► New Swift Sport tested
► 1.4-litre turbo, 138bhp, 970kg
► All yours for £17,999
Suzuki’s hot hatch – the Swift Sport – has returned, ready to take on a whole new environment of pocket rockets for the ever-expanding hot hatch range. It’s priced from £17,999 and available to order in June 2018.
While the ultimate hatches come in the shape of the Focus RS, Audi RS3 and BMW M140i and the lower end of the market is shored up by the brilliant Volkswagen Up GTI, the Swift Sport has always populated an almost niche-like middle-ground that makes it hard to nail down when compared to rivals.
That didn’t stop us loving its predecessor, though, did it? We ran one as a long-termer and pretty much adored it. Can the new one keep that excitement going?
Check out what we thought after our first drive below.
It’s an angry looking thing, isn’t it?
Absolutely, especially in the Sport’s exclusive ‘Champion Yellow’ paintwork. The look all-round is aggressive, with a meshed grille and chunkier front bumper, attractive 17-inch honeycomb-like alloys and a twin sports exhaust system bulging out of the rear bumper.
Inside, there are flashes of red on the dashboard, instrument binnacle and door inlays and thickly-bolstered sports seats bespoke to the hot model. Standard kit is generous, and features tech like adaptive cruise, lane departure warning with active lane steering assist, infotainment navigation with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto – just like our Swift SZ5 long-termer.
Give me some Swift Sport performance specs
It’s the first time the Swift Sport has gone turbo, with the previous two iterations using free-breathing engines instead. Suzuki’s hot ‘mini uses a 1.4-litre ‘Boosterjet’ turbo four-pot that pumps out 138bhp, good here for a 0-62mph launch in 8.1 seconds and running out of ideas at 130mph. If the engine sounds familiar to Suzuki fans, it’s already in service in the loveable Vitara S and chunky S-Cross crossovers.
Other performance upgrades include the aforementioned sports exhaust system, an enhanced six-speed manual gearbox, a stiffer sports suspension system with Monroe shock absorbers front and rear and ventilated 285mm front brake discs.
The crucial thing about the Swift Sport, though, is weight. Tipping the scales at just 975kg, it’s lighter than the pint-sized VW Up GTI, as well as being more powerful. The Swift has always been a flyweight contender in the supermini class, but the fact that this punchy Sport model weighs less than some city cars is quite an achievement given its Fiesta/Corsa/Clio-rivalling dimensions.
Let’s get down to the business of how it drives…
Yes, of course – enough pre-amble. On paper, all of these bits of data sound great, don’t they? Some of it works in practice, too.
Back when the new Swift Sport was first revealed to the public at the 2017 Frankfurt motor show, the head honchos of Suzuki spoke much of the much-increased availability of torque on offer and they’re not wrong. The Boosterjet engine is flexible, allowing you to accelerate with a smooth surge at the lower end of the rev range – even in higher gears. There’s a fruity growl from inside between 2500-4000rpm but the sports exhaust does little to enhance the aural experience from the outside.
It’s much more powerful than the preceding Swift Sport but the addition of a turbocharger makes you feel like revving it out – something hailed as one of the most exciting things to do when thrashing a Swift Sport – doesn’t quite make for a thrilling experience. When you push it to its rev limiter at around 6000rpm, the whole car feels like it’s crashing into a memory foam mattress and the top end sounds strained. Make the most of that 3000rpm-ish torque band in third gear and you’re on to much more of a winning formula. Cracking on with making the most of the mid-range and you’re all set here.
Grab the perforated leather on the sports steering wheel, rest your palm on the bespoke Sport gearlever and get comfy in the properly supportive sports seats and you already conjure up images of a proper sports car with proper heritage. Gun the Swift Sport into a corner and while grip is plentiful and body roll thankfully minimal.
However, the steering just lacks that final couple of tenths of feedback – not exactly what you want when you’re mid-corner on a really exciting B-road. The rack has the same amount of communication and behaviour as our Swift long-termer, only with additional weighting.
The suspension system is one of the real heroes here, mind; not only does it negate any significant body roll but even on rutted and uneven surfaces it softens most of them to the point of irrelevancy when you’re on the move. The configuration actually adds an extra dose of refinement to the Swift equation; want the smoothest and comfiest Swift hatch? Get the Sport.
Brakes are strong, with the ventilated sports discs coming in handy when properly stamping on the pedal.
Anything else I should know?
The infotainment system is easy to use but the graphics feel a little low rent, but you can of course circumnavigate that by mirroring your phone through Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink. Material quality, meanwhile, feels a little on the cheap side, with even our test car suffering from an intermittent buzz on the passenger side door inlay during periods of acceleration. The weeny 37-litre fuel tank also meant that we burned through a lot of dead dinosaurs much faster than the economy claims might suggest given our rather spirited driving style during the launch.
Rear legroom is fine but less so if you’re unfortunate enough to sit behind a lanky driver and the way the front sports seats are designed blocks your view ahead. The boot space trails behind some rivals – rated at just 265 litres – and the rear seats don’t fold flat. If you’re interested, that volume makes it only 14 litres more capacious than a Volkswagen Up.
There’s also the price point; an entry price of £18k may seem like a bargain but it feels like a less entertaining prospect than an Up GTI and pushes the Swift Sport towards the much punchier, much more precise new Ford Fiesta ST. That’s a dangerous game for Suzuki to be playing among hot hatch fans, regardless of the ‘zero deposit and around £249pm’ financing deal detailed by Suzuki UK’s product department.
There’s so much good to be had out of driving and even owning a Swift Sport. It feels pretty quick, with a much more flexible engine than before, and the well-damped suspension will really appeal to those looking for something sporty without having to suffer from a crashy ride and an irritating-to-live-with experience.
But it’s not quite the bargain it used to be. You could have forgiven the tatty interior at around £15k but when it nudges new Ford Fiesta ST money the recipe feels like its missing a key ingredient.
It’s softer-edged than most hot hatchbacks, which plenty of buyers will be happy about, but we just feel like it needs that spark of extra zest to make a good hot hatch a great one.