A simple runaround? Point-and-squirt, nippy about-town handling? Low emissions?
Ask 100 different people shopping for a supermini that question and you’re likely to get 100 different answers, so disparate is the market at this level.
The fact is that, unlike perhaps any other area of the automotive market, small cars get used and abused for a massive variety of jobs both large and small.
Which, ironically, makes this latest Suzuki Swift so appealing.
As more manufacturers have realised how small cars are driven, they’ve changed their role to better match that demand.
The result is that many small cars have strayed from their position as being a good small car and have grown in size, outlook or just their general ethos.
The latest Suzuki Swift is appealing as a small car
Not so this Swift however, which – similar to the likes of the Fiat Panda and Mazda 2 – has remained true to its small car origins.
It’s a successful plan, too, if the Swift’s 5.4 million sales are anything to go by.
In the UK alone it accounts for a third of all Suzuki’s sales.
That’s doubly impressive when you consider that the Swift sits in the fiercely competitive supermini sector that isn’t exactly short of some excellent cars; most notably the new Citroën C3, Nissan Micra and Ford Fiesta to name but three.
At least this particular Swift has one unusual element in its armoury, with its mild-hybrid system linked to its 1.0-litre turbo-petrol three-cylinder engine.
Boasting 111bhp it’s not a full-on hybrid such as Toyota’s Yaris.
But, as its name suggests, the Swift uses its mild hybrid system to assist the engine when accelerating or pulling away from standstill – while at the same time recharging via the brakes.
It may sound complicated but it works, as Swift’s on-paper statistics prove.
A 0 to 60mph time of 10.6 seconds and 121mph top speed are both respectable enough, especially alongside 65.7mpg average fuel economy and 97g/km emissions.
It’s on the road though, where the Swift proves itself.
The three-cylinder engine has a lovely off-beat thrum to it that encourages you to work it hard and, while there’s only a five-speed gearbox as opposed to the common six these days, it’s one of those cars that can put a smile on your face while driving five miles or 50.
What is central to the Swift’s appeal however, is that while it might not be the fastest or most luxurious supermini on the road, it still feels as if the person holding the steering wheel is involved in the driving experience.
The Swift uses its mild hybrid system to assist the engine when accelerating
From the sharp steering that turns into corners with perfect precision to the slick gear-change and excellent on-road feel, along with the little body roll through corners, the baby Suzuki boasts an immediacy that many rivals simply can’t match.
Information on the mild-hybrid system is easily available to view via the trip computer in the main dials, including how much time the engine stop/start system has been off together with how many miles’ worth of fuel you’ve saved as a result.
A touch gimmicky? Perhaps, but in this age of parsimony, when it comes to fuel economy we still like it.
Quite whether some of the trip computer’s other elements, such as the cornering G-force meter or the power and torque meters, are quite so useful in what is, after all, still a 1.0-litre supermini, is another matter.
Still on the technology side, the infotainment system works reasonably well and is easy enough to use but we’re not the biggest fans of the slider for the volume control because it’s hard to use accurately on the move.
The Swift has a 0 to 60mph time of 10.6 seconds and 121mph top speed
That said, the rest of the Swift’s interior is hard to fault.
Some of the plastics feel a little cheap in places but, overall, the build quality is excellent.
It’s an example to car designers why keeping things simple works, with all of the controls easy to use while on the move.
Even better is that it’s surprisingly accommodating inside, with decent rear seat space and room to fit four 6ft adults easily in the car on shorter journeys.
While there’s a high lip to the 265-litre boot, it’s a good size and shape, being nice and deep.
Overall though, while there are plenty of reasons to like the Swift, the over-riding factor that you can’t help but keep coming back to is its all-round inherent “rightness” as a small car.
Fun to drive and cheap to run; it’s not hard to see why it appeals to so many drivers and why it plays such a large part in Suzuki’s success. Sometimes the best answers are the simple ones.
The Swift is fun to drive and cheap to run
Engine: Turbo-petrol – 1.0-litre plus mild-hybrid system
Power: 0 to 60mph in 10.6 seconds, 121mph top speed
Fuel economy: 65.7mpg
C02 emissions: 97g/km
Rivals: Citroën C3, Mazda 2,Ford Fiesta, Nissan Micra