ROOMY isn`t a word often associated with Suzuki cars.
The Japanese brand, famous for its high performance motorcycles and light, versatile four-wheel-drives, has never been considered favourably by people of generous proportions.
Enter the Suzuki Swift, the comeback compact that has the headroom to accommodate basketballers and sufficient girth to cater for rock`n`roll wrestlers.
The only thing this hatch shares with its cramp-inducing predecessor, of the 1980s, is its name.
The latest release was first seen as the Concept S at the Paris Motor Show in 2002.
Drawing on its international resources, Suzuki developed this into the Concept S2 the following year and engineers set up a base in Europe to finalise the stylish road version, unveiled last year.
With the widest track and body in its class, this rally-bred machine has made a big entry to the market Down Under.
In fact, it has given Suzuki its most successful Australian sales figures since December, 1996.
In its first real month of sales on the Australian market, the Swift by far exceeded Suzuki`s expected target of 350 units, selling 494 vehicles.
The GLX Swift is keenly priced from $15,990 (plus on roads) with the higher specification model _ the Z Series _ offering plenty of added enticements for another $2000.The only other major option is $2000 for automatic transmission.
The sporty 5-speed manual Z, which was our subject of our test, came with dual front, front side and front and rear curtain airbags, ABS, EBD, brake assist (BA), air-conditioning, remote locking, power windows and mirrors, and a CD sound system cleverly incorporated into the dashboard.
There also was steering wheel-mounted audio controls, height-adjustable driver`s seat, tilt steering column, alloy wheels and front fog lights.
Safety is always a concern with compact cars, but the all new Suzuki Swift has scored an impressive safety rating from independent assessment body Euro NCAP,which placed the popular light passenger vehicle among the top of its class.
Incorporating the latest technologies in safety and security, the Swift was tested in aspects of protection against front and side impact, pedestrian contact and child safety.
The Swift has a solid feel on the road and the steering is well-weighted and responsive.
It is a breeze to drive and handling overall is quite good.
The ride is a little firm and could be more comfortable.
The Swift doesn`t live up to its name off the mark, but its nifty 1.5-litre engine performs admirably offering sound mid-range response.
Fuel economy, as you would expect, is a plus. The Suzuki consumes around six litres for every 100km of highway driving, but this climbs to 9 litres/100km zipping around town.
As mentioned, its roominess ranks up there with its attractive looks as one of the newcomer`s most impressive features.
Leg room front and rear is excellent for a compact and an array of storage options are cleverly positioned throughout the cabin.
The hatch area is only small, but the rear seats have a 60-40 spilt fold to accommodate bulkier items.
For the price, the Suzuki Swift is a must-consider for those looking for a spacious, well-built and safe hatch with good looks and an impressive list of standard features.