For as long as I remember, Suzuki has offered the Swift model within the company’s vast range. If memory serves me right, the models from 20 or so years ago came in a more potent, finer handling package, known at the ‘Swift GTi’…
This model was a firm favourite among enthusiasts and rally drivers alike, partly due to its handling but mainly due to the engine. It was a 1300cc 16v DOHC unit producing 100bhp as standard and was so good that it found its way into many ‘class two’ rally cars.
The old generation model can still be seen on rally stages across Ireland and further afield, alongside prepared versions of the outgoing Swift Sport model, which is testament to the sublime chassis and engine combination. In fact, Suzuki has built some pretty special versions for rallying themselves.
These purpose-built factory cars were very successful in the World Rally Championship. They claimed a couple of championship victories along the way and that’s where the ‘Swift Sport’ was proven. However, I must remove my anorak to chat about the car in question!
The New Suzuki Swift Sport
Welcome to the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport, a car which has been highly anticipated by the media and one which will be in showrooms from the start of June. But before it arrives in the showrooms, we got a chance to put it through its paces at the UK press launch, held a few miles outside Dublin.
The launch which was based from Druids Glen Resort with a driving route that highlighted Suzuki UK’s confidence in this all-new model. The route was vast – it was an hour in length and absorbed one of Ireland’s iconic rally stages, Sally Gap.
If the test route through the Wicklow Mountains wasn’t enough to prove how Swift the Sport is, our final destination certainly was. We headed to Mondello Park Racing Circuit where we got a chance to push the Swift to its limits.
The Suzuki Swift Sport has been an enthusiast’s favourite for several years. This is partially due to its affordability and reliability but is mostly due to the high-revving nature of the engine and sublime chassis. I’m pleased to say this all-new model carries over some of what made the old car such a huge success.
Combined with good looks and an athletic driving experience, this latest super-mini from Japan has become a little more rounded at the edges. It has a more ‘squashed down’ front-end and a bum-lift around the rear whilst featuring a subtle rear spoiler and model specific bumpers.
Adding to the sporting feel is the traditional dual exhaust system, fake-carbon lower trim, privacy glass and 17-inch alloy wheels. A ‘Champion Yellow’ paint option, which is exclusive to the Sport, allows it to stand out from the crowd. This is a colour that stems from the rally cars of old and is one of six colour options.
Coming in five-door only, the Suzuki Swift Sport is an attractive looking car, featuring LED headlights and LED daytime running lights with high-beam assist and guidance home function as well as LED combination rear lights and keyless entry.
Having one of the smaller boots in this segment, the Swift will struggle with a very young family but, for a small family with teenagers, I imagine it should tick all the boxes as it is 25% larger than the previous model.
Inside the Swift Sport is functional and hard wearing. There is a severe lack of anything soft-touch but it’s reasonably well-screwed together. It has a cheaper feeling than some of its rivals but this is reflected in its pricing and, in all honesty, it’s not a bad place to spend time.
Offering more room inside than ever before and with a lower seating position, the cabin feels relatively spacious. There is excellent support from the embossed sports seats and a comfortable driving position is easily achieved.
Featuring a leather steering wheel and gear-knob, the cabin is mostly black with red detail and stitching throughout which adds to that sporting feel. Automatic air conditioning and full electric windows add convenience and comfort for passengers.
Room in the rear isn’t appalling, but with four six-foot adults on-board, things will be cramped on a journey. For the younger travellers, ISOFIX anchoring points will keep them safe. Speaking of safety, an LCD display within the dials allows an eye to be kept on oil temperature, turbo boost, fuel consumption, average speed and G-Forces.
As standard, a 7-inch screen provides the hub of the Swift’s infotainment. It features AM/FM/DAB radio, sat-nav, reverse camera, Bluetooth with streaming and ‘smartphone linkage display audio’ with MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
Engine wise, Suzuki have ditched the high-revving 1.6L naturally aspirated petrol unit in favour of its latest Boosterjet, as seen in the Vitara S. This 1.4 litre turbocharged petrol unit is now equipped with more usable power and while it may go against the grain of many enthusiasts’ needs, it works for me.
I adore forced induction and the effortless delivery of power it commands. Having never been a fan of having to drive at 11-tenths to enjoy a car, I much prefer being at nine-tenths in a wee turbocharged car, carrying the same swiftness – just like this Suzuki Swift.
Producing just 138bhp, the Swift Sport provides a very usable 170lb/ft of torque, an increase of 44% over the previous engine in this model. And at the end of the day, it is torque, rather than bhp, that helps you cover ground effortlessly fast.
From standstill, 62mph can be achieved in 8.1 seconds with a top speed of 130mph and fuel consumption on our ‘spirited’ day in the Wicklow Mountains was around 40mpg. On a commute when driving a little more sensibly, the claimed 50mpg is an achievable figure.
Mated only to a 6-speed manual gearbox, the feel of the ‘box could be a little more precise but it gets the job done with ratios well-suited to the little turbocharged engine. It’s a combination that works great as a package that weighs in at just 975kg.
Featuring larger brakes than all other Swifts, the Sport’s chassis and suspension comes into its own on-road as it absorbs every rut and bump with ease. It is comfortable but still incredibly dialled-in and precise, which is a balance that isn’t easily achieved. This highlights Suzuki’s vast development outside of the usual race circuits.
Speaking of race circuits, when on-track, the Sport suffers from a little roll, as you would expect from a car that is so perfectly balanced on the road. For me, it is the on-road agility that speaks volumes as the majority of owners will never see a track day in their beloved Suzuki.
That said, I can’t help but think that the Swift would make a fantastic vehicle for the class one roadgoing category in the Northern Ireland Hillclimb Championship. Its low down grunt and capabilities would be perfect for the closed road events.
Adaptive cruise control, dual sensor brake support and lane departure warning help keep things safe and despite many reporting the Swift Sport is overpriced, I can’t help but feel this is unfair. All makes and models are overpriced in today’s market, which is a direct result of the Brexit announcement. Many new cars are around £5k more expensive than they were a couple of years ago.
The closest like-for-like rival to the Swift Sport would easily cost upwards of £21k which makes the Suzuki good value at £17,999 – especially with the manufacturer suggesting favourable monthly payments of £249 with no deposit, the same cost as the outgoing model.
I’ll be honest, if I was going to be spending upwards of £21k on a ‘warm super-mini’, I’d save for an extra few months and buy a more practical Hyundai i30N ‘hot hatch’ for not a huge amount more in the grand scheme of things.
Suzuki offer a three-year, 60,000 mile warranty with one-year AA roadside assistance and a 12-year anti-perforation warranty with annual servicing advised.
Overall, the Swift Sport has its flaws, all of which are reflected within its more affordable pricing. Some, however, add charm and despite not boasting big numbers, the Swift Sport really is a true gem on our meandering and undulating roads!
Words and Photos: Graham Baalham-Curry
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