Going the distance in our Suzuki Swift long-termer
Faced with a 500-mile round trip, Simon Davis sees how the Swift fares as a long-distance cruiser
Usually when you’re planning a long-distance trip, your car of choice would likely be a large estate or SUV. Something comfortable with plenty of room that will cruise along the motorway with ease.
Our 89bhp Suzuki Swift long-termer is the polar opposite of these sorts of cars, and is far more at home darting in and out of inner-city traffic. However, this wasn’t going to deter me from taking the little supermini on a 500-mile round trip from Portsmouth to St Helens to visit family.
If I’m honest, the idea of driving the Swift over such distances didn’t exactly fill me with joy. Its 1.2-litre petrol engine lacks power and is by no means cut out for prolonged motorway stints, and it also has a tendency to feel ever so slightly twitchy when driven at open road speeds.
Nonetheless, I threw my weekend bag in the Swift’s boot, set the sat nav for St Helens and trundled out of Portsmouth early on a Saturday morning.
Now, I’m not intentionally setting out to fault the Swift’s capabilities as a long-distance cruiser, but there are a couple of things that became apparent as soon as I hit the motorway.
The first was the fact that at motorway speeds there’s a huge amount of engine noise that makes itself heard in the cabin. This is largely down to the fact that our Swift is equipped with a five-speed manual transmission, meaning that when you settle down to a cruise, the engine is turning over at about 3,500rpm. While this kitchen blender-like sound might be bearable during short runs on the motorway, coupled with a significant amount of wind and road noise it quickly becomes irritating.
Thankfully, our Swift’s touchscreen infotainment system comes with Apple CarPlay, so once I had some music playing from my iPhone I was able to drown the racket from the engine out.
The other issue I had with the Swift also concerned the engine – it just has no shove at higher speeds. With only 89bhp and 120Nm on tap, you really need to bury your foot deep into the carpet to get the car moving. Sure, this is ample for getting away from the lights in a timely fashion, but getting up to 70mph takes an age. Given this lack of power, you probably shouldn’t even think of overtaking anyone, either.
So, the Swift isn’t particularly refined at high speed, and is lacking in the power department. I was getting close to writing it off as nothing more than a glorified shopping trolley, until I realised it was equipped with adaptive cruise control.
Normally this isn’t a feature to shout and scream about, but up until now I hadn’t encountered it in a car in this class. Usually, it’s the sort of thing you find in more expensive saloons and SUVs, not a cheap and cheerful supermini.
The idea behind adaptive cruise control is simple, sensors will detect a vehicle travelling in front of you and will alter your speed so that you maintain a constant distance from said vehicle. If they’re going slower than your desired speed, simply flick your indicator on, change lane, and the system will accelerate to get you moving again.
Basically, it’s one less thing you have to focus on on a long drive, meaning you won’t be as tired when you eventually get to wherever it is you’re going. On the long drive to and from St Helens, it was certainly a welcome feature.
As an added bonus, it didn’t cost me an arm and a leg in fuel either. It averaged 51.9mpg over the course of the trip, which might be a wee way off its claimed figure of 62.8mpg, but it’s not exactly terrible. All up, fuel cost me £60, which is a far more reasonable option than the £114 I would have had to pay for a return train ticket.
Our Suzuki Swift is a car that continues to surprise me, in a good way. Sure, I can’t say I’m itching to take it on another drive halfway up the country anytime soon, but I’m certainly growing to like it the more time I spend with it.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
MODEL: Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ5 SHVS Dualjet 4WD
ENGINE: 1.2-litre, four-cylinder petrol
MAX SPEED: 106mph
0-60MPH: 12.4 seconds
MPG (COMBINED): 62.8
MILEAGE (TO DATE): 4,043
HIGHLIGHT OF THE MONTH:
Travelling to and from St Helens for the fraction of the price of a train ticket
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