What is it?
Suzuki’s ongoing electrification efforts mean that every car it sells now offers some form of hybrid assistance. The Swift Sport is the latest to join that list, turning what was once one of the last naturally aspirated hot hatches into something of a pioneer for the class.
It gains a 48V electric starter/generator and battery, instead of the 12V system seen in Suzuki’s other models, which promises to cut emissions and boost fuel economy while also filling in the 1.4-litre turbo four-pot’s torque gaps below 2000rpm.
Going hybrid has seen a not insignificant drop in power, from 138bhp in the outgoing car to 129bhp here. Top speed stays the same, but this new car takes a full second longer in the 0-62mph sprint. And while the Swift Sport remains light, the added electronics means it can no longer claim to weigh less than a tonne.
The biggest change is the price, which now sits north of £21,000. What was once one of the most affordable hot superminis is now so close to an entry-level Ford Fiesta ST that it would barely make a difference to your monthly payment. A Volkswagen Up GTI is some £6000 less.
What's it like?
Mild-hybrid power hasn’t had a transformative effect, with the electric motor never directly driving the wheels, but the torque assistance lower in the rev range helps acceleration feel a little more progressive than before. It may not be quite as urgent off the line as the outgoing car, but in-gear pace remains very good.
Less in keeping with the junior hot hatch brief is the way it recuperates energy, the regenerative braking system aggressively stripping off speed whenever you lift off the throttle. For a car that’s largely about maintaining momentum, it’s just a little too intrusive and there’s no option to dial it back.
The six-speed gearbox has fairly short ratios and the Swift will cruise along at 30mph fairly happily in sixth. The gearshift action isn’t all that satisfying, although the well-positioned pedal box does at least make heel-and-toe changes easier to pull off.
As before, the Swift Sport’s firmly sprung suspension and chassis set-up allow for high approach speeds and late turn-in through corners, making it an entertaining drive - even if the artificially heavy steering rack doesn’t provide much in the way of steering feel. It also means the ride jostles over even fairly smooth roads in a way that can get tiresome over longer journeys.