But the firm’s four-wheeled offering struggles to match the glamorous image of its two-wheel cousins.
While the Vitara SUV does a respectable job of attracting lady hairdressers to the marque, the rest of its offering is, to put it politely, a bit left-field. The Liana has come to light for being thrashed around a test track by various celebrities on Top Gear, while the Alto is a quirky city car which sells in tiny numbers.
But things look set to change – and deservedly so – if the Swift is anything to go by.
For a start it looks great – all curvy lines and squat stance, which really sets it apart from other superminis. The Swift has got a bit of character about it and thanks to its short overhangs and wide wheelarches, it looks quite muscular.
Unfortunately, there are only two engines on offer which don’t reflect the beefy looks at first glance – a 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol. A more sporty 1.6 model inspired by the firm’s success in the Junior World Rally Championship and a 1.3-litre diesel are due here until next year.
But the range-topping 1.5 tested here has got enough oomph to make driving it great fun. With variable valve timing, it offers 101bhp, which is delivered through a five-speed manual gearbox.
The Swift really does live up to its name.
The engine is lively and likes nothing better than being revved hard. Acceleration is strong with 0-62mph taking just 10 seconds, and the Swift is a surprisingly able motorway cruiser, settling into a smooth 70mph cruise with little wind or engine noise intruding into the cabin.
In town, the ultra-light steering and pedals and a very tight turning circle make manoeuvring around tight streets a doddle.
Also handy for urban use is the keyless entry system which is standard on GLX models. So long as the key is in your pocket, the car will automatically lock and unlock as you approach it, meaning no more fumbling for car keys. Keyless entry is just part of a generous list of standard equipment. GLX models feature air conditioning, alloy wheels, front, side and curtain airbags, CD player, electric windows and steering-wheel mounted audio controls.
The interior is roomy for the class, with enough space for four adults and an airy feeling thanks to the high roofline.
Build quality inside is also good, with decent plastics used on the dashboard and doors, especially the stereo surround which wouldn’t look out of place on an Audi.
Only the tinny feel when shutting the doors spoils the impression of quality and the fact that when it rains the sound on the roof is amplified through into the cabin. But these are minor niggles and you need to remember this Swift costs just over £8,500. You really do get a lot of car for the money.
Delivered price, standard car (P11D value): £8,448
CO2 emissions (g/km): 159
BIK % of P11D in 2005: 18%
Graduated VED rate: £125
Insurance group: 6D
Combined mpg: 45.6
CAP Monitor residual value: £1,925/23%
Depreciation 10.87 pence per mile x 60,000: £6,522
Maintenance 2.29 pence per mile x 60,000: £1,374
Fuel 9.12 pence per mile x 60,000: £5,472
Wholelife cost 22.28 pence per mile x 60,000: £13,368
Typical contract hire rate: N/A
At a glance
We don’t like
Three rivals to consider
ONLY the SEAT Ibiza gets anywhere near the Suzuki on price and it doesn’t have the level of standard equipment on offer in the Swift. To find rivals, we’ve chosen 1.4-litre engined cars from the middle of the range which get as near as possible to the Swift’s price. The Ford Fiesta costs £1,200 more than the SEAT, while the Citroen is the most expensive car with a P11d price of £9,702. However, for smaller fleets Citroen’s many finance deals and cashback offers will lower this price.
THE Citroen and Ford lead the way on service, maintenance and repair costs, with both likely to cost £1,296 in garage bills over three years/60,000 miles. Only just behind are the SEAT and Suzuki, tied on 2.29ppm for a likely bill of £1,374 – a difference of just £78. Obviously these projected costs depend upon how individual drivers treat their cars during their life on the company fleet. In terms of warranty, all four have cover for three years and 60,000 miles.
ANOTHER sector where the first two and last two are tied on costs. The Citroen and Suzuki are both claimed to return an average of 45.6mpg on the combined cycle, meaning a fuel bill of £5,472 over three years and 60,000 miles. The Ford and SEAT return 43.5mpg, giving a fuel charge of £5,736. These costs are based on the manufacturer’s claimed figures and are difficult to match in everyday driving, but with the price of petrol soaring it is worth keeping these figures in mind when comparing what your drivers are achieving.
A CLEAR win for the SEAT, which CAP estimates will retain 37% of its cost new after three years/60,000 miles. This leaves a cash lost figure for the Ibiza, the cheapest car here at the front end, of £5,337. Second spot goes to the Suzuki, which CAP estimates will retain just 23% but, because of its low price tag, it loses £6,523. In third place is the Ford Fiesta, which retains 30% for a cash lost figure of £6,707, compared with 28% and £6,952 for the Citroen.
WITH such a clear advantage in depreciation costs of nearly 2ppm, the SEAT Ibiza is comfortably the cheapest car for a fleet to run over three years/60,000 miles at £12,444. The Suzuki Swift comes second, again helped by its low front-end price and a strong showing in the fuel section, where it tied for first place. It will cost a total of £13,368 – £348 less than the Citroen C3 and £366 less than the Ford Fiesta.
Emissions and BIK tax rates
NONE of the four cars is going to break the bank in company car tax terms, with all costing £30 or less a month.
For a 22% taxpayer, the SEAT and Suzuki offer the lowest benefit-in-kind bills, at £28 a month.
The Citroen is the next most tax-efficient, costing £29 a month – its low emissions off-setting its higher P11d price. The Ford’s higher front-end price counts against it. But at £30 a month, it is still hardly more expensive than the others tax-wise.
THE choice comes down to two cars – the SEAT Ibiza and Suzuki Swift. Both perform well in wholelife costs and offer drivers low tax bills, but the SEAT’s convincing wholelife costs victory gives it the edge. The Swift is a great little car and deserves to do well. It runs the Ibiza close in most areas and looks and drives well, too.