YOU’RE 18* years young, just arrived in the prime of life and it’s finally time to get your first car. It’s a big deal: long-awaited independence and freedom to roam Britain’s 247,000-mile network of roads.
A fair amount of research has been done and you’ve combed the classifieds, scouring every square inch of virtual possibility. The ubiquitous Fiesta and Polo are bound to be on your shortlist, but one choice you may not have considered is the Suzuki Swift. But let me tell you, young driving aficionado-to-be, that would be a shame.
The 2005 model completely refocused the previously frumpy and sluggish Swift as something that would appeal to younger buyers, not just those who had entered their golden years.
You can pick up a 2006 1.3 GL five-door hatchback with 59,000 miles for around £2,000. And according to CAP Automotive, the car information experts, this is around the UK average price of a first car bought by (and often for) those in their late teens to early 20s.
Initially, all other considerations are secondary to the question of insurance. However, this primary hurdle doesn’t seem so eye-watering when you consider the good-looking Swift. A pre-facelift 2006 1.3 GL five-door model sits in group four, equating to a premium of roughly £770 for comprehensive cover for an “average” 18 year-old who passed their test a year ago, dropping to around £700 with a £250 voluntary excess.
This figure seems much more reasonable than the bank-bursting average £2,000 insurance premium for 18-year-old first-time drivers, meaning you could be setting off in your very own fully-insured wheels for a lot less than the rest of Britain’s teenagers.
Granted, equivalent rivals such as the Fiesta and Polo are both one insurance group lower, but in terms of running costs, both trail the Swift for fuel efficiency and road tax cost. The Swift also has at least 20 more bhp than either of its European competitors, so it’ll reward you in boosted performance as well as in your wallet.
The balance of advantage tilts further in favour of the Swift when you drive it. Its short wheelbase combined with its sporty suspension set-up results in tight body control, so it’s eager to dive into corners with gusto, providing light and quick steering feedback to complement its engaging persona. It’s genuinely great fun to drive and only a like-for-like Fiesta could challenge it for driving involvement. Its 92bhp engine is keen and peppy around town and relatively hushed on long journeys, too.
Combine this with athletic exterior styling, a roomy cabin to carry a few mates, and good safety kit and you now have a harder decision to make my friend. Cheap and cheerful is back.
* Maybe at 17, but you probably would’ve had to auction an organ to pay for insurance at that age, right?
With thanks to Belmont Suzuki, Wallyford.
CAR Suzuki Swift 1.3GL 5dr (2005–current)
INSURANCE GROUP 4
PERFORMANCE Max speed 109mph; 0-62mph 11.0s
MPG (combined) 48.7mpg
CO2 EMISSIONS 140g/km