ARE you hip to grip? Do you want the benefits of four-wheel drive? If that’s the case, your options car-wise have never been better. At one time, drivers were limited in choice to a handful of heavy 4x4s, and that type of go-anywhere motor is still with us, ideally suited to the roughest terrain. But if you want the reassurance of extra traction without all the baggage that goes with these high-riding, seriously-shod vehicles, then Suzuki may well have the answer.
The Japanese company’s Swift 4×4 combines the appeal of a zesty compact hatchback with grippy ability. The 4×4 model was introduced to the Swift line-up recently and Flush Magazine got the chance to get behind the wheel for a week’s test-drive. This five-door, 1.2-litre, petrol-engined car has manual transmission and simple, well-proven fully-automatic and permanent four-wheel drive technology. It is 65kg heavier than an equivalent two-wheel drive petrol model, with emissions only 10g/km higher.
Apart from 4×4 badging and a slight increase in ride height (25mm) the SZ3 grade appears identical to its front-wheel drive sibling, while the SZ4 model I drove has a slightly more rugged appearance.It offers extra protection over rough ground by adding front and rear skid plates, black wheel arch extensions and black side skirts. This kit is quite discreet.
The standard model handles well and is an engaging drive, but 4×4 ability adds another dimension, making the car even more nimble and sure-footed in corners.Our motor’s features included automatic air conditioning, cruise control, MP3/WMA compatible CD tuner with four speakers, USB socket, three-spoke reach and rake-adjustable leather-covered steering wheel with audio controls, front accessory socket, LED daytime running lights, 16in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, outside temperature display, electrically adjustable heated door mirrors and automatic headlamps.
On the practicality front you will find the likes of 60/40 split folding rear seat, three cupholders, upper storage tray with lid and a lidded centre console. I found the car just a tad under-powered at times, but judicious use of the smooth-changing five-speed gearbox helps to add some pep, and the Swift’s brio shines through.
• Global sales of the Swift have now passed the four million. Launched in the UK in May 2005, more than 90,000 Swifts have been sold and account for around 30 per cent of the company’s UK sales mix. All European Swifts are made at Suzuki’s established Magyar plant in Hungary.
• The Swift is driven in 140 countries, and has won 70 awards. It is available in three and five door versions with a five star Euro NCAP rating. For those who fancy a sportier experience, there is the 1.6 Swift Sport – the performance flagship of the range, offering higher levels of tuning, steering and braking performance.
• Recent developments to the range include the addition of DAB digital radio and Satellite Navigation as standard equipment on SZ4 and Swift Sport models. The range starts at £8,999 for the 1.2 SZ2 three door.
MAKE/MODEL: Suzuki Swift five-door, 1.2 SZ4 4×4.
TECHNICAL: 1,242cc four cylinder petrol engine with five-speed manual transmission.
PERFORMANCE: 0-60mph, 13.4 secs; top speed 103mph.
FUEL: 51.3 mpg (combined).
EMISSIONS: 126 g/km.
PRICE: £13,546 (until Dec 31 )
For more info visit www.suzuki.co.uk/cars