How surprised were we when it was revealed that the new Suzuki Swift would eschew that tangy 1.6-litre normally aspirated motor for a leaner boost-driven powerplant? When you look at the evolving landscape of junior pocket rockets – Fiesta ST, VW UP GTI, MINI Cooper, Opel Corsa GSI, Renault Clio R.S. – the answer is, not very! Could Suzuki pull this off without maturing the package beyond the purity of driving thrills? Cue our longterm test with the new 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport BOOSTERJET.
Confession time, over here we’re big fans of the Suzuki Swift range and the Sport version is the cherry on top. Known to constantly over deliver from its threadbare ammo, it’s still the model that represents the Suzuki brand in its most glowing aura, mostly because of its European-based assembly versus Suzuki’s cheaper India-sourced models.
Comparisons with its predecessor are naturally rife so before I digress further let me jump into the chewy numbers delivered by this 1.4-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder. It’s mostly good news all round; power is up by 3kW to 103kW, torque up by an enormous 70Nm to 230Nm. This translates to 0-100kph in 8.0 seconds (0.7 faster than before) and a top speed of 205kph – the first Swift Sport to exceed 200kph. Fuel consumption of 6.1l/100km (claimed by Suzuki) is supposedly identical to the old larger engine but in reality we found the new BOOSTERJET engine the thirstier of the two with a more truthful consumption of 8.2l/100km. It’s quite easy to discriminate on these skeletal numbers but remember the new Swift Sport’s power to weight ratio of 100kW/tonne hypothetically puts it in the same league as a Volkswagen Polo GTI. Still we’d suggest you don’t attempt to put this math to the test at the next traffic lights.
The BOOSTERJET engine doesn’t sizzle with character. It won’t burble on the overrun, in fact the soundtrack is no more sonorous than when it is in a Suzuki Vitara. Yet the surge of torque allows the driver to crest the wave of momentum a lot sooner for some pretty swift (*sorry) performance with less effort, lazily tapping through the shortened linkage of the six-speed manual before the needle troubles the redline at 5,500rpm, versus the old model’s 7,000rpm limiter.
Hoof it moronically on a corner exit and the front tyres just start to slide a fraction wide at the very end but I would have expected those extra 70Nm to have corrupted the Swift’s road manners to a greater extent – you can sleep easily in the knowledge that they haven’t messed them up one bit. Suzuki has further increased the size and thickness of the front ventilated disks, improving overall stopping ability by 10%. The anti roll bars and new trailing arm geometry don’t firm the ride unpleasantly.
This is a nicer car to drive and live with every day than the outgoing Swift Sport. The rewards are different but generously frequent. And while the Sport doesn’t offer any driving modes, I also like to believe it doesn’t require any. That’s how well the overall harmony of the package is judged.
This is the first time that Suzuki South Africa has asked over R300,000 for the Swift Sport and to bring value back into the equation Suzuki has updated the touchscreen (with CarPlay and Android Auto) and modernised the dials and info. We still think it exemplifies Suzuki’s engineering prowess with upmarket tones, red stitching and solid feedback from buttons and dials. Standard fitment is a fairly low resolution rear-facing camera, LED lights and keyless entry which annoying excludes the boot. Sure, some of the switchgear and touchscreen ergonomics is a few paces off the more expensive Polo GTI but it exudes fun while keeping the unwanted kilograms away.
In South Africa the Swift Sport gets to enjoy more of the segment to itself than in other parts of the world. VW SA doesn’t offer the UP GTI and Ford can’t bring in the new Fiesta ST due to fuel quality concerns. With those two eliminated from thought, the Swift’s 5-door practicality, nippy performance on roads that typically look as if they were bombed by mortars the night before and fair-to-good feature list make the 2019 Swift Sport a compelling choice. With great expectation on its shoulders the tribal followers of the previous generation Swift Sport will find that the model’s biggest change in the short three-generation history is a change for the better. Andrew Leopold
- 1.4 4cyl turbocharged
- 0-100kph in 8.0 secs, 205kph
- 6.1l/100km, 141g/km