Selling well over 1,000 examples per month in the UK, suggests Iain Robertson, is a good example of automotive popularity but Suzuki has needed to address a gaping chasm in its range that exists between the base and its sportiest models.
Plugging gaps is a motor industry pre-occupation. It is almost as though the carmakers’ marketing departments want to corner every available slot in the new model firmament. Of course, they seldom do and the resultant confusion to the poor old consumer is manifold.
Naturally, a number of carmakers are happy to flog a halo model in their line-ups, full in the knowledge of the cachet that GT, vRS and Sport can heft onto a brand. However, as soon as they take such action, a host of wannabes is revealed. These are the customers that would love the upmarket variant but cannot manage the greater overheads entailed by insurance premiums, road tax and fuel costs. The more technologically advanced and more potent these halo cars become, so, too, do the incidental bills, although it is seldom a consideration, when being beguiled by yet another stripe-adorned, badge-engineered and punchy hot rod.
Vauxhall used to be a prime example of how to manage such circumstances by offering a VXR/GSi model at the top end but bridging the inevitable gap to lesser variants, by introducing a lower grade SRi. Ford has done likewise, using ST as a stepping-stone means to RS. Suzuki’s response for its lovable Swift model is the Attitude. Using the well-equipped SZ-T level as its platform (one below SZ5), it then factors-in a carbon-effect front splitter (lower aerodynamic spoiler), side skirts and rear bumper detail, adding a chrome bar and surround to the stretched hexagonal radiator grille, now filled with a mesh pattern, with LED bars providing a frontal daylight running lamps signature located above the front foglamps and 16.0-inch diameter polished alloy wheels adding a flourish to the flanks.
With the visual upgrade complete, the solitary power unit choice is placed at the door of Suzuki’s 1.2-litre, 16-valve, four-cylinder, normally aspirated petrol engine. Displacing 1,242cc, the time-honoured powerplant develops a modest 88bhp and a numerically equal 88lbs ft of torque. As the five-door hatchback tips the scales at a lightweight 890kgs, its performance is surprisingly zesty, capable of despatching the 0-60mph sprint in 11.6s, before topping out at 111mph. It should be highlighted that Suzuki seldom over-eggs its omelette and that these figures, as well as those coming up, can often be exceeded.
Equipped with Suzuki’s ultra-compact mild hybrid technology, which provides a ‘stop:start’ facility, brake energy recovery and a tiny performance boost, under the new WLTP legislation, the engine emits 124g/km CO2, while returning 51.4mpg on the Official Combined fuel test cycle. Footling around the New Forest, I was pleased to return 55.4mpg during the test session, without trying too hard. It is an outstanding example of mild hybrid technology, because it is both lightweight and space-saving, while operating uniquely on a mere 12v lithium-ion battery pack. The only time the car’s starter motor is engaged is at start-up; the rest of the time, i.e. following a stop at a junction, or traffic signals, the engine restarts imperceptibly and speedily, thus reducing wear and tear on the starter gear.
Thanks to careful matching of dampers (made by Monroe) to spring rates, the handling balance of the Swift Attitude is firmly sporty, without being harsh. The car absorbs bumps efficiently, although more sudden dips and peaks can result in a wincing ‘crash’. Fortunately, the car’s inherently taut construction isolates its occupants from the worst effects of our awful road surfaces. Body roll is well suppressed and lane changes, even at higher speeds, are faithful to driver input, which makes the Swift a genuine delight to punt around.
The electro-hydraulic power steering reacts quickly to the driver’s wishes and reduces the amount of twirling of its hide-wrapped steering wheel rim needed around town, or when parking. Vision from the driver’s seat is excellent and judging the Swift’s 3.8m length is a lot easier than in some cars of similar dimensions. Its brakes operate efficiently and without fade. Extra road grip comes from the 185/55 section tyres fitted to the 16.0-inch alloys (one inch up from the stock SZ-T model).
A first year’s road tax for the Attitude is now £170, with £145 due annually thereafter, while car insurance, posted at a lowly Group 16, is more affordable for younger, or first-time drivers. Yet, the Attitude model is not about ‘poverty-spec’. Passengers benefit from typically judicious Suzuki packaging, with more than enough space for two, two-metres tall front seat occupants and at least a couple of six-footers behind. It is a benefit of the Swift’s taller body and longer wheelbase, when compared with its rivals. It makes the Fiesta appear cramped and the Yaris the premise of short persons. The patterned dark grey cloth trim clads well-bolstered seats that remain comfortable and supportive for trips short and long and there is a plentiful range of adjustment in both driver’s seat base and the steering column for a wide range of occupants.
The driver is confronted by a dashboard that features a perforated soft-touch white trim panel, while the conventional, driver-focused instrument binnacle carries legible speedometer and rev-counter dials, with smaller faces for engine temperature and fuel contents gauges and a digital trip computer. Air-con, sat-nav, electric windows all-round, central door locking, rear view camera and mobile-phone connectivity are all standard. There is a useful storage slot ahead of the twin cupholders and the door pockets are accommodating. Priced at £14,599, the Suzuki Swift Attitude is a very complete and competent small hatchback car that is perfect for either cost-effective private, or business use.
While we might all hanker for a compact road-burner, reality bites on the running costs front, which makes the great looking Swift Attitude model all the more relevant for today’s new car scene.