As far as mid-model updates go, the 2020 Suzuki Swift Sport Series II is pretty tame. There are no external styling upgrades and only the smallest of equipment tweaks.
The easiest tell, for the car you see here at least, is the new Flame Orange and black roof hero-paint combo, while the six other single colours from the earlier range continue. I guess if it ain’t broke…
In a world of pricing pressures, Suzuki hasn’t quite been able to maintain a fine line of pricing, with the automatic Swift Sport now starting from $28,990 plus on-road costs in Australia, up $1500 from last year’s model.
The mark-up does bring some extra equipment with features like blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and heated side mirrors added to the spec sheet. That’s alongside cloth-trimmed sport seats, a leather-clad steering wheel with gearshift paddles, proximity key entry and push-button start, single-zone climate control, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, 17-inch two-tone alloy wheels and LED projector headlights.
No, it isn’t one of the most richly equipped light cars available. Similarly, under the bonnet resides a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated to 103kW at 5500rpm and 230Nm at 2500–3000rpm, which means the Swift Sport is outgunned by rivals – but that only tells part of the story.
The Swift Sport steps into the ring with wee hot hatches like the Ford Fiesta ST and its 147kW/290Nm 1.5-litre three-cylinder turbo, or the Volkswagen Polo GTI with 147kW and a boastful 320Nm from a 2.0-litre four-cylinder. The problem is both start at over $30K, both are over 200kg heavier, and if you have your heart set on an auto, the Fiesta is out of the running entirely.
Engine outputs alone don’t paint the whole Swift picture, though. Think of Suzuki’s hot hatch more like the Lotus of hatchbacks. The weight is low, the interior simple, and the fun factor is enormous and mostly free from unnecessary complications and distractions.
Okay, the Swift Sport isn’t fully stripped back and light-weighted, and there are still plenty of features that aren’t strictly necessary but are nice to have, like the 7.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, AM/FM radio (but sadly no digital), and Apple and Android smartphone mirroring baked in.
There’s also no drive-mode switch, no way to change the steering weighting or suspension damper stiffness, and transmission modes are auto or manual, no ‘sport’ mode in between. The Swift is tuned with a one-size-fits-all approach, and it's really none the worse for it.
The powertrain is more lively in the Swift, no doubt owing in part to the sub-1000kg kerb weight, but the throttle tips in more keenly and the Swift Sport steps off the line with a pertness the related SUVs can only dream of matching.
The automatic is a six-speed torque converter type, so it doesn’t hold revs and drone like a CVT when you push it, nor does it shudder and struggle at parking speed like a dual-clutch auto might. It may not be the sharpest tool in the shed for hot-blooded spirited driving, but even then it’s impressively sorted with resolute shifts and confident mapping.
While it will do the sporty thing pretty easily, the Swift Sport will also settle into a life of work commutes, driving to dinner, running to the gym, and all the other much less exciting stuff that takes place each week. It passes the toughest test of all by managing to maintain a sense of fun before you hit 60km/h.
There’s a little bit of rumble from the exhaust. Not too much, mind you, but enough to convey a sense of intent. The steering is surprisingly quite light, but also really attuned to the road beneath and faithfully follows instructions from the driver.
You get to grip into a nicely sized leather-clad steering wheel, and it’s flat at the bottom for added raciness, too. The red contrast stitching looks pretty cool, but the big plastic piece on the lower part of the wheel is a bit out of place.
There’s a firmish ride from the suspension, with Monroe dampers that do a good job of sticking tyres to tarmac on a winding road, but don’t rattle occupants to pieces, even if there’s still the odd sharp thump into the cabin on some surfaces.
In fairness, the turbo Swift isn’t the outright-fastest light hatch you can buy, but every time you tap the accelerator you get a response that is willing and eager. Give it some beans and it’ll accelerate in a way that’s rarely disappointing.
Up front there’s an open differential, and while that’s not an issue most of the time, a limited-slip differential would make spirited drives all the more exciting. More wishful thinking than any kind of impactful spec deficit, though.
It’s not a one-trick pony either. You can have as much fun zipping around the burbs as you can on your favourite rollercoaster road, sure. To get to any place good, though, you’ll probably need to hit the highway, and the Swift does a decent job here, too.
The lowlight is tyre and wind noise. There can be quite a lot of both. The former is particularly related to road surface, but can get quite loud (blame the 195/45R17 Continental ContiSportContact 5 tyres, which are better at being sticky than they are at being silent), while the latter just seems to hang around at freeway speeds.
The engine settles right down on the freeway, ticking over at around 2100rpm on a steady 100km/h cruise, which helps keep things civil. If you need to, you can drown the background din out with the stereo, though don’t expect crystal-clear reproduction from it either.
On the other hand, distance-keeping cruise control is just the thing for highway trips if other traffic tends to be a little variable, and a speed limiter for capping urban speed zones is very, very welcomed.
Ahead of the driver, a pair of analogue gauges give a sports car vibe without trading legibility, and there’s a companion pair of temp and fuel gauges. For everything else, a colour multifunction screen delivers trip computer info, (new) digital speedo, plus novelty displays for power, torque, boost and G-force.
Front seats are cloth-trimmed and manually adjusted. They’re designed to grip, with pronounced thigh and midriff bolstering, but enough room for shoulders up top. While the single-mode one-size drivetrain works a treat, the single-size seat will be harder for some. I’d hardly consider myself a fat-ass (call it denial if you will), but the Swift Sport has other ideas.
The cabin is deceptively spacious. Because of the tall roof line and upright windscreen, the front seats feel very roomy. Interior plastics are hard all round. You get a hard dash, hard doors, and nothing too fancy in the way of ornamentation.
The red-to-black dash and door highlights are funky, and the black-on-black colour scheme keeps things from looking too cut-price, but the Swift’s origins as a cheerful little runabout are inescapable. It’s functional, which is good, but just not aspirational.
Like the front seats, the rear seats offer more space than you might think, with plenty of head and leg room. There’s a scarcity of features in the rear: no centre armrest, no face-level ventilation and no USB point, but there’s a very real chance the rear seat will only be used occasionally, and it’s perfectly suitable for that.
There’s a good amount of cushion length for the base, but like the fronts, the rear seats are statured on the small side. In this case, the backrest isn’t tall enough to provide full support for tall passengers.
You buy a small car, you get a small boot, naturally. In this case, the 265L capacity behind the seats is decent enough; the boot footprint (length and width) is compact, but there’s depth to spare.
There’s a cargo-covering parcel shelf, a boot light and a single bag hook. Good. You also miss out on a spare wheel (even a space saver) with a puncture repair kit. Not so good, particularly if you live a little way out of town.
Safety is covered by the aforementioned new blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert along with six airbags, forward-collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, driver fatigue monitoring (weaving alert), high-beam assist, front and rear seatbelt pretensioners (outboard), and two rear child seat mount points.
There’s a reverse camera, though the image can be a little fuzzy and indistinct depending on the light and weather. In concert with rear park sensors, it’s still pretty easy to slot the compact Swift into tight spaces. Officially, the Swift Sport carries a five-star safety rating from ANCAP, as tested in 2017.
Official fuel consumption is rated at a thrifty 6.1 litres per 100km; a figure I thought might be difficult to match in the real world. After a week of mostly commuting, the trip meter claimed 7.4L/100km and with some touring thrown in settled to 6.5L/100km. Impressive given the fizzy performance on offer, but you will have to pick up the premium pump – 95RON is required as a minimum.
Suzuki covers its range with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty (or 160,000km if you use your car commercially, say as an Uber), and offers a capped-price service program for up to five years or 100,000km. The Swift Sport has 12-month/10,000km service intervals, which means you may be back more than once per year if you do plenty of driving.
You’ll pay $239, $329, $239, $429 and $239 respectively for the first five visits, or $1475 all up. The program covers scheduled maintenance items, so there are no extra charges for filters or fluids (like brake fluid) as laid out in the service book.
In creating an energetic and fun little city car, Suzuki hasn’t gone over the top. The basics are in place, but the window dressing (things like vanity mirror illumination and squishy door armrests) that doesn’t really need to be there isn't.
The focus is, instead, on getting a set of mechanicals shared with more mainstream cars in the range to feel engaging. It works, too. Sporty suspension, sharp steering, and a perky engine make the Swift Sport feel special, and although the visual cues between a regular Swift and a Sport may only be subtle, they’re successful.
Should you buy a Swift Sport if you’re looking for a light car that crosses into the performance car league and pampers with upmarket touches? Absolutely not. But if you’re more interested in engaging handling and performance that delights within the realms of socially acceptable boundaries, then this one’s for you.