The Suzuki Swift Sport has gained something of a cult status. There’s a telltale nod that you get from other Swift Sport drivers no matter what generation. If you drive a Sport, you just know.
The cult-like following is largely due to the fact that it offers loads of handling prowess, a gutsy engine and Suzuki’s penchant for adding lots of ‘kit’ at a phenomenally competitive price.
This new generation Suzuki design is perhaps less of a departure from others, and this is a good thing. The proportions are slightly larger and the overall design takes on a more modern cut with. flush rear door handles and the required body kit, grille and rear end treatment to give it that striking presence. Add to it the flashy colours on offer and yes ‘Champion Yellow’ is the most striking, the Swift Sport can only be described as funky, youthful and playful. That’s as as appearances go.
Suzuki is never a brand to skimp on features, generally giving a fair bit of standard kit. The Swift Sport, as the flagship of the range is more equipped than ever before, with a balanced mix of tech and comfort features. The interior is no doubt sporty, but new to the mix is the addition of a cool 7-inch touchscreen infotainment centre with Apple CarPlay & Android Auto as well as the ancillary AUX, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The screen and Android Auto / Apple CarPlay addition is entirely new and a very welcome feature. It’s easy to use and entirely intuitive. As always the touchscreen, in particular the volume controls can be slightly finicky to get right but as a driver, you do have the added feature of a multi-function steering from which things are much easier to operate.
Seating position and ergonomics are perfect with easy reach and operation of the electric windows and mirrors, climate control functions as well as a central multi-function display that reveals some of the normal information you’d expect but also some rather cool, sport-focused info. There is a Power & Torque gauge – you get that in much more expensive sportscars too – and a Boost gauge just in case you forgot there was a turbo under the bonnet this time round.
Under the bonnet is an engine with what Suzuki calls BOOSTERJET tech. It’s what Suzuki is naming their new turbocharged engines, in this case, a 1.4-litre engine that also does work in the Suzuki Grand Vitara but is now tuned to deliver a more exciting experience. The old 1.6-litre naturally aspirated engine was a high-revving, 100kW motor. The new 1.4-litre gains 3kW in power but is a mighty 70Nm up in torque. This torque is delivered between 2,500 – 3,500rpm and without much in the way of turbo lag, it’s the sweet spot for sporty driving making the Swift Sport a fun-mobile with respectable accelerative force. 0 – 100km/h in 8 seconds and a top end of 205km/h are the numbers – but it’s how you get there that’s the best part.
While the Sport doesn’t rev as high as the previous car, the turbo delivers power very quickly in each gear leaving the driver with a lot of work to do as you slice through the gears finding more and more speed. It’s an immersive experience for those who love the clutch-gear-pedal combo. What is missing or different from the old car, is the solidity of the 6-speed shifter. The new shifter is lighter and softer, perhaps easier for the normal everyday commute but not as reassuring and involving as the old car’s gear action. During my test with the Swift Sport there were odd occasions where I accidentally snapped the car out of gear. Yes there’s a lot to be said about me in this instance but I hardly have that sort of issue in other cars.
While you may scoff at the technical lack of power in sheer number terms, the weight will change your mind. The new Swift Sport is light – very light. 970kg light. 90kg lighter than the car it replaced. This lightness has really been part of the entire execution of the Swift Sport. You can feel it from the moment you drive the car – it’s sharper, nimbler and better at dicing corners. Its ability to change direction quickly and with driver confidence is uncanny. Where those front-driven wheels do tend to understeer, it’s done with enough feedback to allow an easier transition back into control. It’s a driver’s car beautifully prepped for maximum fun. It really is a joy to drive.
At this price, there’s not much to compare it to should you want a cheap(er) thrill. There’s nothing at this price that offers this level of power-to-weight smiles. MINI, Fiat, Volkswagen all have small-ish hot hatches but they are more expensive by a mile and actually entirely different types of cars.
Given the brand’s high growth in South Africa and their inherent ability to offer such a good product at such a good price should bode well for future owners who are looking for an in to the Swift Sport cult.
Over 100kw/tonne is all the explaining we need to know that the Swift Sport is tons of fun(just less).
It’s a car that brings joy from the moment you see it to the moment you drive it. It’s a car that is respectably competent yet completely unpretentious, something that only few cars can manage. At this price, it’s pretty much peerless.