I want to start this review by saying that I am a Honda fan. A '95 Honda Accord was my first car and I have particular love for the high-revving VTEC Honda’s of old. So when I finished my degree and decided I wanted to buy my first car with a sporting bent, I went searching for the Type R’s, among a few others - preferably naturally aspirated. I had roughly $12,000 to play with after selling my perfectly functional, practical second generation i30 Active that never let me down, but never excited me either.
I drove an FN2 Civic Type R but the ride was punishing, the car loud and it generally wasn’t as exciting to throw around as I had anticipated. This new car was to be my daily and the FN2 had too many compromises.
I drove a 2007 Honda Integra Type S which proved to be very tempting. It felt more comfortable than the FN2 Civic but it was also faster, it cornered well and was more fun to drive. It still used hydraulic steering which I felt gave better feedback than all the electronically-assisted set ups I’ve experienced. The VTEC was exhilarating and I truly loved the test drive, despite my 6-foot-1 frame barely fitting in the vehicle with the seats as low as they could go. I walked away from that test drive with a stupid grin and thinking I would likely buy the car, but the practicalities began rearing their head.
For one, the car only had 2 doors and I have a large dog that we often transport, which would be significantly more difficult in the coupe body style. The second was that insurance would cost an extra $450 dollars a year for my 26-year-old self compared to my i30…ouch! The third was fuel consumption which, although not terrible at 9.4 litres per 100 kilometres was significantly more than the 6.5L/100km of my i30, which I had become accustomed to - and with the extra cost of 98 RON.
Next I drove a 2015 Mazda 3 SP25, which was relatively fun to drive, luxurious in comparison to everything else and had a nice feeling manual gear shift, but for me compared to the Integra Type S it just lacked excitement and it felt a bit too insulated. Obviously this makes it a more comfortable cruiser but it just didn’t feel as raw an experience. Kudos to Mazda for sticking with the naturally aspirated format for its sporty version of the 3, as it certainly has low down torque compared to any of the Honda's, but with peak power at 5700rpm it just didn’t feel as run to thrash! It felt grown up and I wanted juvenile, dammit!
Next came the Suzuki Swift Sport, which was a car that I had reservations about. Compared to the 154kW Integra Type S, it seemed to lack some spice. Initial driving confirmed this, as acceleration was less of an experience. However with peak power arriving at 6900rpm it certainly was fun to push the car, with a pleasing engine note in the upper range but not much below that. The Sport comes alive slightly earlier by virtue of the variable inlet manifold which helps fatten the torque curve and means that from just above 4000rpm the Swift comes alive. Having the cam change earlier means it is slightly more accessible and it encourages you to go hunting for it.
This is what I love about this car, the maximum-effort type of driving style where you really get out of it what you put in. My test drive included some fast corners and a few round roundabouts, which helped demonstrate the Sport’s ace handling. It feels so nimble and chuckable. It really is just fun to punt into a corner faster than you should and have it hold on, laughing at heavier cars that would tend to understeer. It holds on more than I expect it to and when grip levels begin to run out the car tells you all about it.
The steering feel is light but I think this just matches the car's feel, which is very easy to fling about. My only complaint would be that the steering could be slightly quicker as it feels slightly dead around the centre, but once you begin turning into a corner, it weighs up naturally and does communicate some feel through the wheel.
The 6-speed manual gearbox has closely-spaced ratios, making it a barrel of laughs and ensures you are always able to get into the car's power band. I would say that generally I like the gearbox and it is satisfying to use, but there is no escaping that it has a notchy feel and it can be heard clunking through gears when you are just pottering about. This does seem to disappear when you are thrashing it, though.
The clutch has a very high take-up point, which takes some getting used to, but once accustomed the bite point is precise and satisfying to use. The pedals are excellently spaced for heel-toe shifting and throttle response is excellent, even low in the rev range.
Ride is generally very good although over big bumps it does get bouncy. I was generally very impressed with how quiet it is considering the weight, although due to its shape you do get slight buffeting noise at higher speeds.
The seats are excellent and really hold you in place, and along with the small leather wheel (which feels great in hand) they make the well-finished but simple cabin feel a little more special. Due to the boxy shape there is plenty of room inside. Push start is cool and on the right side of the wheel where it should be!
The bi-xenon headlights are exceptional.
I bought mine for $10,500 second hand with 46,000kms, and the whole car still feels brand new. Mine came with a spare tyre that the seller had sourced from Japanese Swifts, and a factory-fitted centre armrest that folds up and down. My last service cost $210 dollars, so I'm pretty happy with that. The engines are meant to be pretty reliable motors.
The keyless entry system that requires two pushes to unlock all the doors (the remote is the same but I find it more annoying when using the keyless entry). I wish it was one push to unlock all, as I’ve been caught trying to open a locked door more often then I’d like.
The Bluetooth system is old hat, with 7 steps to set it up - but once you get through it works fine.
Boot space is pretty dismal - especially so with my not-from-factory spare tyre (but I would rather have the spare over boot space). You can drop the seats and get a decent amount of space, but the seats don't go down properly flat.
According to the trip computer, fuel usage is beyond optimistic; I think it’s at least 1 litre out by my calculations.
A weird one - after it rains, if I put the windows down I get a solid pouring of water that comes over the roof into the cabin whilst driving, probably due to the boxy shape (but I’ve never had that in any other car before).
The Swift doesn’t come standard with an armrest. The armrest fitted to mine is great for cruising, as it reaches far enough to keep your left hand on the wheel, but it gets in the way for city driving. Thankfully it folds up.
I love this car. So much fun at all speeds whilst being cheap to run and comfortable enough for daily driving duties. Even though it is a fairly new car, it does feel intentionally old school. There are no reversing warnings or cameras, which I honestly prefer as it is such an easy car to see out of, given its boxy shape. A must drive if you are looking for cheap naturally aspirated fun.