The new Suzuki Swift Sport is a significantly better car than its predecessor. This 970kg turbocharged terrier may be a literal lightweight, but it's not a figurative one.
Suzuki is a company supremely adept at producing machines that are small, light and fun – rolling on two wheels or four. And so it’s with reassurance that we can report the new Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch delivers on these brand tenets, and then some.
This new Sport has lobbed at $25,490 before on-road costs. Affordable, though ballpark with the retired (for now) Ford Fiesta ST, an icon that offered more power but less equipment. That to us makes it a little overpriced, though give it a few months and you might just do better.
On the other hand, charm is priceless. And this is a trait that permeates every aspect of the Swift Sport, even if it resembles a stopgap Pokemon character culled by popular demand.
The key to any good pocket rocket isn’t power, it’s weight. And the fact this new 3.9m long Swift Sport weighs an exiguous 970kg, sans driver, sets it on the right path. The old one was 80kg heavier.
Suzuki has made a five-door hatchback loaded with equipment weigh about the same as a fabric-roof two-seat Mazda MX-5. Which is a testament to its engineering.
Powering the Sport is an engine shared with Suzuki’s Vitara crossover, a 1.4-litre four-cylinder with a turbocharger, making a modest (room for the tuners) 103kW at 5500rpm and 230Nm at 2500rpm.
We often talk power-to-weight – the Swift Sport’s ratio is only a touch lower than a Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI’s 108kW per tonne – but in the case of the Swift Sport, the more suitable metric is torque-to-weight.
It’s a cracking engine. The small turbo yields minimal lag, and there’s a strong mid-range boosting rolling response, and plenty of punch out of corners without the need for multiple downshifts.
A 0–100km/h time of 7.5sec is nothing to sneeze at. Even better, the front driving wheels don’t axle tramp or torque steer excessively, allowing clean and crisp getaways.
Our test car came equipped with a six-speed manual gearbox, though an auto with torque-converter and paddles is available too. The manual ’box has an ideal clutch pedal take-up point, though an even tighter shift pattern would be great. Note also how short the first and second ratios are. Hi there, rev limiter…
The Swift Sport must also be part of a temperance movement, because no matter how hard we worked the engine, it stubbornly refused to drink more than 6.4L/100km of 95RON fuel.
From a dynamic perspective, the Suzuki is ideally calibrated as a daily driver. The fixed dampers (Monroe shocks) and springs are on the soft side, giving it a pliant and cushy ride over urban roads, cobbles and even gravel.
Noise suppression is rubbish, though.
There’s no trickery here: no electronic track-honed LSD, no driving modes to mess with, and little on-board telemetry aside from a basic power/torque application display.
And yet, with a body weighing so little, you don’t need much to give you super-sharp turn-in, good mid-corner body control and rapid directional changes. All of which the Suzuki offers, even with its simple torsion beam rear suspension.
Kudos also for the quality Continental ContiSportContact hoops.
Nor do you need huge brakes to stop immediately, regularly, with little fade. A track day at Broadford in Victoria’s north, in 35C heat, taught me this.
At the limit, you find the Swift’s ragged edges. Push too hard and you’ll get understeer more quickly, you’ll get rack rattle over mid-corner hits, and you’ll lose mechanical grip earlier.
However, the Suzuki is never less than engaging, in some ways actually reminding one of a Renault Clio RS 182 of the early 2000s. Back to basics personified.
To add a personal aside, I took this pocket rocket out to the winding Chum Creek Road, on the doorstep of Victoria’s Yarra Valley, on a late-summer evening, and enjoyed driving the wheels off (at legal speed) so much that I bypassed the bakery in favour of a second and third run up the hill.
The last time I enjoyed this road so much in a car priced south of $40K, it was a RWD Toyota coupe with numerical nomenclature.
There isn’t much basic about the cabin, either. The racy steering wheel, red highlights on the dash and doors, and bucket seats all feel fitting, while the cabin trims feel hard to the touch, but also hard-wearing.
The centre screen looks a little aftermarket, but the UX is so simple it becomes fool-proof.
One thing: we were regularly bemoaning the lack of a digital speedo given Australia’s ridiculously overblown speed regulations.
The back seats are actually useable for two smaller occupants, with a nice high roof and big side windows. The boot is pretty measly at 265L, and worsened by the lack of a proper spare wheel.
Standard equipment includes LED headlights, 17-inch wheels, a rear-view camera, climate control, button start, Bluetooth/USB, and a 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, plus Apple CarPlay/Android Auto.
There’s also active safety equipment such as autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane departure alert (which to be honest hardly worked once), helping secure a 2017 ANCAP five-star rating.
From an ownership angle, Suzuki offers a three-year/100,000km factory warranty, plus capped-price servicing at six-month/10,000km intervals, with each of the first three visits currently pegged at $175 a pop.
This brief warranty and the need to visit your Suzuki dealer biannually will prove painful, but nigh-on every other aspect of the new Swift Sport makes such distractions easier to swallow.
Here we have a little hot hatch light enough to make the late Colin Chapman weep joyful tears, powered by an engaging turbo engine, and rocking a racy little cabin.
From a technical standpoint, the Polo GTI or Clio RS Sport may offer more bang-for-buck, but if charm is the right subjective measure to use on a car of this sort, then the Swift Sport punches well outside its weight division.
Now, if we could get that price down to $25,490 drive-away...
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