• Value for money, ride and handling, dynamics, manual gearbox, grip level, steering
  • CVT transmission, no LCD screen

OUR RATING
8 / 10



Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track

The Suzuki Swift Sport may not instantly appeal as the sort of car you’d buy to regularly take to a racetrack, but we’ve come to appreciate the little hot-hatch as more than just a sporty runabout.

Over the past few months we’ve driven the Suzuki Sport Sport around Victoria’s Broadford Raceway twice and even hammered it around Brisbane’s Mount Cotton hill climb. Although its 100kW/160Nm 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine doesn’t exactly sound like a recipe for pocket-rocket success, it compliments an excellent package that is ideal for newcomers looking to do the occasional track session.

Starting from $23,990, the Suzuki Swift Sport manual is the sort of car you’d buy if you needed a city runabout with street-cred and performance DNA. There is no legitimate reason to write off the Swift Sport as a worthy regular track car either. With a kerb weight of just 1090kg, the Sport is perhaps the most sensible way to participate in a local track session or motorkhana.

Suzuki Australia actively promotes its Swift Sport as a car that is much more than just an enhanced version of the standard Swift. It has released TV commercials that have landed their share of complaints and continues to run popular competitions giving its facebook fans the opportunity to drive the Sport on track.

Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track

Last week CarAdvice attended the latest Suzuki Swift Sport hot lap day at Broadford where we got to compete head to head with the likes of NRL star Billy Slater, numerous world champion sports personalities and members of the public who’d won the chance to come for the drive.

When it comes to racing the Suzuki Swift Sport, Broadford Raceway is a well-suited track. Designed primarily as a motorcycle track, its tight corners and limited emphasis on outright speed makes it a thrilling circuit to race the Suzuki Swift Sport around.

The six-speed manual gearbox is simple to use and the pedal positions work well if you’re into heal-toe (using your right foot’s toes to brake while the heal taps the accelerator pedal to increase revs for a smoother downshift). One thing we absolutely love about the Swift Sport is its steering feel and overall handling capabilities.

While the normal Swift provides better than average steering, the Swift Sport’s is Volkswagen Polo GTI-like in its directness. One of the hardest lessons to learn when driving on track is to produce consistently smooth and clean motions, be it in regards to steering, braking or acceleration. For that you need a steering system that is responsive, direct and one that provides good feedback. For the Sport, Suzuki engineers have made front suspension changes that have resulted in a better yaw response for faster and more direct steering.

Around both Broadford and Mount Cotton hill climb, we were consistently surprised by the directness of the Sport’s steering. There’s no fighting the wheel to enter or exit corners; it’s simply a case of understanding the racing line, pointing the car in the direction of travel and letting the suspension and chassis do the rest. If you’re worried about body-roll, you must be thinking about a different car because it’s virtually non-existent in the Swift Sport. It is, however, far more comfortable than the previous Sport.

Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track

We say the Swift Sport is an ideal beginners car to the world of track sessions because it provides an excellent balance between running costs, power-to-weight and handling characteristics. Of course a Volkswagen Polo GTI would also make an ideal candidate for a relatively low-cost regular track car that doubles as a city runabout, but given the simplicity of the Swift’s engineering principles, it may prove a more affordable option in the long run.

Perhaps the biggest cost of repeated track days will be replacing the very grippy but expensive Bridgestone Potenza RE050As (or Continental ContiSportContacts depending on your luck) that wrap around the Sport’s 17-inch alloys with flow-formed rims.

During our time around Broadford we did notice the brakes starting to fade after six or seven full-paced timed laps. Something that’s to be expected of almost any car without performance brakes. If you intend on doing regular track days we would recommend a basic upgrade to enhance the brake pads and rotors from DBA.

If you’re thinking the Swift Sport doesn’t have the power to thrill you on track, you’re missing the point. As we’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on our own personal cars to go faster at track days, the simple lesson we’ve learnt over the years is that improving driving skills is the first and foremost action required for better lap times. The Sport’s front-wheel-drive nature is an advantage for beginners as it requires a deep understanding of braking and acceleration points to attain the best lap times – something an all-wheel drive sports car like the Subaru WRX would be more lenient on.

Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track

The ESP system can be left on when on track as it tends to simply provide corrections to get the Sport going in the intended direction and not necessarily kill too much power in the process. It also acts as a silent teacher to remind you of when you’re doing something wrong. A perfect lap around most racetracks is unlikely to see the Sport’s tolerant ESP kick in at all.

On another note, we were a little disappointed by our five laps behind the wheel of a Swift Sport CVT. Although few are likely to buy a Swift Sport CVT for track purposes, the need for a practical everyday city car that can double as a track car without a third pedal is more than valid.

Around Broadford the seven-speed (artificial preset ratios) CVT transmission was best left in drive mode as the steering-wheel mounted paddle-shifters seem to have no real control over the predefined gears. For example, coming into turn one at Broadford, one would ideally carry enough speed to stay in third in a manual Swift Sport. In the seven-speed CVT, third is also a good option but trying to command the CVT to maintain gears is far more difficult. The CVT transmission tends to have a mind of its own and changes gears at varying revs and not always on cue. As a city car it’s more than good enough but it’s by no means made for the track.

This is where the Volkswagen Polo GTI’s seven-speed dual-clutch transmission makes perfect sense. Given the price difference between a Swift Sport CVT and a Polo GTI 7-speed DSG is only $1800, the choice becomes a little harder. On one hand you have a basic naturally aspirated 1.6-litre engine pulling 1090kg, while on the other you have a more powerful 132kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo that is roughly 100kg heavier.

Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track

The German is faster in a straight line but there is something pure and simple about the Japanese approach. A traditionalist would simply pick a Swift Sport manual and be done with it (and pocket a cool $3800) but if you’re seriously considering tracking your everyday hot-hatch but don’t want to be changing gears in traffic, then the Polo GTI may pose a good option. It’s unfortunate that the now-sour partnership between Volkswagen and Suzuki never led to a Swift Sport DSG.

Overall it’s hard to fault the Suzuki Swift Sport manual as both a daily driver and an occasional track car. Its simple design and excellent ride and handling make it an ideal performance car for any enthusiast.


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SUZUKI SWIFT BREAKDOWN

Suzuki Swift Sport Review: On Track
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  • Dfd

    Cool car the swift

  • trololololol

    Please add another 30kw or a small turbo suzuki!!! Then we can stop calling it a “warm hatch” and start calling it a true hot hatch!

    • horsie

      agreed. still have the Sport but also have a GTi available with a small turbo or  2 litre from the SX4 .

      • Robjh1

        Suzuki are not allowed to use the GTi badge .. VW won’t allow it.

  • Thekiwihoff

    The swift has always been the icon of the poor mans race car. I owned a 1994 swift and it was a rocket. I may even consider buying the new sport because it has the bang for buck factor.

  • Robj

    Who would by a cvt in a car like this?? Manual only please..great little car btw.

  • gt86.com.au

    needs a little turbo, then it would be a good value proposition. this way its all show and bugger all go..

  • Roadtard

    Still looks like a girls car.

    • Robjh1

      I think your name pretty much sums you up mate .. good luck with your EA Falcon.

  • OSU811

    Good package for the $$$, if you started adding turbos etc then the RRP price would surely go up!. I think it is a great little car (in a manual) that is unique in being a Genuinely sporty car for well under $30k!! not everyone can afford $30k plus for a new sporty car!

  • OSU811

    p.s. looks good in Yellow or pearl white only imo.

    • Gus

      black with enkei rpf1 rims?

  • D3n0tz

    I think its a fault in the “paddle shifter” design, because my Accord Euro (when the gear set to “M”) can hold on any gear until it hits redline (or until I press the paddle shift to change gear) without the car change it automatically. But if I set the gear to “D” then I still can downshift using the paddle shift, but the gear will change automatically.

  • ryan bane

    well i own a Swift Sport CVT (had for 5 weeks and 1500km).  I agonised a bit over the decision whether to buy the manual or auto, but in the end, overall ease of use (I do a lot of crawling in traffic) won out (ive never bought an auto before, however i drive plenty of them for work)

    Im interesting in the gap in $ in Oz between this and the Polo GTi – in NZ the Polo GTi is an extra NZ$10000 over the sport, however the even bigger issue (understand it is the same in Oz) is the “unknown ” delivery time of 12 months+…

    No doubt, if this was my second car and I was going to regular track days, I would have bought the manual version, sadly, neither of those things are true for me – but im not unhappy with my choice.

    i’ve found the CVT in manual mode to be pretty good.  The changes up and down via paddles are very quick, and the car will hold your gear of choice right up to the redline (but will not allow you to hit the limiter without changing up)

    The one track day i have done (to break it in a bit), i didnt feel i had the issue outlined in this article as such, but there were a couple of limitations.  If the electronics believe you will over rev the car it wont allow you to change down, and if you try to hold a gear into a corner near the redline, it is likely to change up (however this is not disimilar to the last golf DSG i drove on a track, which did the same thing).

    However the real world benefits of the CVT are worth having.  I often find myself loping along at 100-110kph, and only doing 1900-2000rpm – yet the car still feels responsive to the throttle.  Sometimes at 60kph it doing less than 1500rpm. Economy is outstanding.

    Because of its programming to drop to low revs, in auto mode it feels much more like a regular auto than anyother CVT ive tried.  So, overall, so far, so good.  No, it isnt as pure as the manual, but imo, it certainly doesnt suck the fun out of the car.

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      Thanks for your detailed comment, Ryan. I am sure your assessment is accurate as you own the car and have hence spent more time with it. The DSG in the Polo GTI though, will not change gears even if it hits the rev limiter, which is preferred on track (not that you should ever hit the rev limiter anyway, as you’re losing speed and power if you do). I think the CVT is good, just not for Track.  

  • Wombat

    Would be interesting to put a Kia Rio SLS through a similar test program ( with premium fuel in the tank)  and see how it compares. 

    • http://www.caradvice.com.au/ Alborz Fallah

      Although the Rio has 100kW of power, the gear ratios have been tuned for efficiency so it’s rather slow for this type of thing. Wait till the Kia Rio Turbo comes out next year, then the Swift Sport will have some serious challenge

  • Robin_Graves


     Of course a Volkswagen Polo GTI would also make an ideal candidate for a relatively low-cost regular track car that doubles as a city runabout, but given the simplicity of the Swift’s engineering principles, it may prove a more affordable option in the long run. ”

    In other words buy the Swift as the VeeDud will be broken every second weekend.

    • Legnab

      Bobin we have GTI and a swift sport , both reliable ,and fun to drive , unlike faux korean so called ” drivers cars ” , have one of these any day over the veloshy .

  • Golfschwein

    Hey, this selective quoting caper looks fun. Let me try: ”
    but if you’re seriously considering tracking your everyday hot-hatch but don’t want to be changing gears in traffic, then the Polo GTI may pose a good option. It’s unfortunate that the now-sour partnership between Volkswagen and Suzuki never led to a Swift Sport DSG.”

    • Cubic25

      I see what you did there. :-)

  • Corey

    After buying one virtually brand new, I can now say after a year and nearly 50,000 trouble free km behind the tiller, (including one run in the unlimited speed zones of NT) the Swift Sport still puts a stupid grin on my face every day and turns the boring daily work commute from mundane into maniacal every time you settle into the 8 second hustle to 100. Good luck finding a DBA or Brembo upgrade for them – neither company provides one. I too have found the brakes left wanting on track days. However an upgrade to aftermarket 18x225x35 rims will keep you smiling more in the corners and also in the tyre shop – cheaper and more grippy tyre for the same price as the horrendously expensive and usually unavailable Potenzas 195′s (eye watering $216/tyre direct from Bridgestone and they never seem to have any in Australia due to their unusual size, leaving you with no choice other than the softer compound Conti’s).

Suzuki Swift Specs

SPORT : 1.6L MULTI POINT F/INJ - 6 SP MANUAL - UNLEADED PETROL - 5D HATCHBACK
Car Details
Make
SUZUKI
Model
SWIFT
Variant
SPORT
Series
FZ
Year
2012
Body Type
5D HATCHBACK
Seats
5
Engine Specifications
Engine Type
MULTI POINT F/INJ
Engine Size
1.6L
Cylinders
INLINE 4
Max. Torque
160Nm @  4400rpm
Max. Power
100kW @  6900rpm
Pwr:Wgt Ratio
91.7W/kg
Bore & Stroke
78x83mm
Compression Ratio
11
Valve Gear
VARIABLE DOUBLE OVERHEAD CAM
Drivetrain Specifications
Transmission
6 SP MANUAL
Drive Type
FRONT WHEEL DRIVE
Final Drive Ratio
3.944
Fuel Specifications
Fuel Type
UNLEADED PETROL
Fuel Tank Capacity
42
Fuel Consumption (Combined)
6.5L / 100km
Weight & Measurement
Kerb Weight
1090
Gross Vehicle Weight
Not Provided
Height
1510mm
Length
3890mm
Width
1695mm
Ground Clearance
140mm
Towing Capacity
Brake:1000  Unbrake:400
Steering & Suspension
Steering Type
RACK & PINION - POWER ASSISTED
Turning Circle
10.4
Front Rim Size
7x17
Rear Rim Size
7x17
Front Tyres
195/45 R17
Rear Tyres
195/45 R17
Wheel Base
2430
Front Track
1470
Rear Track
1475
Front Brakes
DISC - VENTILATED
Rear Brakes
DISC
Standard Features
Comfort
Air Conditioning
Control & Handling
17 Inch Alloy Wheels, Electronic Brake Force Distribution, Electronic Stability Program
Driver
Adjustable Steering Wheel - Tilt & Telescopic, Cruise Control, Leather Steering Wheel, Mobile Phone Connectivity, Power Steering
Entertainment
Radio CD with 6 Speakers
Exterior
Body Kit, Fog Lights - Front, Power Mirrors, Rear Spoiler
Interior
Power Windows
Safety
Dual Airbag Package, Anti-lock Braking, Head Airbags, Side Airbags, Seatbelts - Pre-tensioners Front Seats
Security
Central Locking Remote Control, Engine Immobiliser
Optional Features
Exterior
Metallic Paint
Other
Service Interval
12 months /  15,000 kms
Warranty
36 months /  100,000 kms
VIN Plate Location
8-O-6
Country of Origin
JAPAN