INNOVATIVE Japanese motor manufacturer Suzuki has solved a problem that faces many supermini owners during wintry weather following the introduction of a four wheel drive version of their shapely and very versatile Swift writes Bryan Longworth.
For there is not much choice for owners in this sector if they want the advantages of 4x4 motoring without buying one of the smaller specialist four wheel drive vehicles which do not have such wide appeal as a normal car in the supermini sector and also being more expensive and thirsty.
So the designers at Suzuki which is still a family business have produced the five door Swift 4x4 that is just like the standard front wheel drive Swift but with the advantage of four wheel drive plus a slightly raised ride height and which is slightly more expensive.
But if I lived out in the sticks I would not mind paying a bit more to keep on the move on dodgy wintry road surfaces because the Swift 4x4 has resolved the dilemma facing many potential supermini owners when winter arrives - it is only available with a petrol engine.
The Swift is one of my favourite superminis because it has such an attractive shape being a delight to drive and now with the availability of four wheel traction it makes it even more tempting and I am sure Suzuki will find they have produced a very popular product.
Swift 4x4 is available with two trim levels and my test car the SZ4 top model currently on offer at £13,116 on the road was powered by a 1.2-litre petrol engine with five speed manual gearbox that had a top speed of 103mph a zero to 62mph time of 13.4 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 51.3mpg.
The four wheel drive system adds 65kg to the weight of the car that operates via a viscous coupling which means that for normal driving conditions power goes through the front wheels and it is only when traction becomes difficult as in snow all four wheels are automatically driven.
I had to drive on a very muddy and slippery steep off road track which would have proved difficult for a two wheel drive vehicle but it posed no problems for the Swift 4x4 which kept on the move with no wheelspin whatsoever.
Otherwise driving this model on road was just like the front wheel drive Swift which provides a very enjoyable drive with good handling plus a roomy and comfortable interior with plenty of standard equipment including a very useful trip computer and LED daytime running lights.
The boot is an average size for a small car but underneath the load area floor is a space saver spare wheel that is now something of a rarity and much preferable to a puncture repair kit for which Suzuki deserve praise.
Potential owners thinking about the 4x4 Swift can save well over £1000 by buying the lower spec SZ3 4x4 which I am sure will be adequate for those motorists not too interested in having lots of toys on their car.
With the versatile Swift 4x4 Suzuki has provided a sensible all weather supermini which is ideal especially for those owners in rural areas where wintry weather can pose traction problems and it would also be useful to have one as a second car.
My Verdict: A very versatile supermini.
Model: Suzuki Swift 4x4.
Engine: 1.2-litre petrol.
Output: 93bhp at 6000rpm.
Transmission: Five speed manual.
Top speed: 103mph.
Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 13.4 seconds.
Fuel consumption: 51.3mpg combined.
C02 emissions: 126g/km.