If you were to see a shop that had mistakenly under-priced one of its products would you buy it and dash out before they realised their error, or would you do the decent thing and point out the mistake to the staff? Assuming you’d pick the former option I suggest you get down to a Suzuki dealer right now before they realise what they’ve done, because at the moment the Suzuki Swift Sport seems to be wearing the wrong price tag.
This is the new Swift Sport, based on the revised model that appeared in showrooms last year. To the untrained eye it looks very familiar to its predecessor, the silhouette looking largely the same. Like the last Sport, one of my favourite hot hatches of recent times, the new model packs a huge feature list into its tiny form. Add to that a 1.6-litre 134bhp petrol engine and a new six-speed manual gearbox and you have a very attractive package. Then consider that Suzuki are asking just £13,499 for it and that’s when the penny drops – this is your chance to grab a bargain.
Hot Hatch Jr.
From the outside the Swift Sport is every inch the junior hot hatch. 17-inch alloys fill the wheel arches with chunky side skirts stretched between them. Around the back you find two exhausts, one in each corner, and a spoiler jutting out above the rear window. At the front is a large honeycomb grille flanked by fog lights with large surrounds and a pair of HID headlights.
The metallic red of this car is a fantastic colour. The flakes in the paint catch the sun brilliantly and its worth noting that this is a no-cost option. The Swift Sport is only available in metallic or pearlescent colours and they’re all included in the price.
Using the standard keyless entry you can open the door without fumbling for the key. Inside you will discover a lot of nifty features including cruise control, Bluetooth phone connection, radio with CD/MP3 player and USB connection, all controlled with wheel-mounted buttons. Add to that full climate control, seven airbags, auto headlights with washers, and electric folding mirrors and you have a supermini that shames considerably more expensive cars.
Initially my feelings about the interior were of disappointment as the cabin fails to match the sporty styling of the exterior. Black plastic dominates but it is jazzed up a bit with some silver trim around the dash and door panels and red stitching on the seats and gear-stick. However, there’s nothing wrong with the layout as all the major controls fall easily to hand with buttons that feel much better to use than their appearance suggests. Those steering mounted controls are a great feature too, with large, easy-to-find buttons. Let’s not forget that they’re included as standard and not an expensive option (other manufacturers take note).
The Swift Sport represents a lot car for the money but does it drive as well as its predecessor? I settle myself into the softly padded driver’s seat, adjust the wheel to a comfortable position and then press the ‘Start’ button on the dashboard. The 1.6-litre petrol engine whirrs into life and settles into a quiet idle. So far it doesn’t seem very special.
Slot the gear lever into first and pull away. It still doesn’t feel particularly lively, a little bit gutless at low revs thanks to peak torque of 118lb/ft lurking all the way up at 4,400rpm. Compared to a turbo-assisted engine the Swift Sport initially feels a bit flat.
Very Fit Horses
What this engine needs is a bit of space to stretch its cylinders and that’s when it all starts to make sense. Give it some throttle and the engine spins incredibly freely and remains smooth all the way to the red line. The new six-speed manual gearbox (the last model had a 5-speed box) has one of the sweetest shifts I’ve tried lately and its ratios are closely stacked to keep the engine on song. Now the Swift Sport really comes to life.
The lack of torque means you have to go looking for the power. You’ll find it hiding away in the top half of the rev band with peak power at a heady 6,900rpm, but fortunately the free-revving nature of the engine makes it easy to get there. Shifting through the six ratios makes it easy to extract the most from the engine and the payoff is plenty of pace and a cheeky exhaust note. The lack of a turbo also means that throttle response is sharp with no concerns about lag.
The on-paper statistics say that the engine only has 134bhp. That is a small output by today’s standards but I soon realised that each one of those horses must be incredibly fit. It’s one of those engines that feels much more powerful than the figures suggest. The 0-60mph time is 8.7 seconds and I have no doubt the Swift Sport could achieve that.
Light And Nimble
It’s no use having a cracking engine and gearbox if the chassis isn’t up to the job. Fortunately this one is easily up to the task of controlling the Swift’s relatively modest 1,045kg kerb weight. As a result the Swift feels light and nimble and when turned into a bend it throws itself in with incredible enthusiasm.
The lack of torque means scrabbling tyres and messy wheel-spin are not much of an issue. It’s easy to get back onto the power early in the corner to make sure that the engine is heading back into the power band as you hit the apex. It also means the ESP system rarely intervenes and, where other systems simply slam the door shut on the power if a slide or wheel-spin is detected, you can make smooth and rapid progress.
The Sport is a lively little thing and you get a good sense of what’s happening at each corner. If you really take it by the scruff of the neck you can even feel the rear end gently moving around, particularly under hard braking. It’s not that it feels nervous or unstable, you just get a better sensation for what’s happening under the rubber than you would in heavier cars. As for the brakes, they are strong enough and easily capable of bringing the little Swift to a halt.
Yes, there are some issues. The first problem I had was that the Bluetooth connection didn’t want to talk to my HTC, but I didn’t have the instructions to hand so it may have been caused by user error.
The steering is a touch too light for my liking and the engine is still very busy at motorway speeds even with the extra ratio on the gearbox. At 70mph the engine is spinning away at close to 3,000rpm and, while the sound-proofing is improved, it can’t completely hide the engine and tyre noise.
It seems unfair to criticise the Swift for having a small boot seeing as it is based on a supermini but, well, it does have a small boot. Enough for a few bags of shopping but not for a huge pile of luggage.
One final tiny point. The rear parcel shelf, which is very small, is easy to leave in the upright position when you close the boot as it doesn’t drop back down itself. Not a big problem but it does block the rear view mirror.
Is It As Cheap To Run As It Is To Buy?
The Suzuki Swift Sport may be a bargain in the showroom but what about running costs? The fuel economy is officially rated at 44.1mpg combined with CO2 emissions of 147g/km, placing the Sport in band F. So fuel and tax won’t be a big issue and insurance should be modest as the Sport sits in group 23 (out of 50).
The Final Reckoning
My time with the Suzuki Swift Sport was limited to just a day so it is difficult to make a complete judgment on its abilities. However, in those few short hours it made a big impression.
The Swift Sport is still an astonishingly good little car. It may have lost a little of the raw character that made the last model such a bundle of joy but it keeps the essential ingredients and adds a layer of refinement that the old car lacked. Does that make it better? In many ways yes, it would be an easier car to live with on a daily basis, but I think the old model just about pips it for outright driving fun.
The Swift Sport is faster than you might expect, handles more sweetly than most ‘proper’ hot hatches, and the engine and gearbox urge you to make the most of its capabilities at every opportunity. The Swift Sport is an infectious little thing and I love that in a car.
It also happens to be rather well priced. I think Suzuki may have made a mistake on the brochures and it should be a couple of grand more. Personally I’d get yourself down to Suzuki sharpish before they realise and mark it up a bit. At this price it’s an absolute bargain.
There are very few cars on sale at the moment that I would consider buying new. The Suzuki Swift Sport is one such car and that, coming from someone whose wallet rarely sees the light of day, is high praise indeed.
Suzuki Swift Sport Specifications
|Engine:||1,586cc 4-cyl NA|
|Kerb Weight:||1,045 kg|
|Top Speed:||121 mph|
|CO2 Emissions:||147 g/km (Band F)|
|Official MPG:||44.7 mpg|
|Price (as tested):||£13,499*|
Suzuki Swift Sport Scores
|PERFORMANCE||Lively engine needs working but it punches above its weight||9|
|HANDLING||Light, nimble, communicative, fun||9|
|AFFORDABILITY||Incredible value for money, low running costs too||10|
|DESIRABILITY||Might lack appeal of premium brands but I’d buy one||7|
|DRIVING SPIRIT||Infectious character will tempt you into taking the long way home||10|
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*Prices taken from Suzuki website, May 2012