Tuesday 23rd April 2019
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Driven: Suzuki Swift Sport. Image by Suzuki.

Driven: Suzuki Swift Sport
Now packing a turbo, the Suzuki Swift Sport is likeable… but there’s one major sticking point.

 



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Suzuki Swift Sport

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Hopes were high for this one - the Suzuki Swift Sport has always been one of the leading lights in the 'warm' hatch territory, with its sparkling chassis and rev-hungry, naturally-aspirated engine. Well, Suzuki has released the third iteration of its pocket rocket, based on the fourth-generation of Swift, and the good news is that the car is lighter, has much more torque than before and is also packed to the gunwales with equipment that's all standard fit - there are no cost options on this hatchback whatsoever, including metallic paint. However, and it's quite a big 'however', there's one significant problem with the all-new Swift Sport...

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Suzuki Swift Sport
Pricing: Swift range from £11,999; Swift Sport £17,999
Engine: 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: front-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door hatchback
CO2 emissions: 125g/km (WLTP: 135g/km): VED £160 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter
Combined economy: 50.4mpg (WLTP: 47.1mpg)
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
Power: 140hp at 5,500rpm
Torque: 230Nm at 2,500- to 3,500rpm

What's this?

The Suzuki Swift Sport, updated to version 3.0. This loveable, terrier-like warm hatchback has always been a critical favourite and it has traditionally found favour with enthusiast drivers on a budget, providing sparky performance from an atmospheric 1.6-litre engine in a lightweight body, while simultaneously having one of the great, affordable chassis to make it brilliant in the bends and greatly beloved by the automotive cognoscenti. Since it arrived on our shores in 2006, Suzuki UK has sold 11,535 Swift Sports across the first two generations, with single-year sales peaks of 1,695 in 2007 for the Mk1 and 1,471 in 2015 for the Mk2.

And the Mk3 is expected to leave showrooms at the rate of around 1,500 per year in the UK, so it's an important car for the brand as it aims, in this country, to increase awareness of the fact that Suzuki doesn't automatically mean motorbikes. So, good news, and there's plenty of it to feast upon here. There's a 70kg reduction in weight from the previous model, down from 1,045kg before to just 975kg here. And there's a wealth of safety kit and in-car comfort equipment that's offered completely as standard, in an interior jazzed up with red highlights, a sports steering wheel and some plush bucket seats (there are still too many cheap plastics in easy reach of the driver, though). Or the Sport's rather attractive styling - fake carbon fibre on the grille bar and for the rear diffuser notwithstanding - what with those gorgeous 17-inch alloys that are reminiscent of the wheels on a Skoda Octavia vRS and the striking, exclusive signature colour of the car, Champion Yellow (it's named after Suzuki's exploits in rallying, where its cars wear yellow - but don't worry, there are five other Sport colours to choose from if you don't like the brightness). Or, despite a mere 4hp uplift to 140hp overall, the massive hike in peak torque - the new Swift Sport being fully 44 per cent more muscular than before, courtesy of 230Nm from just 2,500rpm as a result of the fitment of a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol four-pot that's lifted wholesale from the Vitara S.

This last point is more of a contentious issue, as the most ardent fans of the Suzuki loved it for its normally-aspirated engine and they might not appreciate the shift to forced induction. However, it was an inevitable move as Suzuki, like every other manufacturer, strives to reduce fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions across its fleet, while still offering the same performance as before. Nevertheless, whether you like the whole turbo thing or not, the cleaner, greener Swift Sport is now swifter than ever before - it'll reel off 0-62mph in 8.1 seconds and run on to 130mph flat out.

Emphatically, then, a warm hatch, rather than a hot one? Well, yes... to a point. In a slightly confusing presentation on this car, Suzuki showed the Swift Sport sitting in the warm hatch category. And then it revealed the price for the new car. It's £17,999. Eighteen. Grand. Wow, that's strong money for a 140hp warm hatch. Too strong, we fear. When the Mk2 Swift Sport went off sale in 2017, it retailed at £15,349 and while it might've been way too optimistic of us to think the Mk3 would only be a modest price walk from there, to see it leap from £15,000 to £18,000 is extremely hard to swallow.

Here, Suzuki further muddied the waters by favourably comparing the Swift Sport's tag to the Peugeot 208 GTi (£21,820), the Renaultsport Clio (£20,295) and the Vauxhall Corsa VXR (£20,155). But as you will have no doubt noted, they're all genuine 200hp+ hot hatches. And as we've heard a rumour that the forthcoming Ford Fiesta ST will kick off at around £19,000 here, with the diff-equipping performance pack only another £800 or so, then you can start to see the huge problem facing the new Swift Sport. OK, Suzuki maintains there was no alternative for the Sport's figure, as the top-ranking regular Swift is the SZ5 at £16,500 basic, but perhaps the Sport should have been priced at the same level as the SZ5 in a wine-glass upper range structure, allowing customers to choose between luxurious, comfort-orientated or sporty, youthful flagships for the same cash. Or maybe Suzuki could have turned the wick up further on the 1.4, giving the car 160-170hp to justify the substantial outlay. But it hasn't. Eighteen grand. Crikey.

How does it drive?

Regrettably, that price tag rather colours the driving impressions. For a £16,000 car, the new Swift Sport is really quite impressive. For an £18,000 car, it feels underdone. There's no question that, taken out of context and just driven in isolation, the Suzuki is a very good little machine. It boasts high levels of refinement, wind noise around the mirrors being the main intruder into the cabin, and the ride quality is exceptionally supple for a small, short-wheelbase, light car like this; indeed, we'd go so far as to say the Sport is the best-riding fourth-gen Swift of the lot, some accolade given the 17-inch wheels at the corners and its firmer suspension set-up. Thus, on the motorway, the Suzuki feels far more grown-up and capable than ever before, surfing along with faster traffic flow on its fat wave of torque and generally not getting blustered about by crosswinds and passing vehicles.

All very noble. But the reason people bought Swift Sports in the past was for the emotional connection they gave on the right roads. Suzuki definitely provided us with the right roads to test the car - and yet we came away from the launch feeling a trifle deflated. Working through the major facets of the Sport, the steering is unusual. It's precise, consistent and accurate, but light and lacking in meaningful feedback. The six-speed gearbox is unobtrusive in operation, yet not particularly noteworthy as having a fine action, and it makes a weird grumbling sound when you're off the throttle in lower gears (third being particularly prone to this) and midway round the rev counter. The body control is just about perfect for this type of car, with lean evident but not overbearing, while the rear end of the Swift feels mobile if you trail-brake into corners or give the throttle a deliberate big lift mid-bend. And the brakes, uprated as they are, are well-modulated and - thanks to the pedal spacing and set-up - excellent for heel-and-toe.

Then we have the engine. We like this 1.4 Boosterjet in the Suzuki Vitara and we like it here. But we don't love it. It doesn't make a particularly appealing sound when being thrashed and you hit a cumbersome rev limiter soon after 6,000rpm has been breached, which isn't the worst thing in the world because peak power is all done and dusted by a modest 5,500rpm. Therefore, almost without thinking, you start to drive the Swift Sport in a smoother 'seven-tenths' manner, rather than going at it hammer and tongs. The Japanese hatch is more forgiving now, you see, meaning you can pretty much use just third for most back-road blasts, maybe occasionally venturing into fourth and possibly even down into second once or twice. Is that hugely involving to have just one cover-all ratio in a supposed enthusiasts' car? Hmm.

That the Swift Sport flatters its driver by papering over cracks regarding the correct choice of gear for any given situation with a great wad of torque is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does make us lament the passing of the zingy way the old naturally aspirated Sports went about their business. There is plenty of fun to be had at the wheel of the new turbocharged Swift Sport, no doubt about it, and it'll feel plenty quick enough if you've got it on the boil, but it's not quite at the exalted dynamic level of its forebears; it feels more like a slightly upscaled Volkswagen up! GTI, rather than a shrunken Ford Fiesta ST. And then you remember Suzuki wants EIGHTEEN THOUSAND POUNDS for it and you realise that your great expectations for the Swift Sport Mk3 have, sadly, been dashed on the rocks of financial foul play. Depreciation cannot come soon enough to rectify this issue.

Verdict

We drove the Swift Sport for most of the day and came away liking it quite a lot - and then we learned the price Suzuki UK had slapped onto it, and it took the sheen clean off the car. At £18,000, the otherwise-attractive Swift Sport is simply too much money, when taking into account both its interior finishing and also the amount of performance and driving fun it offers; £2,000 cheaper and we'd have been giving it another half-star, maybe more. Yes, you can get into one for £249 per month with zero deposit over four years (APR on that deal and final payment still to be confirmed, as residuals are not yet set) but there's a whole wealth of bona fide B-segment hot hatches that would be only a few quid more per month to finance and a lot faster/more thrilling into the bargain. It's a lovely car, the Suzuki, but sadly it's overpriced.

4 4 4 4 4 Exterior Design

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Interior Ambience

4 4 4 4 4 Passenger Space

4 4 4 4 4 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4 4 4 4 4 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Powertrain


Matt Robinson - 17 Apr 2018









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2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.

2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.2018 Suzuki Swift Sport drive. Image by Suzuki.








 

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