First Drive: Suzuki Swift Sport

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Lighter and more powerful, the new Swift Sport aims to upset the apple cart, discovers Jonathan Musk…

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SECTOR Supermini PRICE €21,400 FUEL 5.6 l/100km CO2 125g/km (NEDC) 135g/km (WLTP)

Suzuki is a company on the move. Both smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the humble Swift gave Suzuki’s car range the boost it needed and today fleet numbers are up and continue to climb. The new Swift Sport builds on 23,000 European sales of its predecessor, but is both lower and 50mm longer than the standard car. Its engineers aimed for “ultimate driving excitement” and only the best ideas made it off the table.

The 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol turbo engine is the same as that used in larger Suzukis such as the SX4 S-Cross and pumps out a modest 140hp but with an impressive max-torque of 230Nm – 44% more compared to its predecessor – and available from a low 2,500rpm.

Attached to a short-throw six-speed manual and an uprated clutch to cope with the torque increase, the Swift Sport has all the ingredients to deliver a warm hatch demeanour.

Additional welding and use of ultra-high tensile steel have been used to strengthen the standard Swift’s ‘Heartect’ platform to make the chassis stronger and the body a full 40% lighter than the previous generation Sport, contributing to a feather-light total weight of 975kg – 70kg lighter than before.

All these enhancements combine to deliver 14% better fuel consumption and 15% improved emissions, yet greater performance over the outgoing model; an appealing option for those with more flexible choice lists, or the ability to take a cash allowance.

Jumping into the car for the first time, it’s immediately noticeable how light the doors are, but the rest of the car appears to remain untouched aside from obligatory ‘sporty’ red accents and cossetting bucket-type seats. This means that practicality remains unchanged, including a 25% larger, 256-litre boot than the previous Swift Sport.

Suzuki has built something special. Out on the road, it’s an engaging drive that entices, complements and then inspires confidence. At pace, this is as good as it gets without risking your licence. It’s not fast enough to worry anything big and German, but it’s exactly the right blend of performance meets usable enjoyment. The chassis is so sorted that flying over weather-beaten mountain roads is coped with little more than a wobble. Quick but weighted steering provides driver feedback at any speed. Turbo-lag is conspicuous by its absence and yet settling down for a motorway jaunt is relaxing. This really is a do-it-all and do-it-well car.

Nitpicking: the gearbox could be smoother and have an even shorter throw to enhance the experience and the exhaust note could be more aggressive, although likely at the expense of around-town manners. This is a truly impressive little car that belies its cost and humble origins; hats off to Suzuki.

The only thing standing in Suzuki’s way is quality competition from the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo and Up GTI, but the Swift Sport is good enough to give each a headache. And, while the Up GTI undercuts the Swift Sport on paper, it lacks the same practicality and standard equipment.

What We Think:

The Swift Sport offers old-school charm and fun in a thoroughly modern, efficient and capable package, but its price may put some off.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.