Suzuki Swift Sport long-term test (2019): no fireworks

Published: 30 May 2019

► Life with a Suzuki Swift Sport
► Champion Yellow: yay or nay?
► Cheeky colour, cheekier handling

There are some things I'll miss about the Suzuki Swift Sport. The lively chassis, for one. And of course the unrivalled ease with which you can locate it in a car park. But now the time has come to give it back, I find myself content to don some extra-strength sunglasses before giving that Champion Yellow paintwork one final buff and handing the keys to the gent in the Suzuki anorak.

It's all rather sombre compared to the final days of my previous long-term test car. I just didn't want to let Honda reclaim the Civic Type R, and kept making up flimsy excuses to go for one final drive... then another... and another. The manga-like Type R blew away pretty much everything else on our 2018 Hot Hatch Giant Test – save for the Renault Megane RS – but also proved to be easy to live with.

The Suzuki is a car you want to like; expectations were high all around. With its Pokemon-like face, vibrant colour and frisky performance, it's more like Pikachu (a yellow livewire) to the Honda's Charizard (a fire-breathing dragon). And while it doesn't offer the same performance as the Honda, its direct steering and impressive chassis means it's fun to drive.

Where the surgical Civic Type R encourages you to do more, to be confident that the car's limit are way higher than yours, the Swift Sport invites you to enjoy coming up against the limits of its grip – and try to find a little more besides.

It can be a lot of fun. But compare the Suzuki with its direct contemporaries and even the brightest paint known to mankind can't distract from its shortcomings.

Swift Sport rear cornering

Let's compare it to James Taylor's Ford Fiesta ST: a car that starts at around £1500 more than the Suzuki (or around £4000 if you want James's spec'd-up ST-3 version). That's a decent chunk of money, but one that gives you significantly more entertainment for your cash.

The Ford has a sense of occasion that the Suzuki can't muster. Jump into the Fiesta ST, switch to Sport mode (the Swift has no modes) and it's immediately more entertaining to drive. A rally-esque burble, telepathic steering and eager throttle response really make it the Berocca of hot hatches. Small, fizzy and alert: the Fiesta ST makes the sometimes enjoyable Swift feel very flat. And the gulf in performance is much larger than the prices suggest.

The Swift Sport faces tough competition from the lower end of the spectrum too, as the VW Up GTI also gives the Suzuki a headache. Though it looks like a washing machine, the Up is nippy enough and sounds good, and at a starting price of around £14,000 – £4000 less than the Swift. But the worst match-up for the Swift? The car it replaces. Those who have driven both new and old find this car lacks the magic of the outgoing Suzuki supermini, which leaves it in something of a no-man's land.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Suzuki Swift Sport

Price £17,999
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 533
Total 6933
Our mpg 42.6
Official mpg 47.1
Energy cost
 12.9p per mile

Count the cost

Cost new £17,999
Private sale £12,660
Part-exchange £12,020
Cost per mile 12.9p
Cost per mile including depreciation 99p


Month 5 living with a Suzuki Swift Sport: drip... drip... drip...

Month five with the Swift has not been ideal. After the windscreen got cracked – one of those things that can't be helped – I had it replaced. No drama, job done... or so I thought. But following some particular heavy rain, colleague James Taylor went for a drive in the Swift Sport only to find the cabin getting increasingly sodden.

As I sat in his dry, warm Ford, I read his increasingly frantic SOS messages: 'There's a puddle in the cupholders and my left knee is wet. Never seen that before. Must be from the screen.'

Suzuki confirmed his suspicions: the sealing fault appeared after the windscreen replacement. We're about to try again. Wish us luck.

Logbook: Suzuki Swift Sport

Price £17,999
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 407
Total 6400
Our mpg 38.6
Official mpg 50.4
Energy cost
14.4p per mile


Month 4 living with a Suzuki Swift Sport: out and about

I was dragged away to the middle of nowhere with the zesty Swift to see if it could hold a candle to our VW Up GTI for cheap thrills. Want to find out which is best? Read our comparison test here.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Suzuki Swift Sport

Price £17,999
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 815
Total 5993
Our mpg 43.2
Official mpg 50.4 
Fuel this month £176.39
Extra costs None


Month 3 living with a Suzuki Swift Sport: up close

Keeping it unreal
Open the windows, put your foot to the floor and you'll hear an unmistakeable wastegate hiss. It's more subtle than the Fast and Furious noises made by my previous hot hatch, the Honda Civic Type R, but it's in keeping with the car's cheeky character. Less likeable is the Swift Sport's almost snakeskin-like, fake carbonfibre trim – though I do like the oversized exhausts it surrounds.

Swift Sport steering wheel

Taking it easy
Despite the Swift's basic interior, Suzuki has packed in some grown-up mod cons – including adaptive cruise control. That's been invaluable on my many runs between London and Peterborough. If the seats were a little more comfortable, and the sound system a little more rounded, journeys in the Swift wouldn't be remotely taxing.

Swift sport infotainment

When the nav's no good...
Apple CarPlay is something I always look out for on spec sheets, but it's never been something I've religiously used – until now. I've given the Swift's sat-nav the benefit of the doubt on several occasions, but lo-fi graphics, hard-to-read instructions and counter-intuitive menus mean I keep reaching for that white Apple cable before I start most journeys.

Swift Sport carplay

...bring your own
The sat-nav's failings highlight the rather basic look and feel of Suzuki's user interface. But it also highlights why Apple CarPlay is a great thing for car makers and consumers alike. Apple's tech provides a robust baseline for car manufacturers, so if – like me – the driver can't get on with the in-house software, there's always a reliable alternative.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Suzuki Swift Sport

Price £17,999
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive 
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 1238  
Total 4201
Our mpg 44.9mpg
Official mpg 50.4mpg 
Fuel this month £176.39
Extra costs None


Month 2 living with a Suzuki Swift Sport: driving position and that fizzy engine

Blip the throttle, change down, pause before braking, then turn in and hope for the best. Squeezing all the speed out of the Lemony Swift is a sweet, refreshing experience. I’d enjoy exploring its limits more with a lower driving position. As it is, you sit a Yellow Pages too high and it feels like you’re driving a spritely tennis ball, rather than a  juicy hot hatch.

By Curtis Moldrich

Logbook: Suzuki Swift Sport

Price £17,999
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 1238  
Total 4201
Our mpg 44.9mpg
Official mpg 50.4mpg
Fuel this month £176.39
Extra costs None


Month 1 of our Suzuki Swift Sport long-term test review: the introduction

It was during CAR’s Hot Hatch of the Year test, as featured in our September issue, that I found out what my next long-term test car would be. After hearing my Civic Type R had only gone and won the thing, Ben Pulman put his arm around me and explained what car I’d have for the next six months

I looked greedily around the fine array of hot hatches we’d gathered at Rockingham. Was it the all-new Renault Megane RS, a bold Gallic challenger to my outgoing Honda? Perhaps my next long-term review car would be the highly-acclaimed fizzy Ford Fiesta ST, a hatch I’d enjoyed on the roads around Goodwood just days before. Or what about the delightfully overdone Toyota Yaris GRMN – complete with go-faster stickers? It wasn’t my idea of a daily, but I could very happily live with it.

But no. ‘It’s the custard yellow one – it’s the new Suzuki Swift Sport,’ said Pulman.

It’s only then, after looking past the other hot hatches, that I even noticed the Suzuki, sitting proud on the tarmac like a citrusy iced-gem. Despite the brightness of its paint I’d somehow failed to spot that it was there, amid all these more powerful and more expensive hatches.

I’d loved the sharp, dramatic styling of the deep red Honda, and this, by contrast, looked uncomfortably close to a lemon. Time to recalibrate my expectations and do some homework because, truth be told, I didn’t know much about the new Swift Sport – other than that the car on test had accidentally hit some local wildlife a few hours earlier. I was told that the old Swift Sport was a car you could push hard and really have a blast in, so I decided to take another look at my new car.

Read the Car hot hatch 2018 test

Get past the colour (and some subtler hues are available) and the Swift Sport is actually quite a handsome machine. At the rear, double exhausts hint at some form of power, while the ’80s wants its super-retro ‘Sport’ script back. It’s even more cuddly at the front, with that gaping yellow mouth giving it the look of a shocked Pikachu/Pac-Man.

On the road, the Suzuki is much better than expected. The back roads between Rockingham and CAR HQ are rarely smooth, but the Swift Sport bobbles along them, the ride providing ample feedback without rearranging my internal organs.


Gearchanges are clean and the steering light but direct. But it’s the 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine that leaves the biggest impression. Despite being a forced-induction unit, it’s instantly revvy and effervescent, but urges you to keep it in the 3000rpm-4500rpm window. And when coupled with the slick gearbox, intuitive clutch and predictable engine response, that’s not actually a bad thing; you’re constantly moving through the cogs to squeeze out every bit of its 138bhp. 

The Swift Sport promotes the sort of driving that would see the Type R in a hedge, or in the custody of the police; but in the Suzuki it’s harmless fun. I didn’t drive the last Swift, but the new car appears to feature all the strengths of the old one.

The interior seems a little too basic and plastic for my liking, but there’s some serious promise elsewhere. It’s direct, engaging, and won’t reach silly speeds when you’re just trying to have a little fun. Throw in grown-up toys like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping and Android and iPhone integration and it could be practical, too. That colour will take some getting used to, though.

By Curtis Moldrich

Price £17,999 
As tested £17,999
Engine 1373cc 16v turbo 4-cyl, 138bhp @ 5500rpm 
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance 8.1sec 0-62mph, 130mph 125g/km CO2
Miles this month 663
Total 2963
Our mpg 51.2mpg
Official mpg 50.4mpg
Fuel this month £77.09
Extra costs None

By Curtis Moldrich

CAR's online editor and racing-sim enthusiast

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