Red Dwarf


I could probably leave the rest of this article blank and no one would be any the wiser. However, if you did actually mean to click that S-shaped insignia, read on.

I won’t bore you with an in-depth analysis of why I chose the car – it is simply the most exciting car (that is still safe and comfortable for the daily slog) that I can afford to insure at the spritely age of nineteen.

I’ve had the car for less than three weeks, and the odometer has increased by twenty-five percent. Although about half of these miles are due to my commute, the Swift is certainly a better incentive to get out of my bed than my previous steed. Owning the car in deepest darkest winter certainly highlights a few areas for improvement, one being the heater, which doesn’t like to be rushed into thawing the frost from my numb hands. Though once up to temperature, the climate control does do a brilliant job of keeping you subtly comfortable.

The car is very sure-footed at normal road speeds, whilst the firm ride only starts to shake your eyes around in their sockets after a couple of hours of B-road blasting. The ‘box shifts between cogs cleanly and smoothly, and unlike my old KA, it almost relishes being rushed. This is partly due to the 1.6VVTi engine – I’m sure its engineers were involved in a spot of hanky panky with Honda’s VTEC technicians. It features some pretty impressive trickery too, such as forged pistons, twin camshafts and oil squirters to keep the pistons cool. Under four thousand rpm there really isn’t much fun to be had, and the engine’s peak torque is delivered with nearly 5k on the tachometer. However…

“Hi, I’m Robbie and I’m a rev-aholic.”I admit it; the kick in the back at 4000rpm is getting seriously addictive. The resulting plummeting of the econometer on the dash is not quite as grin inducing. Luckily Suzuki’s techies realised this, as you can turn it off. At least this allows you to delay the shock of less than 30mpg from a little hatchback.

Whilst the engine is a pleasure to use, I am already becoming accustomed to the 50bhp gain in power over my old car. Fortunately, there’s further excitement of the heart-pumping, endorphin injecting variety to be had. Any true automotive aficionado will have owned or at least read about the Peugeot 205 GTI, and the lift-off oversteer that comes hand in hand with ownership. Before I bought the SSS I had read that it rekindled some of the scruff-of-the-neck fun of old school hatches, including the 205’s legendary oversteer antics.

This was illustrated only last Saturday, on a wet and wonderful drive home from my work Christmas do. There’s something almost otherworldly about those late-night drives – window ajar, but with the heater keeping you cosy. I could taste the moisture in the air from the precipitation earlier that evening, and knew my favourite roundabout just a couple of miles from home would be devoid of traffic.

I downshifted, blipped and slotted it into second gear. I flicked the front end into the deserted doughnut of asphalt and felt the front Goodyears begin to lose their intimate relationship with the road. Instinctively I found my right foot snap off the throttle pedal and what followed seemed to happen in the cliché that is slow motion. The weight shift caused the front tyres to grab a hold of the tarmac, which left the rears to sweep a wider radius round the bend. As my exit came into contention, I reapplied the throttle and shot out of the roundabout in what seemed like stunned silence, the wave of endorphins enveloping the screaming engine’s voice.

That was only one of the experiences that have brought the Swift closer to my heart. It has also shared two Tunnel Runs with me, the first of which was with 150 TVRs. Whilst I did feel a little out of place, I had a great time listening to the V8 (and straight six) thunder reverberating all around me. Tunnel Runs have a habit of making a sufficiently loud car seem like a mosquito amongst a heard of wildebeest, and much internet exhaust shopping usually follows them.

However, I have come to my senses, as the exhaust is actually quite boomy at motorway speeds. Below sixty or above eighty it’s fine, but that’s not exactly ideal. A sixth gear would be the ideal solution, as cruising at four thousand revs can get tiresome. The Fiat Panda 100HP, a car I considered before my purchase, is equipped with a six speed box, and that’s one area where the Italian trumps the Japbox.

The final area that the Suzuki performs below par is the orchestra of incessant rattles that are conjured up on any normal British road surface. It is booked in to have the dash padded out, and I will keep you updated on this issue.

Despite these niggles, they have not dampened the overall ownership experience. One month in, and I can’t think of another car that could be such a jack-of-all-trades, and yet be insurable for a nineteen year old. Next month the Swift will be taking part in a Pistonheads ‘run’ and I will find out whether the rattles can be resolved.




Robbie Birkhead