The Suzuki Swift subcompact has been running around the streets of Europe, Japan, and Canada for some time�but hasn't been available in the US since the 1990s. The Swift is expected to make a comeback in the next year or so (maybe), and a plug-in hybrid version could follow.
Suzuki said today that its dealers will begin test-driving 60 Swift plug-in hybrids on Japanese roads by this fall. The engine will generate 54 horsepower and the electric motor will produce 74 horsepower. The Swift plug-in hybrid offers an all-electric range of somewhere between 9 and 12 miles. The batteries will be supplied by Sanyo, which provides nickel-metal hydride batteries for Honda and Ford hybrids.
Upon its potential return to the US, the Suzuki Swift�about the size of a Mini Cooper�would join the ranks of thrifty micro-cars such as the Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, Mazda 2, and Chevrolet Spark. Micro-cars have never been huge sellers in the United States, and will need to aggressively compete on price. As cool as we think a stylish mini-mobile running mostly on electricity would be, the cost of its lithium ion battery pack (even if relatively small) would drive up the cost of the car by at least a few thousand dollars. After 10 years of hybrid development, nobody has produced anything smaller than a gas-electric compact�although there are rumors of a subcompact Toyota Prius in the works, and the all-electric Smart ED is going through testing in North America.