Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ5

SHVS Allgrip

Suzuki Swift Allgrip, front
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, dynamic
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, rear
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, dashboard
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, interior
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, interior, rear
Suzuki Swift Allgrip, boot

TALK to people about 4x4 cars and you're most likely conjuring up images of chunky SUVs, expensive saloons and estates and muscular pick-up trucks.

It may come as a surprise to know that there is at least one small car out there, though, which also offers the extra sure-footedness of all-wheel-drive technology - the Suzuki Swift.

This stylish Japanese supermini probably slips under most people's radar but it has been providing a value-for-money, fun-to-drive alternative to class leaders like the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa and Volkswagen Polo for 15 years - selling well over 150,000 in the UK, including 12,500 last year.

Currently range-topping SZ5 versions powered by the 1.2-litre Dualjet engine, as opposed to the perkly 1.0-litre Boosterjet, are available with the option of the manufacturer's proven Allgrip four-wheel drive system, which automatically transfers additional torque to the rear wheels when required.

It's fair to say you won't be crossing deserts or driving up mountains with it, but it does offer extra peace of mind in slippery conditions and wintery weather and allows some mild off-road terrain to be tackled that you wouldn't entertain in the vast majority of other superminis - all for less than £18,000.

Visually, 4x4 equipped cars are largely the same as other Swifts but if you really want to let everyone know that yours is a little bit more rugged you can add optional black plastic SUV-style wheel arches and skirts (£403) as well as door mouldings (£124).

The Allgrip version also features, alongside much of the Swift range, SHVS (Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki) technology, which uses advanced starter motors coupled with a compact high-performance 12V battery, placed beneath the front passenger seat, to store energy.

Electricity is generated through regenerative braking, stored in the battery and then used to give the Swift a boost during take off and acceleration which, in turn, helps to reduce fuel consumption.

The compact engine itself kicks out a modest 90ps which, alongside a fairly pedestrian 0-62mph time of 12.6 seconds, may not sound too exciting.

Behind the wheel, though, the experience somewhat belies these figures as, once on the move, its highly rigid but very lightweight construction makes the Swift Allgrip a nimble and agile car to drive which, as you would imagine, copes admirably in urban traffic.

You will need to resort to the compact and snappy five-speed gearbox for genuinely sharp injections of pace - but in this case that just adds to the enjoyable and engaging character of the car, along with its fast and accurate steering.

It doesn't struggle for pace on the open road either, with a top speed of 105mph, although the addition of a sixth gear would make it a little more relaxed and refined on motorways.

Nevertheless, overall the Swift is a good drive, gripping well, staying settled and flat through bends and remaining surprisingly comfortable over most surfaces for such a small car.

Equipment levels across the range are good for a supermini, with all cars getting air conditioning, leather steering wheel, privacy glass, digital radio with Bluetooth, LED daytime running lights and front electric windows.

Stepping up through the range adds niceties such as alloy wheels, front fog lamps, smartphone connectivity and a reversing camera, while SZ5 trim also gets you satellite navigation, keyless entry and ignition, full LED lights, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning and high beam assist.

Space is also impressive, with room for four adults to travel comfortably and a decent amount of personal storage space available. Head and leg room in the back seats is good enough for all but the tallest folk and with all versions being four-door, getting in and out is easy.

The boot, at 265 litres, is big enough to cope with a weekly trip to the supermarket or a couple of good-sized travel bags or cases and capacity rises to 579 litres with the 60/40 split rear seat backs folded down.

FAST FACTS

Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ5 SHVS Allgrip

Price: £17,749

Mechanical: 90ps, 1,242cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 105mph

0-62mph: 12.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 49.7

Insurance Group: 27

C02 emissions: 101g/km

Bik rating:24%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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