Ten years without any significant change to exterior design is almost unheard of in the car industry but that's the situation with the Suzuki Swift which continues to defy conventional wisdom by selling in consistently high numbers year-in and year-out. Indeed the popular little Suzuki finished the 2015 sales race in third place in the 30-model Light Car category, beaten only by heavyweights Mazda 2 and Toyota Yaris.

The current, second generation, Swift has been on sale since 2011 with the next generation expected in 2017.

Much of the success of Swift has been its widespread appeal, traversing both age and gender boundaries. With its tall, neat and angular design, it's not only a great looking car, it's also very practical. For a 3.85-metre car there's a surprising amount of interior space with plenty of head room at both front and rear, although the sloping roof does make entry into the rear seats a bit awkward for taller passengers. The front seats have a good spread of fore-and-aft adjustment and the driver's seat can be raised and lowered.

The only other negative is the car's very small (210-litre) boot meaning that the 60/40 split rear seat back is likely to get plenty of use.

There are four Swift variants: GL, GL Navigator, GLX and Sport.

Engine

Two engines are offered, both four-cylinder petrol units. The Swift GL, GL Navigator and GLX get a 1.4-litre that generates 70kW of power and 130Nm of torque at 4000rpm. Fuel consumption is listed at 5.5L/100km and CO2 emissions at 132g/km. We averaged 6.3L/100 km during our week-long test.

Unlike many so-called 'sports' models, the Swift Sport actually has added engine and dynamic performance than the standard series. It has a larger engine, at 1.6 litres with 100kW and 160Nm, to back up its firmer suspension, sporty body kit and enhanced interior.

Transmission options are five-speed manual and four-speed automatic in the GL and four-speed auto only in the GLX. Swift Sport has a six-speed manual or CVT with seven 'manual' settings.

Safety

Standard safety equipment in all models is fairly basic but does include seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag) as well as ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist and electronic stability control. These are still enough to give Swift the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.

All models above the entry-level GL also get front foglights while the GLX and Sport come with LED daytime running lights. Automatic variants also add a hill-hold function.

Features

Again multimedia features are fairly Spartan. Bluetooth connectivity is standard in all models and is quick and intuitive to pair and there's a handy dash-mounted USB socket. As the name suggests the GL Navigator adds satellite navigation which is also standard in the GLX and Sport as is a colour multi-function control screen.

Driving

There's a refinement in Swift that is rare in small cars and it almost has a large car feel. It cruises comfortably on the open road and is sharp and nimble on hills and bends, although its revs need to be up around 4000rpm to get the best from the engine. Steering is nicely weighted and gives good feedback.

Automatic transmissions mated to small engines can be a challenge but not so in the Swift. During the urban section of our drive changes were smooth and timely.

Our current test was in the Swift GLX but we've driven the Sport previously and, while its punchy engine doesn't exactly turn the car into a hot hatch, it does offer a fair bit of fun at an extremely modest price. We've heard of a number of former boy racers who grew up driving the Swift GTi back in the 1980s making the switch.