alloy wheels, air con, cruise control, sat nav, automatic headlights, LED daytime running lights and 60/40 split folding rear seat backs which boosts the boot space from 211 to 533-litres.
Hard plastic dominates the interior but you can hardly complain at this price and its well fitted and squeak-free.
Room is good infront, much more restricted in the back even for a child but headroom is good.
This new version replaced the previous 1.2 petrol SZ4 4x4 which cost £13,699 but it offers improved significantly better fuel economy, lower CO2 emissions and a lower VED band moving from Band D (£110) to Band C (£30), helping to lower cost of ownership by £80 per year.
Dualjet technology positions the fuel injectors very close to the engine inlet valves allows for a finer fuel atomisation which in turn provides a more effective transfer into the engine. The same engine is also available with two-wheel-drive in SZ4 specification and costs £12,699.
The addition of 4x4 traction and some styling body parts costs an extra £1,500 over thetwo-wheel-drivemodel and sees the ride height raised by 25mm, with front and rear skid plates and extended wheelarches.
The 4x4 powertrain has sharpened handling on corners and there is a bit more road noise but mechanical noises are extremely low and 60-70mph cruising is a very relaxed affair.
The engine is quick to get going in first gear but it struggles a bit in second and third is possibly the most useful of the five under your hand. It is flexible, up to a point, in fifth but I found myself wishing for a sixth gear on more than one occasion.
You have to plan your overtaking with anticipation and care to make the most of the available power, but if you do the effect is good.