Suzuki Swift Sport

The Suzuki Swift has been around for a number of decades and has always been a small, light, fun and affordable car.  Over this time, there have also been some performance versions of the car, most notably the Swift GTi that was produced from 1989 all the way through to 2000.  The Swift Sport took over as the performance model in 2005 and continues to this day, currently being in its fourth generation.

Interestingly, Suzuki ran the Swift model in the Junior World Rally Championship throughout the 2000’s.  The company had success, winning the 2007 and 2010 championships in a Suzuki Swift S1600.  Suzuki also entered into the World Rally Championship in 2007 and 2008, using the SX4 model, however didn’t enjoy as much success.  Knowing Suzuki’s motorsport history and never having driven a previous example of a Suzuki Swift GTi or Swift Sport, it’s a great opportunity to see what this current model is like to drive.

Interior

A look into the interior reveals a roomy cabin with a high roof line, enabling excellent front and rear headroom as well as ample leg room.  The front sports seats are manually adjustable, offering good side bolstering and displaying ‘Sport’ logos.  It would be good to sit lower in the car, but most hatches seem to have a high seating position.  The D-shaped steering wheel looks the part and is a good width.  Surprisingly, the gear lever boot is already showing signs of wear after only a couple of thousand kilometres.  The instrument panel glows red and the speedometer and tachometer are easy to read.  There’s unfortunately no digital speedo and although you have access to graphics showing boost pressure, power and torque, there’s no actual numbers displayed for these items.  There’s also no centre console supplied, resulting in less storage space.  The 7.0-inch colour display is well integrated into the dashboard and easy to operate.  Being a small hatch, the boot only has a capacity of 265 litres and there is no space saver or full sized spare, instead there’s a puncture repair kit.

Exterior

Overall, the Swift Sport is a good looking small car, particularly finished in the ‘Speedy Blue’ of this example.  The A pillars are quite vertical in their design enabling a higher roof line for passengers.  The front bumper lip, rear diffuser and side skirts have a black carbon fibre appearance and give the Suzuki an aggressive look while the twin exhausts also look purposeful.  Sport badging on the right hand side of the boot lid is also a nice touch.  The Suzuki could be mistaken for a very small coupe as the rear door handle isn’t immediately obvious and mounted up near the top section of the rear window.  The thin spoke 17 inch alloys are well suited to the car and tyres are 195/45/17 profile Continental Contisportcontact5’s on all four corners.

Standard equipment

This particular example is the six speed manual costing $25,490.  There’s also a six speed automatic that costs $27,490.  For this price range, the car is packed with technology including adaptive cruise control, climate control, keyless entry and ignition and power mirrors and windows.  There’s also a six-speaker audio system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, satellite navigation, reversing camera, 3.5mm and USB inputs and a 12-volt power outlet.

Safety technology includes six airbags, anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake-force distribution, autonomous emergency braking, daytime running lights, high-beam assist, lane departure and weaving alert, tyre pressure monitoring and stability control.

Suzuki offers a three year warranty, extendable to five years with the continuation of the included capped price servicing arrangement.

Driving impressions and performance

The small 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo engine develops peak power and torque outputs of 103kW and 230Nm respectively, with power sent to the front wheels.  Not only does the car have more power and torque than its predecessor, but there’s also a significant weight saving of 80kg.  The new Swift Sport manual only weighs 970kg and with the majority of cars getting heavier with each generation this is a welcome change.  There aren’t too many current manufacturers producing cars less than 1000kg.

There’s always urgency to the power delivery and the engine never feels lacklustre.  Turbo lag is minimal to non-existent however it would be good to get some more noise from the engine.  The torque from the engine dominates the driving experience, and it came as a pleasant surprise that from as little as 2,000rpm revs in sixth gear, the car would still pull strongly up a steep hill.  The car completes the 0-100km/h dash in approximately 7.2 seconds.  In-gear performance is impressive thanks to a combination of a relatively torquey engine, close ratio six speed manual gearbox and the overall lightness of the car.  It proves that you don’t need a hugely powerful car to get outright performance and how a car with modest power can still be fast due to it being so light.  The gearshift, steering wheel and pedal placement is spot on, with heel-toe downshifts easy to execute.

Steering feel through the electric rack is good, however the Suzuki can struggle to find grip under hard acceleration.  Tyre width is only a narrow 195mm in width and perhaps some wider rubber would help with this issue.  The car feels at its best on the entry to a corner and direction changes are completed with ease.  Torque steer is minimal to non-existent but a heavy dose of mid corner throttle can result in understeer; therefore the front could do with some more grip on the exit of corners.  The Swift Sport tends to spin up the inside wheel when attacking a corner and perhaps a mechanical differential would help to reduce this issue.  There’s also some kickback through the steering wheel under full throttle over corrugations in the road.  On a smooth surface, this isn’t a problem, but kickback did occur on a number of occasions on bumpier surfaces.  This isn’t something that I’ve encountered in other front wheel drive hot hatches like the Hyundai i30N and Ford Fiesta ST.

The Monroe shock absorbers, front and rear give a comfortable ride while the front 285mm ventilated disc brakes and rear solid discs do a great job of pulling up the light car.

Final thoughts

The Swift’s main competitors are the Volkswagen Polo GTI and Renault Clio RS.  Both of these cars have more power and torque, but are also heavier and roughly $5,000 more expensive than the Swift.

The first drive of a Suzuki Swift Sport left me with mixed feelings.  My feeling is that the car could do with some more front end grip, and that its tendency to understeer could catch out the inexperienced driver.  Kickback through the steering was also a concern at times when under hard throttle over uneven surfaces.

It’s a good looking small hatchback that achieves fuel economy figures of a combined 6.1L/100km and it achieved a five-star ANCAP safety rating.  For the money, it’s also a car that’s packed with a lot of great technology.  The Swift Sport is a light, nimble, affordable and fun car to drive with great engine performance.

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