Zippy, bright and taut – not for introverts
Glamour model: Suzuki Swift Sport
The launch colour for the new Suzuki Swift Sport is as bright as a summer buttercup, a shade called Champion Yellow. It says a lot about the kind of customer Suzuki aims to attract with its new turbo-charged hot hatch glamour model. It is not for introverts. It will appeal to buyers who want a fun alternative to the company car, but without too outlandish an outlay.
This is the third generation of a sporty small car that has proved very successful for Suzuki. Compared with the last model, this one has undergone a cosmetic redesign to perk up its style and shed a bit of weight for an upgraded power-to-weight ratio. It has been given a brighter colour palette, with Speedy Blue and Burning Red among the other options.
The car is front-wheel-drive and has a 1.4 litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, turbocharged to give a 138 bhp power output. The gearbox is a nicely slick six-speed manual. The top speed is 130mph and the 0-62 acceleration time is 8.1 seconds, it is arguably more of a warm hatch than a hot one. However, it is a fun drive with decent fuel economy at a combined figure of 47.1 mpg. CO2 output is 135 g/km, so 28% for BIK taxation.
Its compact size makes it easy to park in tight urban spaces and it comes with a standard reversing camera. Other standard kit includes touchscreen satnav, air conditioning, rear privacy glass, DAB radio, all the essential connectivity, sports seats and twin exhausts. Safety kit comprises six airbags, forward collision warning and lane departure warning systems.
Suzuki talks up the car’s suspension, claiming that it achieves good control combined with decent ride comfort. That’s actually a pretty fair summary. The little Suzuki feels nimble and poised, deals with surface bumps pretty well and damps out most of them quite effectively. There’s modest body roll on the bends, but the car clings on well and has an engaging feel behind the wheel. It has a nicely precise steering and a generally eager, purposeful demeanour.
Suzuki aims to sell about 1,500 Swift Sports a year and shouldn’t have any trouble doing so. It is crisply styled, has zippy poise, taut handling and good ride comfort. For its first month on sale, during June, it is very keenly priced at a launch-discount £16,499, but from July onwards it goes full price at £17,999. That undercuts rival hot hatches like the Peugeot 205 GTi, Renault Clio RS and Vauxhall Corsa VXR, all of which are more than £2,000 dearer. But it is not priced much below a faster Ford Fiesta ST. Even so, the Swift Sport merits a closer look as an affordable fun car.
SUV with Scandinavian cool
Business savvy: Volvo XC40
What is the all-round best new car of the year so far? Step forward Volvo, with the well-received XC40. The Swedish car maker’s new small SUV – arriving in the range alongside the bigger XC60 and XC90 – has been feted by the specialist car magazines. It has been awarded top-end star ratings and a European Car of the Year title.
All of which is very well deserved. Riding high on the tsunami of SUVs that has engulfed the car market, the XC40 is a great choice as a company car for lots of reasons. Size is one. Less bulky and with a smaller footprint than many of the current breed of pumped-up 4x4s, it looks a bit less overtly butch than some, so invites less antagonism.
Driving calibre is the big plus. The XC40 drives with panache, a crisp civility that makes it rewarding company. It doesn’t feel overtly sporty and is more comfort-orientated, with firmly cushioned suspension and strong body control that makes it a good distance-muncher for those business miles on motorways. Show it a twisty road and it behaves with decorum and it feels reassuringly solid into the bends.
It has the all-round feel of a very soundly engineered car and the look of one that has been designed and manufactured to a very high standard. Volvos are known for their Scandinavian cool and this is no exception. The cabin has a fresh modern style and top-notch quality. There are also some distinctive details, like the tiny Swedish flag stitched into the front seat edge.
Engine choice is between two diesels and three petrol units, with power outputs from 148 to 247 bhp. There is an impressive three-cylinder petrol engine, but the rest of the range is all four-cylinder and the optimum business choice is the D3 diesel with a 127 g/km CO2 output, reasonably modest for the type of car it is. Both a plug-in hybrid and a fully electric XC40 are coming later.
As with all Volvos, safety is high priority and every XC40 model has automatic emergency braking and lane departure control. On-the-road prices start from £27,610 for a front-wheel-drive T3 petrol model with base level Momentum trim, and top out at just over £40,000 for a top-spec T5 petrol 4x4 automatic. Diesel models start from £29,010 for a D3 front-wheel-drive manual.