WHEN the Beast From the East descended and gave the UK a late winter shock there were probably plenty of motorists who wished they had a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Top of the queue no doubt would be the BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes drivers whose rear-wheel drive cars are about as useful as a chocolate fireguard when ‘serious' snow arrives.
You know who they are - the ones who think they can get up a slippery incline no problem before somewhat abruptly discovering they can't.
However such ‘serious' snow inspires many motorists to consider an all-wheel drive option as something which offers added reassurance and extra grip in icy conditions.
Of course there's a tendency to presume that four-wheel drive means splashing out on a mid to large-sized SUV or a very expensive saloon or estate (yes, even BMW, Jaguar and Mercedes offer four-wheel drive versions of some of their cars).
Suzuki's Swift might be the only four-wheel drive supermini you can buy in the UK - among the small number of other budget options are the Dacia Duster, Fiat Panda and Suzuki's own Ignis - and it means an all-wheel drive vehicle can actually be had at a very affordable price.
Okay, it'll set you back around Â£4,500 more than an entry level Swift but for the sure-footedness that comes with Suzuki's Allgrip system there's a strong argument to be made for that being a small price to pay.
The latest Swift has seen the car retain its familiar design blueprint, which is quite a stylish and distinctive looking supermini that lends itself well top personalisation. Grille and wheel arch modifications are among the new exterior features which give it added presence.
Some of the big changes are on the inside thanks to a new interior, the highlight of which is an intuitive and easy to use 4.2in touchscreen.
Overall the Swift's cabin is far from fancy but quality levels are more than acceptable and it has a nice functional feel that fits well with it being a small but capable 4x4.
It also offers a surprising amount of room for a supermini and rear seat passengers are particularly well catered for when it comes to both head and leg room.
The Swift range offers both a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged Boosterjet engine and a 1.2-litre Dualjet engine.
The 4x4 version is only available with the 1.2-litre unit and it also has the range-topping SZ5 trim as standard.
It also comes with Suzuki's Smart Hybrid Vehicle (SHVS) mild-hybrid system which helps reduce fuel consumption. It turns the starter motor into a generator that helps reduce the amount of work the engine has to do while accelerating and utilises regenerative power captured under braking to boost acceleration.
To drive the Swift feels fun and agile. While its on-paper performance figures wouldn't set any pulses racing it feels sprightly generally and nicely composed when being thrown around corners at speed - something that's no doubt enhanced by that four-wheel drive capability.
The ride is definitely on the firm side but it is far from jarring or uncomfortable.