The new Suzuki Swift 4x4 has few natural rivals. The only other conventional supermini with four-wheel-drive is the Fiat Panda 4x4, but that's a much smaller car.
The Swift 4x4 has been available in other markets for some time, and despite being a niche product, Suzuki believes there are enough potential customers in the UK to justify importing it.
Suzuki hopes the 4x4 will appeal to those living in rural areas who need a car with more traction during the winter months, but who don't want a conventional SUV.
The 4x4 is available with five doors and with the 93bhp 1.2-litre petrol engine from the regular Swift. It comes with a choice of two trims SZ3 and SZ4.
What's the 2013 Suzuki Swift 4x4 like to drive?
The four-wheel-drive system means the 4x4 is 65kg heavier than the two-wheel-drive version, while ride height is 25mm higher to improve approach and departure angles. The overall ground clearance is identical to the regular Swift, though, because the 4x4's driveshaft and differentials sit lower.
We took the Swift 4x4 along rutted, poorly maintained tracks and the four-wheel-drive system proved simple but effective. Almost immediately after you feel the front wheels start to lose grip on loose surfaces, the rear wheels help out to keep the car moving.
Without a low-ratio gearbox or off-road tyres, the 4x4 is by no means advanced enough to cope with proper off-roading, but for low-grip winter conditions or tackling rural farm tracks, it's a neat and cost-effective solution.
However, on the road, the Swift 4x4 offers no significant advantage over the two-wheel-drive model. In fact, the extra weight puts even more strain on the weedy 1.2-litre petrol engine, meaning you have to work it even harder.
Motorway speeds are certainly not the Swift 4x4's forte the engine is noisy, while wind and road noise only add to the aural intrusion.
That said, when driving along a twisty back road, the 4x4 is reasonably good fun. Just like the standard Swift, there's plenty of grip and corners are tackled with barely a hint of body roll.
The slightly firm edge to the two-wheel-drive version's ride has been improved, too, by the extra inch of suspension travel.
The Swift 4x4 isn't much less efficient than its two-wheel-drive sibling a 5mpg deficit means it averages 51.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 126g/km.
What's the 2013 Suzuki Swift 4x4 like inside?
The Swift 4x4's cabin is identical to the two-wheel-drive model's. That means you get the same smart-looking and simple dashboard, with plastics that are solid if hardly luxurious.
The 4x4 is available in SZ3 or SZ4 trim, and both versions are well-equipped. SZ3 models get seven airbags, electric front windows, air-conditioning, heated door mirrors, and a four-speaker stereo with Bluetooth and a USB input.
Along with extra plastic cladding and skid plates, SZ4 models get climate control, automatic headlights, keyless entry and start, electric rear windows and cruise control.
As with the standard five-door Swift, the 4x4 offers great all-round visibility and most drivers should be able to get comfortable thanks to the height-adjustable driver's seat and steering wheel. SZ4 cars also have reach adjustment for the wheel.
The Swift's biggest practicality shortfall is boot space its 211 litres is far less than you get in most modern superminis. That said, a Fiat Panda 4x4 isn't much better in this respect, with 225 litres of space.
Should I buy one?
The Suzuki Swift 4x4 is priced from 13,819, but qualifies for Suzuki's no-VAT offer until the end of September so if you buy quickly you'll pay 11,516.
Without taking this special offer into account, the Swift 4x4 SZ3 is 1200 more expensive than the equivalent two-wheel-drive model the difference grows to 1800 when comparing SZ4-trim cars.
This is a sizeable premium when you're not paying for an especially advanced four-wheel-drive system. However, a Fiat Panda 4x4 is even more expensive, and while that car is a bit more capable off-road, it gets less equipment and has even less space inside.
So, if you want a new four-wheel-drive car and want to spend as little on it as possible, the Swift 4x4 should be on the shortlist along with the Fiat Panda 4x4 and Dacia Duster. However, for most people, its cheaper two-wheel-drive sibling makes far more sense.
What Car? says...
Engine size 1.2-litre petrol
Price from 13,819
Torque 87lb ft
0-62mph 13.4 seconds
Top speed 103mph
Fuel economy 51.3mpg