by Brad Leach - 27/11/12
Want to see hot hatchbacks working hard? Watch the World Rally Championship. Skoda is there in numbers with the Fabia RS, Volkswagen is gearing up with the Polo WRC and in the Junior World Rally Championship, Japanese giant Suzuki has plenty of wins with the Swift.
Taking a dotted line from there to the showroom, we have the Suzuki Swift Sport – the latest version of one of the world’s favourite hot hatches.
Fast and frugal, hot hatches deserve to be the performance cars of this and future generations. And Suzuki Swift has a fine reputation in this league.
In many ways the Sport is the halo model for the Suzuki Swift range – enthusing even the $15,990 entry-level GA with a dose of sportiness. Priced at $23,990 (six-speed manual as tested) the Suzuki Swift Sport represents great buying.
At first glance evolutionary in its appearance, the latest generation Suzuki Swift is actually quite different to the previous lineup and slightly larger and taller. But technical changes underneath are the headline-grabbers - using more high-strength steel, Suzuki has delivered the Swift stiffer, yet 30kgs lighter than its predecessor…and that means better driving dynamics and reduced fuel consumption.
Combine that high-tech new bodyshell with seven airbags plus standard traction and stability control and the Suzuki Swift Sport is a five-star safety rank in the ANCAP barrier test.
On the outside, the Suzuki Swift Sport looks the part with aerodynamic body enhancements and bigger alloy wheels, while the inside features excellent sports seats.
The Sport model Suzuki Swift gains the M16A 1.6-litre, four-cylinder engine (other models are powered by the 1.4-litre engine). Swift Sport enjoys maximum power of 100kW at 6900rpm and peak torque arrives at 4400rpm.
As those figures suggest, this engine loves to rev and does so with a superb exhaust note. Accompanied by rapid changes from the six-speed manual (a CVT automatic is available) our Suzuki Swift Sport test car sounded brilliant when we worked it hard over our high-speed mountain roads test loop.
Fuel consumption is impressive – 6.5l/100kms for the six-speed manual as tested.
All-new model, all-new interior and this time Suzuki gave the Swift a distinctly up-market look and feel which again underlines its tremendous value. Evidence is everywhere from the nicely styled dashboard and instrument binnacle to the new choices in materials.
The Sport model goes further with alloy pedals and very nice figure-hugging sports front seats providing great support and looking good with contrasting red stitching.
Like all Suzukis, the three-spoke steering wheel is sized just right, adjusts for both rake and reach and the relationship to the seat and pedals is spot-on for a sporty driving position.
Conventional instrumentation is housed in a compact curved binnacle and the audio is a six-speaker CD/MP3 system with Bluetooth connectivity.
Like all cars in this segment, rear seat space accommodates adults – just.
Suzuki Swift Sport offers a deep luggage area with reasonable capacity – 210-litres with the rear seat in place or 900-litres when folded.
The underlining philosophy of the latest Suzuki Swift was ‘More Swift’ – Suzuki had been riding the crest of a wave with the previous Swift and didn’t want to run the risk of going off in a totally new direction. Details were important – a wider track for enhanced on-road agility and a lighter/stiffer bodyshell. The latest Swift is also 90mm longer, 50mm longer in the wheelbase and 10mm higher.
Styling is certainly an evolution of the previous model rather than a totally new look. However the differences are perceptible – extra curves, a new window line plus totally new front and rear ends.
Swift maintains its hallmark short, wide compact look and – compared to the previous version - is certainly more athletic.
This is enhanced with the Swift Sport model scoring unique 17-inch alloy wheels, side skirts, a large roof spoiler and Bi-Xenon headlights.
We can’t offer an in-depth review of the Suzuki Swift Sport’s audio system because for most of the week we turned it off so we could hear the rally-bred tunes of the rev-loving 1.6-litre engine doing its thing. And you know the old adage: “Looks racy, sounds racy, is racy.”
Pressing-on over the twisty stuff in the Swift Sport you get an immediate sense the crew at Suzuki’s engineering department is tuned into the company’s rally program – because the details are just how performance drivers like them. Details like the snug-fitting sports seats, the excellent driving position and the calibration for the MacPherson strut front/torsion beam rear suspension.
And just like the fabled Swift performance models of previous generations, the latest model delivers with precise, responsive driving dynamics and top-notch chassis balance. At the limit understeer is the default chassis response (naturally) but grip levels are high, there’s not much body roll and calibration of the traction and stability control errs towards high performance – although admittedly not quite like the pricey European hot hatch superstars.
After tackling their favourite road in a Suzuki Swift Sport, any performance driver will emerge smiling.
In the more mundane surroundings of the working week commute, the Suzuki Swift Sport is your friend with light operation for the clutch and six-speed manual transmission plus the impressive refinement which is the headline for all the latest generation Swifts (a big advance over the previous model).
Like the rest of the latest Swift range, the Sport model gets some points deduction for its styling. Nothing wrong with the looks…just too similar to the previous generation.
There are European hot hatchbacks costing almost double the Suzuki Swift Sport’s price ($23,990 as tested). So once again the team at Suzuki Australia deserves credit for the continuing value story.
You get a lot of car for your coin with the Suzuki Swift Sport but don’t for one second think you’re being short-changed.
The most powerful Swift so far (100kW), 30kgs lighter, nicely kitted-out and impressively safe…well they’ve been very thorough in developing the latest Sport model and it pays off in the driving experience.
Now excuse us - we’re just going around the block one more time so we can hear that superb 1.6-litre at work…
Volkswagen’s Polo GTI garners the headlines in this league. Polo GTI scores the twin-charged 132kW 1.4-litre and the marvelous seven-speeder, but it comes at a price – starting at $27,790.
And the Polo’s cousin – the Skoda Fabia RS is stickered at $27,990.
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