2007 Suzuki Swift Sport Road Test
Suzuki delivers a sports car to inspire a new generation of rally fans
Recommended Retail Price: $23,990 (model tested).
- by Alborz Fallah
You'd all be amazed as to how good some of these small sports cars are getting. My favourite reasonably priced car of this year has so far been Peugeot's spectacular 207 GTi. With a light and nimble chassis matched to a powerful turbocharged engine, it handles like a rocket on rails.
So when the men at Suzuki said I should drive the new and improved Swift Sport, I was keen to find out if Suzuki had delivered a car to match the 207 GTi's fun-factor, for $10,000 less.
From the outside, the Swift Sport may trick you into believing it's just a Swift with a bodykit, but it's a lot more than that. The model arrived in early 2006 to some disappointment as the Japanese manufacturer had decided to leave it naturally aspirated, but recently Suzuki fitted Electronic Stability Control (ESC) at no extra cost and reinvigorated the model.
Based on the standard Swift, the Sport has unique wheels, better brakes, sports bodykit (fog lights), dual exhausts, a bigger and more powerful engine, refined drivetrain, sports suspension and sporty interior trim. Utilizing a large sport rear spoiler, modified rear tail lamps and Sport badging, as subtle as it may be, it is easily recognizable to the trained eye.
On paper the Swift Sport looks a little underpowered and outclassed, you can see this when you compare it to the rest: Ford's XR4 delivers an exciting package, thanks to the 2.0-litre engine and strong chassis; Mitsubishi's Colt Ralliart is nothing short of a little Evo capable of shaming many big V8s; and Volkswagen has delivered a remarkable package with the Polo GTi that begs a drive.
At $24,000 it is $1,000 cheaper than the XR4, $6,000 cheaper than the Ralliart Colt and $3,000 cheaper than the Polo GTi. For those with a smaller budget, the choice is between the XR4 and the Swift, and I know what you're thinking, the Suzuki is underpowered. Okay, so it has the least power and torque in its class, but it makes up for it with outstanding handling, a remarkable chassis and a big list of standard features.
Given the Ralliart Colt is significantly more expensive, it is not worth comparing to the Swift Sport and as for the German, there is no denying the Polo GTi is perhaps the best small sports car, but Suzuki is after a slightly lower-end of the market, the same market as the XR4.
The Swift Sport is powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine that produces 92kW (6,800RPM) and 148Nm of torque (4,800RPM). I admit, it can do with more power, probably a turbocharger and a sexy GTi badge to complete the package, but for now, this is all we get.
Don't be fooled though, the new engine isn't just a slightly bigger version of the standard 1.5-litre found in the Swift, it has a reworked cylinder block, new inlet and exhaust camshafts, new pistons, piston rings, connecting rods, crankshaft, large capacity sports muffler, oil cooler, intake and exhaust manifolds and an electrical throttle body.
Having driven the XR4, the choice between the Japanese and its European rival is a hard one. The XR4 has significantly more power than the Suzuki (although it's not that usable), and in my opinion, looks better too. However the XR4 has some notable issues. Given its bigger engine, it is slightly heavier at the front (although it weighs less overall), has a stereo system taken from a 1982 Camry, a dashboard put together from recycled plastic, it's missing two doors and the rear seats are practically useless.
The Suzuki on the other hand is a proper four-door with adequate leg-room for four, has a better interior and more importantly, out-handles its European rival around every bend.
The Swift Sport is driven via the front-wheels through a five-speed manual gearbox. Suzuki has produced an excellent gearbox that gives a firm, quick shift feel. It differs from the standard box in the Swift via closer gear ratios as well as less reach between gears. While the clutch and gearbox work well together, the midget sized racing pedals make it extremely hard to heel and toe, taking some of the fun away.
The steering and handling is comparable to a go-kart, this is thanks to Suzuki's enormous efforts (and success) in the Junior World Rally Championship using a modified Swift.
So good is the handling that I found it quite hard to reach the car's limits around my usual test track at Mt Glorious.
Around a twisty stretch of road it will eat an XR4 for breakfast, but will have a harder time against the Polo GTi and Colt. It can take considerable speed (much more than the XR4) into a corner and smoothly power out while the newly introduced ESC system does a great job of maintaining traction, but also allows some play before cutting in.
There is minor understeer around tight bends, but nothing to worry about. As for body-roll, it's virtually non-existent thanks to the unique sport suspension (Monroe shock absorbers ) which has increased compression and rebound dampening forces by around sixty percent over the standard car!
All of this comes at a price though, the Sport has a relatively hard ride, probably not something you'd want to live with if you don't take advantage of its handling abilities.
Sitting inside the Swift Sport, you are presented with comfortable sports seats, a three spoke leather steering wheel, a silver garnished shift knob, four speaker in dash CD stereo system with MP3 capabilities (still lacking iPod connectivity) with steering wheel controls, and plenty of space to store nearly anything.
The instrument cluster emphasises the cars sporty credentials with an illuminated ring around the speedometer while the tachometer dial has its '0' mark positioned at six o'clock, a design borrowed from Suzuki's GSX R750 motorbike.
Standard features include air conditioning, electric mirrors and windows, power steering, remote keyless entry with hazard lamp answer back, UV reducing glass, 6 airbags (front, side and curtain), ABS brakes and ESC. The Swift Sport can do with the SX4's smart key entry system.
Picking between the Fiesta XR4 and the Swift Sport will come down to your personal preference. The Swift is ultimately the better car, it handles better, it has a better interior and it will probably last longer too, but the XR4 is a little more exciting and definitely more unique.
After experiencing what Suzuki can do with a front-wheel drive Swift, I can only imagine the rumoured turbocharged All-Wheel-Drive Suzuki SX4 - set to take on the once-mighty WRX - will become the new cult car for enthusiasts.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is covered by a three year/100,000km warranty and three year 24 hour roadside assistance.
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