The Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch has come in for a midlife update after this generation model went on sale two-and-a-half years ago.
The 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II – arriving in showrooms in limited numbers now before supply ramps up from August 2020 – retains its familiar formula: a perky turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with a choice of six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission in a package that weighs less than 1000kg.
It’s nimble around town and holds its own on the open road.
Although there is no extra power with this update – retaining the original output of 103kW/230Nm – there is more standard equipment.
In addition to features that already included remote central locking with a sensor key and push-button start, single-zone air-conditioning, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, embedded navigation and a rear-view camera, the new model gains a digital speed display, a one-touch auto-up power window for the driver, and rear parking sensors.
Safety gets a boost, too. In addition to six airbags, a five-star safety rating from 2017, radar cruise control and autonomous emergency braking, the 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II gains blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and heated side mirrors, which are handy for removing condensation on winter mornings.
The tech changes – and exchange-rate pressure between the Australian dollar and the Japanese Yen – have brought with them a price rise.
The 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II costs from $29,990 drive-away for the six-speed manual and $31,990 drive-away for the six-speed auto. Metallic paint adds $595 (up from $500 before). A new two-tone paint option (metallic orange with a black roof) adds $1095.
The drive-away prices for the Suzuki Swift Sport Series II are $3500 and $4000 dearer than the previous best discount offers.
This generation Suzuki Swift Sport has previously been advertised for $26,490 drive-away for a manual (by the Queensland distributor in January 2019), while the lowest national offer over the past two years has been $27,990 drive-away, $2000 less than today's price. In April to June 2019, there was a national offer of $27,990 drive-away for an automatic, $4000 less than today's price.
The previous-generation Suzuki Swift Sport was available in 2016 for between $24,990 and $25,990 drive-away (depending on special offers at the time) and limboed to $23,990 drive-away when it was in runout in 2017, making it one of the bargains in the hot-hatch segment.
So, $29,990 drive-away for the 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport manual and $31,990 drive-away for the auto is a decent step up compared to where the car has been positioned over the past five years or so.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is slightly smaller than its peers (length 3890mm, width 1735mm, height 1495mm, wheelbase 2450mm) and weighs much less, too (970kg manual, 990kg auto).
The Ford Fiesta ST is closest in size (length 4068mm, width 1735mm, height 1469mm, wheelbase 2490mm) and weighs 1217kg.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI has the biggest footprint of the trio (length 4067mm, width 1751mm, height 1438mm, wheelbase 2560mm) and weighs 1210kg.
The Suzuki Swift Sport has a smaller boot than its pint-sized peers (265L) versus the Ford Fiesta ST (311L) and Volkswagen Polo GTI (305L).
When trying to negotiate tight parking spots, it’s worth noting the Suzuki Swift Sport has the smallest turning circle among these city-slickers: 10.2m versus 10.6m for the Volkswagen Polo GTI and 11.0m for the Ford Fiesta ST .
All three cars are covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
The service intervals on both the Suzuki’s rivals are 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. This lines up with the national average annual distance travelled by cars in Australia, according to Census data.
The Suzuki Swift Sport has service intervals of 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.
Suzuki’s capped-price servicing program is middle of the road when it comes to cost versus its rivals – not the cheapest and not the dearest, but we would say still on the high side for a budget car.
The total cost of routine maintenance for the Suzuki Swift Sport over three years and 45,000km is $1236 – the tally over five years and 75,000km is $2263.
By comparison, the total cost of routine maintenance for the Ford Fiesta ST over three years and 45,000km is $1012 – the tally over five years and 75,000km is $1686.
The total cost of routine maintenance for the Volkswagen Polo GTI over three years and 45,000km is $1327 – the tally over five years and 75,000km is an eye-watering $2939 if you stick to the logbook services and stay within the dealer network.
The Suzuki Swift Sport service costs come down if the vehicle doesn’t clock up more than 10,000km every 12 months, in which case routine maintenance totals $807 over three years and $1475 over five years, which would make it the cheapest of this trio. It’s worth noting, though, service costs climb once beyond this threshold.
On the road
The Suzuki Swift Sport Series II has not changed its appearance – aside from some extra colour options – but it still looks fresh and is fun to drive.
Cabin highlights include a sports steering wheel, snug racing-inspired cloth seats, and flashes of red trim across the dash and doors.
There is limited oddment storage in the door pockets, glovebox, a slim centre console tray, and a small map pocket near the base of the front passenger seat. There is one 12V and one USB power socket, and an 3.5mm input jack.
Visibility is good thanks to the relatively large glass area; however, the thick windscreen pillars – which are more upright than most other cars – can block the driver’s view, especially in tight corners or when approaching pedestrian crossings. You soon learn to shift your head left or right to double-check in such scenarios.
However, another small annoyance, the sun visors don’t extend far enough to block side glare, leaving a large gap even when swung around parallel to the front door windows. They barely cover half the length of the side glass, which is less than ideal. Please, Suzuki, can the next model come with sun visors that extend to block more side glare?
For those mindful of their appearance, there are vanity mirrors behind both sun visors, but neither is illuminated.
The wide-view side mirrors – now with blind-zone warning symbols – are an extra pair of eyes when it comes to checking traffic in adjacent lanes.
The rear camera is handy, but the image is low resolution compared to other cars in this price range – and is especially fuzzy at night. The lens also easily gets covered in grime on wet roads. Being tucked under the bumper lip and above the numberplate seems to attract turbulence.
The front seat has ample adjustment for height and leg room, though the seat itself is a snug fit thanks to the large side bolsters – especially compared to the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI, both of which have more elbow room and slightly wider seats.
Back-seat space is a bit of a squeeze in terms of knee room and shoulder room (it’s better for two passengers in the rear rather than three), and there are anchor points for child seats in the outer two positions (ISOFIX and top tether).
The seat back split-folds 60:40 should you need to stow bulky items. Under the boot floor is a tyre inflator kit rather than a full size or temporary spare. The cargo space has a light to help locate loose items in the dark.
Once on the move, the Suzuki Swift Sport is a car that makes you smile.
We tested the six-speed manual and found it is as perky as ever, though it’s worth noting it has relatively short gear ratios to make up for the power deficit. Yet it still gives the feeling of slingshot acceleration.
First gear runs out at 47km/h and second runs out at 84km/h. By comparison, the Ford Fiesta ST (which also has relatively short ratios) runs out of first gear at 50km/h and second gear at 92km/h.
It means both cars are almost always in the middle of their power band, which is handy for commuter driving.
In our 0–100km/h tests using a VBox, the Suzuki Swift Sport stopped the clocks at 7.6 seconds, after an average of several runs in each direction. By comparison, we’ve tested the Ford Fiesta ST six-speed manual at 6.9 seconds, and the Volkswagen Polo GTI six-speed auto at 6.8 seconds.
In an earlier test of a Suzuki Swift Sport with the six-speed automatic, it was half-a-second quicker than the six-speed manual (7.1 seconds versus 7.6 seconds). However, when I last tested it, the automatic transmission calibration was not as smooth or as seamless as it could have been.
The 1.4-litre petrol engine has only a subtle growl, and the exhaust is fairly muted despite having twin pipes. A bit of crackle and pop wouldn’t go astray. That said, such theatrics can use precious fuel and Suzuki seems solely focused on economy.
The fuel rating label shows an average consumption of 6.1L/100km based on laboratory tests. We averaged 6.9L/100km after a mix of suburban and open-road driving over 300km – including our 0–100km/h tests – which is on par with what we’ve seen in the real world from the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Polo GTI.
It’s worth noting all three hot hatches insist on 95-octane premium unleaded as a minimum, which can push up the cost at the bowser as the prices are less competitive.
If you need to cover vast distances on one tank, it’s also worth noting the Suzuki Swift Sport only has a 37L bladder, which provides a maximum range of about 600km in ideal conditions. By comparison, the Ford Fiesta ST has a 45L fuel tank (700km range in ideal conditions) and the Volkswagen Polo GTI has a 40L fuel tank (660km range in ideal conditions based on our real-world data).
Of course, fuel-miser credentials and 0–100km/h times are just some of the measures of success for city hot hatches. The Suzuki Swift Sport also delivers when it comes to the seat-of-the-pants feeling.
While the handling in corners is not quite as razor sharp as a Ford Fiesta ST, it’s still one of the most nimble hot hatches in the class – plus it has one ace up its sleeve.
The Suzuki Swift Sport does an excellent job of dealing with the daily grind, soaking up bumps better than its peers, and would be my choice between the two if ride comfort were a priority.
The 17-inch wheels and tyres (195/45R17) – versus 18s on its rivals – deliver a more supple experience without sacrificing grip. The tyres are a touch noisy on certain surfaces, but that’s the cost of doing business in a small car with sticky tyres.
The steering is light, direct and precise – and the brakes have plenty of bite and a reassuring pedal feel.
In our 100km/h to zero emergency braking tests –conducted on different days, but on the same piece of pavement and in similar weather conditions – the Suzuki Swift Sport pulled up in a respectable 35.9m versus 38.3m for the Ford Fiesta ST and 38.1m for the Volkswagen Polo GTI.
The other surprising highlight of the Suzuki Swift Sport: the LED headlights are phenomenal on dark country roads. The high beam is okay by comparison, but the low beams seemed to be as bright as those on a top-of-the-range Toyota LandCruiser 200 Series. Please, Suzuki, don’t go backwards on these lights. And if you can improve the high beam that would also be appreciated.
Small touches such as the digital speed display, one-touch auto-up power window for the driver, blind-zone warning, and heated side mirrors are all worthwhile updates in my opinion, and help eliminate reasons not to buy.
The Suzuki Swift Sport Series II brings welcome improvements to comfort, convenience and safety. It’s no longer the bargain it once was, but it’s still worth making your short list if you’re in the market for a fun-to-drive pint-sized hot hatch.