Updating a popular and successful car is never an easy task, writes Iain Dooley. Have some sympathy for Suzuki, then. Its latest-generation Swift, first launched in 2005, is a very popular car.

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Updating a popular and successful car is never an easy task, writes Iain Dooley. Have some sympathy for Suzuki, then. Its latest-generation Swift, first launched in 2005, is a very popular car.

Stylish, practical and good to drive, 1.65 million have found homes since its launch - 55,000 in the UK. So it's hardly surprising that Suzuki chose to stick with a winning formula.

Granted, the new car is more of a twin to its elder relative than a straight copy. The car's looks have been sharpened up and the design incorporates a wider track and a 50mm longer wheelbase.

And although the Swift's looks might not have changed much despite the all-new sheetmetal, the way the car is built has. Suzuki has done much to reduce the car's weight, boost strength and safety, plus further enhance the already engaging driving experience.

Factor in a new 1.2-litre petrol engine boasting more power and greater economy than the previous 1.3-litre, and it's clear Suzuki has focused on the areas that matter.

Although impressive enough on paper, the various improvements made to the Swift immediately make themselves known when you're behind the wheel. As before, the driving position offers plenty of adjustment and there's no shortage of room for two adults up front.

On the go the Swift's 94hp engine is willing and refined. It's also cleaner than the 1.3 unit, now putting out 116g/km of CO2. Fuel economy is also better at 56.5mpg. Add the car's slick five-speed manual gearbox and zipping around town is a very pleasant experience indeed.

Considering the urban landscape will likely be the car's main habitat, it's reassuring to know Suzuki's engineers have tweaked the steering to further improve its actions, while the suspension and brakes have been revised to better cope with the demands of city driving.

The end result is a car that delivers a supple ride around town, plus a level of agility that should please keen drivers. The car's sharp responses aren't at the expense of comfort, however. Road, engine and wind noise have all been suppressed to a pleasing minimum. Thanks, in part, should go to the car's rigid body, reduced weight and, believe it or not, redesigned exterior mirrors.

The Swift is also a jolly car to drive away from the city. What the car lacks in outright speed it adequately compensates for with a nimble, sure-footed performance on undulating and challenging roads.

Driver confidence is high thanks to accurate and weighty steering, and the term 'chuckable' might be an overused one in this business but here it's perfectly justified.

Swift owners will tell you that there's more to the car than the driving experience. The same is true of this car, as its cabin is roomy and accommodating. The small wheelbase increase liberates more room for occupants in the back, and there are seven airbags as standard across the range including a driver's knee airbag. Electronic stability control is also included.

The ergonomic fascia and intuitive controls and displays reinforce the car's easy-to-live-with appeal. Everything is straightforward in the cabin, incouding the audio unit, and three trim levels - SZ2, SZ3 and SZ4 - continue this trend.

Starting with an already generous list of standard kit - front passenger airbag deactivation, remote central locking, electric front windows and heated mirrors, USB connection for the audio unit - SZ3 adds air-con and alloy wheels. Rear electric windows, keyless ignition, Bluetooth, cruise control and auto headlights make up the SZ4.

Along with the volume-selling 1.2 petrol engine complete with manual gearbox, there's the option of a four-speed automatic and, irrespective of engine, the choice is between three or five doors. A revised 1.3-litre diesel arrives in spring.

The new Swift might look a lot like its predecessor but Suzuki understands that its customers are comfortable with the car's appearance, so why fiddle with a winning formula? Better still to improve the bits that will improve the driving and ownership experience. On that front the Swift is a whole new - and better - car.

Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4

price: Suzuki Swift 1.2 SZ4 five-door, from £12,245. Range from £9,995 to £13,245

Engine: 1.2-litre, 94bhp petrol

Transmission: Five-speed manual transmission driving the front wheels

Performance: 0-62mph 12.3 seconds, top speed 103mph

Economy: 56.5mpg

CO2 Rating: 116g/km

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