THE Suzuki Swift has been a big hit with keen drivers for its cheeky looks and finely balanced handling.
But when it came to passenger space, luggage room and a classy cabin, the little hatchback didn't quite measure up to rival superminis.
The latest version, built on a new platform and with a wider choice of engines, addresses the criticisms thanks to a roomier interior, a bigger boot and a redesigned facia using higher grade materials.
With more than one million sales in Europe behind it since 2005, the Suzuki is hoping the new version builds on its strengths - without sacrificing its character and cheeky styling - and challenges established front-runners such as the VW Polo, SEAT Ibiza, Ford Fiesta and the MINI.
With squat purposeful looks, somewhat echoing o the wheel-at-each-corner MINI design, the new model which goes on sale in June, looks noticeably more muscular than the previous model.
In fact, it's marginally shorter in length despite having a 20mm longer wheelbase. A slight increase in width and lowering the roofline by 15mm further enhance the Swift's road presence.
A bonus as far as performance and economy is concerned is a dramatic weight loss. The new model is up to 10 per cent lighter.
The entry level engine is a familiar 1.2litre petrol, but the best seller is likely to be a new 1.0-litre Boosterjet turbo, available with or without hybrid assistance.
There will also be an Allgrip version with four-wheel-drive, but it is expected this will account for fewer than 10 per cent of orders in the UK.
There's a choice of three trim levels and 10 paint colour options with plenty of opportunity to personalise their cars. Unlike previous Swifts, the 2017 model comes only as a five-door, although clever placing of the door handles high up the rear pillar makes it look more like a three-door.
Only the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder hybrid model - known as SHVS, Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki - was available to drive at the launch.
With a useful 109bhp on tap, it is eager and lively with keen throttle response and ample torque, allowing strong pick-up in high gear and good flexibility.
The little three-pot engine has a characterful and pleasant throb which doesn't get obtrusive even when revs climb. The five speed gearbox is light and crisp.
Acceleration of 0 to 62mph in just 10 seconds is better than most rivals as is the top speed of 121mph. Emissions of 104g/km corresponds with a combined economy of 61.4mpg.
Ride standard is well up to European standards - partly because it was tested mainly on inadequate British roads - and cornering is well controlled with plenty of feedback from the nicely weighted steering.
The topline SZ5 trim included plenty of treats such as sat nav, adaptive cruise control, electric folding mirrors, keyless entry and start, rear electric windows and LED headlights.
There's reasonable shoulder room for front seat passengers and much more legroom than the earlier model. Space in the rear is improved but six footers may find their heads brush the roof lining.
A 20per cent boost in the boot capacity lifting it to 265 litres puts the Swift back on even terms with the obvious opposition.
The European version of the new Swift is something of a bespoke model, as the Japanese examples sold on their home market are narrower and taller and less driver-orientated - an illustration of just how important Suzuki regards Britain and the Continent.
Prices of the new range will be fixed next month, but expect a marginal increase with the entry model costing around the £10,500 mark.