From £17,9996
The Swift Sport loses weight and gains a turbocharger - but is Suzuki's rapid supermini still fun to drive?

Our Verdict

Suzuji Swift Sport Japan-spec review hero front

The sportier Suzuki Swift’s chirpy character is preserved, and with the bonus of more power and more tech. Handling could be more responsive, but it's fun nevertheless

  • First Drive

    Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review

    The Swift Sport loses weight and gains a turbocharger - but is Suzuki's rapid supermini still fun to drive?
17 April 2018

What is it?

Pleasant surprises of an affordable nature are not a common occurrence in this industry, but the Suzuki Swift Sport of 2006 was such a thing. So too was its replacement six years later, and now we have this: a third iteration that seeks to prolong the car’s reputation as a bit of a drivers’ gem.

The basic recipe has, alas, changed a little. The old car’s sharply responsive atmospheric 1.6-litre engine is replaced with a marginally more powerful 1.4-litre that already serves in the high-riding Vitara and S-Cross. Its headline figure of 138bhp is almost incidental in this case, because forced induction has resulted in 170lb ft of torque from 2500rpm. That’s almost half as much again as the previous Swift Sport and has the potential to markedly alter the previous car’s snappy personality.

This new car is, however, lighter than the one it replaces. Built alongside the Ignis and quirky Xbee crossover at the marque’s Sagara plant in Japan, the saving amounts to 70kg – a substantial deficit brought about largely by redesigning certain suspension components, not least the torsion-beam rear axle, and a more bulbous but stiffer new body, which is significantly lighter than before.

It drops the Swift Sport into sub-tonne territory and gives it a 0-62mph time of 8.2sec, which looks favourable next to a combined fuel economy of 50.4mpg. Top speed, meanwhile, is 130mph.

In design terms this car is still recognisably Swift but rather more hulking at the kerbside. The dimensions are largely unchanged – it’s fractionally shorter and lower than a Toyota Yaris GRMN, but wider – yet the chassis sits 50mm closer to the tarmac than before, with carbon-effect bumpers and skirts exaggerating the drop. In comparison to non-Sport Swifts, it’s also 40mm wider.

In profile, it’s a little more svelte than before, and Suzuki claims new intake strakes along with engine and floor undercovers help reduce wind resistance by a tenth. You do, however, still get a pair of cannon-esque exhaust tips and 17in wheels wrapped in 195-section rubber. Overall it’s not the prettiest thing, though you’d never mistake it for anything other than the most potent model in the range.

Standard specification is good, with DAB radio and satellite navigation. There are also LED headlights and tail lights, adaptive cruise control, a reversing camera, keyless entry and a 4.2in display within the main instrument binnacle that can show boost pressure along with horsepower and torque.

What's it like?

Once aboard you’re met with a driving position that’s slightly perched in a manner that seems almost unavoidable for peppy superminis. It’s good for the segment, however. The no-nonsense cloth seats are also firmly bolstered, and cup the base of your rib-cage just so. There’s also adequate adjustability in the steering column and it doesn’t take long to recognise whichever design engineer it was who positioned the pedals clearly understood life’s simple pleasures.

Despite the unremarkable character of the engine – with its curiously tinny off-throttle rattle – out on the road the Swift Sport remains an enjoyably honest thing to drive with commitment. Suzuki has redesigned the rear trailing arms to reduce roll and improve stability but this is still a car that likes to pitch into rather a deep squat given the opportunity.

It feels natural to turn in late and hard before relinquishing either plenty of brake or throttle. You’re then met with impressive front-axle grip, which allows you to carry a higher gear through most corners and let the torque, which has relatively little weight to fight against, sling you out the other side. More so than in a VW Up GTI or the Yaris GRMN, it’s the overt manner in which this car responds to weight transfer that keeps it entertaining, and it feels quite a bit quicker than the numbers suggest.

When it’s not neutered by the brake-based stability control, some vestige of which remains even when the Daimler-sourced ESP is entirely ‘turned off’, the adjustability of this chassis means it’s possible to drive within the speed limit and not get bored, which is all anybody ever wanted from a back-to-basics hot hatch in the first place. That crucial handover from damper compression to rebound also feels unusually well cushioned by the standards of the class, and so there’s control to match the compliance.

There are some caveats, however. Suzuki may have diligently hollowed the steering rack to save weight but it’s a relative weak-spot of this package. Light on feel but artificially heavy, its strong self-centring action quickly becomes wearing and it lacks the directness of what you’ll find in a Mini. Meanwhile, the shift quality of the six-speed manual gearbox is short and tactile but light and not particularly memorable. The engine also feels more of an appliance, which was never the case before.

Importantly, the Sport’s alter-ego as a shopping cart remains intact. It turns tightly and lightly at low speeds, and there’s good visibility through a windscreen that remains fairly upright.

 

Should I buy one?

That depends on your expectations, and your budget. Suzuki has quite audaciously raised the asking price of this car compared to the previous iteration – it’s now nudging £18,000. It means you’re going to pay quite a bit extra for a more rounded and capable, but ultimately less thrilling, machine.

There are also new rivals to consider – the Swift Sport is now almost four grand more expensive than a VW Up GTI. The Japanese car offers greater practicality and has a touch more in its locker to keep keen drivers interested, but is a less desirable package.

Greater still is the threat posed by the inbound Fiesta ST, early impressions of which suggest it could turn out to be another high-water mark for the supermini segment. Given Ford intends to sneak the pricing below £20,000, it would be senseless not to wait to try that car before buying one of these. We shouldn’t forget about the Mini Cooper and Peugeot 208 GTI, either.

In the end, the Swift Sport remains a fine little drivers’ car, but it’s no longer quite the cheerful, overtly effervescent, good value proposition it was.

Suzuki Swift Sport specification

Where Andalusia, Spain Price £17,999; On sale Now; Engine 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 138bhp @ 5500rpm; Torque 170lb ft @ 2500-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 975kg; Top speed 130mph; 0-62mph 8.1sec; Fuel economy 50.4mpg; CO2 125g/km; Rivals VW Up GTI, Mini Cooper One, Ford Fiesta ST

Join the debate

Comments
21

17 April 2018

 Not keen on the front, maybe it’s the color(?) the rear is fine.....

 

Peter Cavellini.

17 April 2018

Prefer the old one's shape and price but it's still a contender. When comparing to the UP remember to add £600 for the 5 door version, plus extra's like Sat Nav etc, oh the UP is smaller too with a less powerful engine.

Having said that you'd still want a discount on that high'ish sticker price

typos1 - Just can’t respect opinion

17 April 2018

Not built in Hungary?

Fairer to compare with VW Polo?

Dainler or ATE/Bosch supplying the ESP?

it's or its?

in tact?

17 April 2018

...since the same car with the same equipment is sold in Italy equally for18,000... but euros. :-) This means that some discounts will be available in the UK.

As actual SSS 1.6 (happy) owner -- 5 doors, bough for 15K euros metallic paint included --, I’m not entirely enthusiastic about this new Swift iteration, mainly being a fan of N/A engines, but also from an aesthetic point of vue being a lil bit... confused -- but maybe a future test drive will convince me I’m wrong. 

Anyway, the 8.2 s time announced for the 0-62 mph sprint seems on the conservative side for its very good, under 7 kg/hp power to weight ratio. Suzuki is known for these shy predictions though (ex: the much heavier Vitara S Allgrip with the same engine has been measured with 8.5-8.7 s, whilst the official data shows +10 s.)

-- Old fart with petrol in veins, so off the e-cars grid literally --

17 April 2018

Three stars seems harsh but Autocar have a downer on this generation of the Swift it seems.

17 April 2018

....and loved it.

 

This seems to have got a bit "Up itself " and tried to jump a couple of price brackets.

 

Shame. Priced right this would be a great package.

 

If I was in the market for a fun small car the UP! GTi would now be the top of my list.

Steam cars are due a revival.

17 April 2018

Don't understand either why all the Australian motoring mags give a 7.2 s number for the 0-100 km/h sprint (way shorter gear ratios for their market maybe?)

...Let alone the fact that Aussies use only the kW units for power measuring -- and litres/100 km for gas consumption (btw,, the 6.1 litres/100 km and 142 g CO2 communicated at the Antipods for the 103 kW SSS 1.4 Boosterjet seem to be measured using the new WLTP cycle?!)

Conclusion: a lot of confusion. :-) For now, at least.

-- Old fart with petrol in veins, so off the e-cars grid literally --

17 April 2018

I agree with BeamMeUpScotty, the aesthetics have taken a tumble with the new model. It is too fussy and unbalanced. My main issues are with the C pillars and the headlights. Add in the review of the dampened fun-factor, and I won't be swap my SSS 1.6 for one.

17 April 2018

Very harsh Autocar only giving the Swift Sport three stars,it's certainly worth more than that,surprised that it's being built in Japan rather than Hungary. It looks a pretty appealing package to me excellent performance and very well equipped for the price, you wouldn't get much of a Mini Cooper for that sort of price would you

17 April 2018

only get 3 stars, its not German or British, the Swift Sports have always been fun to drive, well built and reliable, its just a pity that given its lack of weight its not quicker to 60, 8.2seconds is not exactly Swift. 

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