A Suzuki Swift 4x4? Surely some mistake? After all, if any manufacturer were to go to the trouble of shoehorning all-wheel drive into a supermini, you’d expect it of Audi, with its Quattro heritage. Not Suzuki…
The Japanese maker has done it before – you could buy an all-wheel drive Swift back in 1992. Yet given we’re not fans of Suzuki’s full-size crossover effort, the ungainly and uninspiring S-Cross, the quasi-crossover Swift 4x4 could be the duff version of one of our favourite superminis. Read on for the CAR verdict.
>> Click here to read the CAR review of the new Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch
Just how far off road will the Suzuki Swift 4x4 take me?
Suzuki doesn’t expect buyers to be green-laneing in the Swift 4x4 – its all-wheel drive is an on-demand system, sending up to 50% of drive to the rear wheels via a viscous coupling when the ECU registers wheelspin. Most of the time, it’s front-wheel drive, minimising efficiency losses. The AWD system adds 65kg to the weight of the regular Swift 1.6-litre, and ups the tailpipe emissions by 10g to 126g/km. As an out-and-out off-roader with a teeny footprint, we’d plump for the Fiat Panda 4x4, thanks to its mountain goat nimble-footedness, but the small Suzuki plays a different game.
Suzuki is pitching this car at rural-dwelling folk who don’t need a big, heavy, thirsty (or pricey) full-size 4x4, but fancy the guardian angel of extra traction on hand. When there’s mud or black ice on the road, or just a downright poor surface, you can see some sense in the Japanese manufacturer’s argument. The rest of the time, you’re pedalling a front-drive Swift that’s tugging along a chunk more weight. And that’s bad news.
So this Swift really doesn’t live up to its name then?
Even the Swift Sport only just assumes ‘nippy’ status, and that boasts a 134bhp 1.6-litre. Add more weight and then supply the 4x4 with only a 94bhp 1.2-litre, and the result is unavoidably dog slow. We love the Swift Sport’s appetite for revs, but this 4x4 is supposed to be a more mature car, for more mature customers. Are those drivers really going to want to pin the wheezy four-pot all the way to 4800rpm to access the maximum of 87lb ft? You only get five forward speeds too (the range-topping warm hatch has six), and the snickety change action has been replaced by a notchy feel that’s unfortunately Dacia-esque.
And predictably, the Swift 4x4 is the runt of the litter as far as handling goes. The Swift has always been a tall car (it has more headroom than most executive saloons), but the payoff is topsy-turvy balance – exacerbated by the 4x4’s 25mm taller ride height.
The excellent-handling standard car gets away with this by being lighter, the Sport more so by sitting the driver lower in a bolstered seat and riding on stiffening up the suspension. Here, in the 4x4, the chuckability and brio of the other Swifts has gone AWOL – the 4x4 has lighter, less communicative steering and lacks poise, feeling ungainly as it’s easily unsettled by crosswinds. What a difference 65kg and 25mm makes.>> Click here to read the CAR review of the new Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch
Pity. Does the value make up for it?
Partly – the Swift is a well-stocked car. For a start, all 4x4 Swifts are five doors, so while the boot is still a paltry 211 litres, there’s easier access to the par-for-a-supermini rear seats. Our test car was the range-topping SZ4 model, which gets Bluetooth, climate control, keyless go and tinted glass. It also wears a subtle bodykit, comprising front and rear skid plates and plastic wheelarch trim. It costs £15,739 – but until April 2014 you can bag one for £13,116, due to Suzuki’s VAT-off offer. So right now, it’s the pick of the two 4x4 cars.
After the deal’s deadline passes, the £13,819 SZ3 will be the one to go for. It misses out on the off-roader fancy dress, and a few toys like cruise control and electric rear windows, but it’s worth the sacrifice. And while we’re talking costs, although Suzuki claims 51.3mpg, our test car struggled to top 40mpg as much as we struggled to make progress while driving it.
The Swift 4x4 offers negligible benefit versus a normal Swift – it’s less economical, uninspiring to drive and a regular Swift fitted with winter tyres will make far more sure-footed all-weather transport.
If you need the all-paw traction in a bite-size suit, get yourself a Panda 4x4, which retains its front drive-sister’s fun factor, and is worth its £13,9995 – £14,995 price tag. For a strong value, good all-rounder supermini, stick to Swifts that don’t have rear driveshafts.