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New Suzuki Swift is a real pleaser

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With the company's sales here hitting a record high - and already on target to do even better this year - the new, transformed Swift model will be carrying the torch for its ambitions. It has more room for people and their luggage, it's quicker, nearly 20 per cent more powerful, more refined and yet more economical too.

The new car won't be available here until June and prices haven't yet been announced but bearing in mind its place between the Ignis and Baleno, expect entry-level models to be around the £10,000 mark.

While the Swift is a world car, the model coming here has been specifically designed for Britain and Europe, tested on roads here to cater for the demands of customers for a car that is both dynamic and comfortable.

There will be basically four variants: one using the 1.0-litre turbo engine (widely acclaimed since it was launched last year in the Baleno) and a 1.2-litre Dualjet, itself a relatively new engine with the option of four-wheel drive.

The final option is a first for Suzuki: the turbo engine combined with a 'mid-hybrid' system which generates and stores electrical power to assist the petrol unit when it's under load. There won't be a diesel version as sales volumes with the outgoing model were low.

The new Swift bears a strong resemblance to its predecessor - engineers were keen to ensure it retained the design DNA of Suzuki's most popular car - but it is distinguished by its bold new grille, LED daytime running lights and stronger haunches. It's lower, wider and although slightly shorter, it has a longer wheelbase which has allowed the engineers to create significantly more space in the cabin (particularly for those in the back) and an increase in luggage space to 256-litre - up by 54-litres.

It gives the Swift a much sportier look and combined with an impressive ten per cent cut in weight the driving dynamics have improved to add credence to its new image. The test car was a left-hand drive version and this new dynamism was very evident on some tight, twisting French roads. The steering is light yet with adequate driver 'feel', the car feels very stable and while it's an old cliché the Swift really does feel as if it's on rails.

The engineers did their job well as while it's a fun, sporty driving experience, that hasn't been achieved at the expense of ride comfort. That's just as well, as the turbocharged and electrified test car came across as a refined, mature car too - I'd expected that as the same (non-hybrid) engine creates the same ambience in the larger Baleno.

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The three-cylinder Boosterjet is a remarkable little engine, turning out an impressive 111PS of power with 61.4mpg economy and a low 104g/km of CO2 emissions, or 65.7mpg and 97g/km with the added benefit of the hybrid system.

But it isn't the maximum power system which makes the difference in everyday driving, it's the torque. Thanks to the turbocharger it has 170Nm, and all of that pulling power is available at just 2,000rpm - much more characteristic of a diesel engine than a small petrol unit.

It means it's quicker up through the gears, more response and it means you don't have to hit the red line to make reasonable progress. Top (sixth) gear is pitched fairly high, helping refinement and fuel-saving on motorway runs.

Of course, the Swift's 19 percent weight loss helps with performance and economy, so the car can reach the 62mph mark in a little over ten seconds. The 1.2 Dualjet's figures are 0 to 62mph in 11.7 seconds, 65.7mpg and 99g/km.

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Inside, the Swift has new seats, reshaped and with more supportive side bolsters, higher quality materials and a modern, stylish dash with white and satin highlights giving a brighter feel to the cabin.

Above the centre console is the air conditioning controls, above them, are the touch screen controls and according to specification, a navigation system, audio controls, smartphone and Bluetooth links. All versions come with six airbags, DAB radio, front electric windows, privacy glass and a rear-view camera, smartphone link, alloy wheels and front dog lamps are added.

Top spec models and LED lights, automatic air-con, adaptive cruise control and a navigation system as standard. It also gets an advanced forward detection system, another first for Suzuki. This combines a camera, laser sensor and radar to detect obstacles and employ the auto-emergency braking, lane departure warning and auto-dipping headlights.

The braking system gives an audio and visual warning if it detects the risk of a collision and can either help the driver (by increasing braking power) or if necessary, apply full automatic braking to avoid the danger, whether it's another car or a pedestrian.

Suzuki expects the new model to increase UK Swift sales by about 25 percent in a full year and on first impressions that doesn't seem over optimistic. The backroom boys at Suzuki seem to have ticked all boxes in replacing a model that was already Suzuki's best-seller here.

Even if you don't care much about the engineering, you will about its effects on performance, economy, emissions and driveability. If you aren't convinced by the figures for this mighty atom of a 1.0-turbo engine, try a test drive and you may find it something of a revelation.

Plus, the Swift has a much sportier, desirable looks yet it's more practical too, with more room for passengers and luggage.

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