Suzuki has yet to publish performance or fuel consumption figures for the European specification Swift Sport, partly because the car is fractionally wider. The Swift is based on a relatively new platform shared with the Baleno and, as well as its lower weight, the body is also stiffer than previously, partly as a result of extra welds that are claimed to improve the consistency and response of the steering. There are improvements to the rest of the chassis, too.
It’s not hard to distinguish the Sport version from the rest of the range. Attractive two-tone 17in alloys fill the wheel housings, there’s a slightly more protuberant nose, what Suzuki calls under-spoilers all round, a roof spoiler and a pair of wide-spaced exhaust tips. The black sections of the bumpers are finished in faux carbonfibre, to lightly convincing effect, and the car has been lowered by 15mm and the body widened by 40mm. The interior leaves you in little doubt that you’re sitting aboard a speedier Swift. Red hot decor is there to raise the pulse – these glossy, strobe-like inserts spanning the dashboard, armrests and the centre console – and the black bucket seats are edged with red stitching.
What has Suzuki changed for the 2018 Swift Sport?
These days, a power output of 138bhp isn’t huge even for a supermini, but they are lightly burdened horses, the Sport weighing just 970kg, some 80kg less than for the previous, less well-equipped model. The result of which is that, even on a modest throttle opening in the lower trio of gears, the Swift Sport surges forward with the kind of joyful, uncomplicated zeal that reminds you of pre-injection hot hatches if you’re old enough or, more recently, previous iterations of the cheerfully brisk Swift Sport.
That this is a car of pleasingly rude verve is quite a surprise when you unearth some aspects of its specification. This latest version is equipped with autonomous emergency barking, lane correction, a drowsiness monitor (you’ll be very sleepy if you dose off aboard this entertainer), radar cruise control and advanced forward pedestrian detection. These electronic corrective interventionists have the power to drain the pleasure from a spirited drive – the lane-keeping assistance doing just that on a rare stretch of twisty, empty road in the Tokyo dock area, with an unexpected lightening of steering effort and mild directional chivvying slightly spoiling the moment.
At speeds below 40mph, your slack attempts to steer are chided with a vibrating wheel rim; above that speed and up to 100mph, the Swift Sport’s steering will automatically nudge you back into line. Good news, then, that this feature can be turned off, because it would otherwise undermine the Suzuki’s pleasingly uncomplicated character. It would also mean that the reasonably extensive efforts directed at sharpening its athleticism would go wasted.
Putting the Suzuki Swift Sport's power down
The Swift Sport steering is fairly direct and consistently weighted, matched to a confidence-boosting driving position and cornering that’s pretty flat at low to middling speeds. It’s wieldy, dartingly fast and has manners that encourage you to ask more of it. For the most part, it won’t be found wanting, either. Roll does build in tight turns tackled hard, but grip is good enough to ward off run-wide understeer at bold speeds in the dry, and suddenly shutting the throttle mid-bend completely fails to unsettle it. There is, however, a disappointing side to this unruffled dynamic character.
The Swift Sport is just the kind of compact, rat-fast package that ought to dance to your right foot’s tune, but short of slamming it into direction adjusting obstacles, or letting the lane-keeping assist keep assisting you into lane, the only means of changing the Swift’s direction is via the steering wheel. How very conventional. Given that Suzuki is still tweaking the car for a European launch several months away, it would be great to think that there might be time for some light reflex-sharpening tweakery.