We’d heard good things about Suzuki’s Swift Sport long before we had the opportunity to get behind the wheel. A good part of its sound reputation is due to its motorsport heritage, having being built using knowledge gleaned from Suzuki’s Junior World Rally Championship (JWRC) team – which in 2009 occupied the second and third places in the series, having scored three outright wins and six podium positions.
Setting itself apart from the rest of the Swift range, the Sport is available exclusively in a three-door body style. Viewed from the front, the front bumper is bolder, features large air intakes that are flanked by fog lamps. Lower side skirts and flared wheel arches visually link the 17-inch alloy wheels. The rear bumper features a meshed rear apron, while prominent twin tailpipes provide further visual confirmation that this is no ordinary Swift. A roof spoiler also adds to the car’s sporty appearance. Our press car was painted an energetic electric blue, which Suzuki call ‘Kashmir Blue’ and it drew a few curious looks around town, especially when we stepped on the gas.
Inside, sculpted sport seats are upholstered in a combination of red and black fabric, well bolstered, they hug your body and ensure you stay put when driving at pace. A leather trimmed, chunky, three-spoke steering wheel is the link to experiencing the Swift Sport’s handling talents. Stainless steel pedals with rubber inserts continue the performance theme, as do red accents on the door panel armrests, as well as red stitching on the seats and the steering wheel. Despite the hard plastics, combined with sporty suspension, the interior is well screwed together and free of any rattles or vibrations as a result. Echoing the boxy design of the exterior, the dashboard might seem a little dull, but it’s user-friendly and intelligible. Two cup holders and a storage tray with rubber mat proved convenient for personal items.
The driving position is comfortable, although we’d have liked the height adjustable driver’s seat to go slightly lower and in a sports oriented car we’d expect the steering wheel to be reach adjustable too. Behind the front seats there’s enough space for two adults, just. Rear passengers will have to squeeze past the front seats, and once inside they’ll find enough head and shoulder room, but little in the way of legroom. The Swift Sport has a cargo capacity of 201-litres, expandable to 424-litres with the rear seats folded flat.
Some of the standard equipment we liked on the Swift Sport included height adjustment for the front headlights, satellite controls on the steering wheels for the 6-speaker radio/CD/MP3-player; heated and electrically adjustable side mirrors; automatic climate control; as well as the digital display on top of the dashboard showing outside temperature, a clock and average fuel consumption.
Speaking of fuel, the Sport requires 7.0 l/100km of unleaded petrol on average, but when pushed hard don’t be surprised to see 10 l/100km on the digital display. Fuel consumption is rather inconsequential in a baby hot hatch, however, as the real story is its performance. A 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated petrol engine lies under the bonnet. Featuring variable valve timing (VVT), high-lift camshafts, forged pistons, strengthened valve springs and a 11.1:1 compression ratio, the Swift is endowed with 92 kW at 6 800 r/min and 148 Nm of torque at 4 800 r/min. Being a small car, these modest figures translate to respectable performance, with a 0 – 100 km/h benchmark sprint time of 8.9 seconds and a top speed of 200 km/h.
The engine isn’t the whole story though, as Suzuki engineers made a number of changes under the Sport’s skin to make sure it has the chassis to exploit the eagre engine. Spring rates and damper settings have been modified to provide greater stiffness and control, while special Monroe gas-filled shock absorbers are specific to the Sport. The electric power steering system has reportedly been recalibrated to provide improved feel and feedback, however, despite offering crisp handling and turn in, there’s not much in the way of feel. The engine is linked to the front wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission, with a short throw between gears and a well weighted clutch.
To get the best out of the Swift Sport you need the tachometer to be pointing above 4 000 r/min. Not to say the Sport is dull below this figure, as the Swift is still nippy at slower speeds, but as with many small capacity engines they perform best when wound up. Thankfully the 1.6-litre engine likes to be revved, to just over 7 000 r/min in fact, and emits a rorty engine note to let you know its giving you all its got while doing so. Shifting with the manual gearbox is a pleasure and the well spaced pedals make heal-toe antics a breeze.
The Swift Sport is great fun to drive, but particularly around corners. The stiff suspension limits body roll and the damping is very good, soaking up bumps without being tossed off line and always giving a sense of control. This means you can drive the Swift quickly over bumpy road conditions where similar short-wheelbase competitors might become jittery. The Sport carries plenty of corner speed and has little tendency towards understeer – pleasantly surprising, as it’s something front-wheel drive cars are prone to. If you do run in to a corner too hot, simply lifting off the throttle will have the Swift’s front wheels biting even harder into the turn to bring the car back on line. Don’t abuse this margin of safety though, as the Swift’s tail-end will break free almost as willingly as the front-end will tuck-in.
Apart from the inherent mechanical grip, the 195/450 R17 profile tyres perform well in both dry and wet weather. Thankfully the traction control system lets you have a few thrills before reigning in any over enthusiastic driving via the ABS, EBD and EBA safety gizmo’s. The vented front and solid rear brake discs stop the Swift Sport well and, even after being worked hard, remain fade free.
As a direct competitor, the Renault Twingo RS we tested last year has a slight performance advantage and offers a more visceral driving experience. However, the Swift Sport is the better all-rounder, thanks to superior cargo space, styling that is likely to appeal to a wider audience and a more forgiving chassis that’s no less fun to drive. The Suzuki Swift Sport is a wonderfully competent baby hot-hatch and certainly lives up to the hype.
What we like…
- Well balanced chassis and great handling that’s unphased by bumps.
- Snug sports seats, drilled aluminium pedals and chunky three spoke steering wheel.
- A lot really.
What we would like…
- Cruise control.
- Reach adjustable steering wheel.
- Leather covered gear knob to match steering wheel and transmission boot cover.
|Base Price||R199 900|
|Warranty||3 year / 100 000 km|
|Service Plan||4 year / 60 000 km|
|Engine Capacity||1 586 cm³|
|No. Of Cylinders||4-cylinders, In-line|
|Power||92 kW @ 6 800 r/min|
|Torque||148 N.m @ 4 800 r/min|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Acceleration||0-100 km/h in 8.9 seconds (claimed)|
|Top Speed||200 km/h (claimed)|
|Fuel Consumption||7 l/100km (claimed combined)|