From £11,4848
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

Our Verdict

Suzuki Swift

Suzuki’s best-selling supermini returns in a new guise and with mild hybrid tech

Richard Bremner Autocar
26 October 2017

What is it?

Arrayed between the new Suzuki Swift Sport’s red-edged circular dashboard dials is a message centre dedicated to providing you with graphically rendered displays, in colour, of your Suzuki’s activities when on the go.

It will reveal fuel consumption, average speed over five minute increments and, in total, your lateral acceleration, the turbocharger’s boosting efforts and the forces of acceleration and braking. Instant information like this used to be the preserve of Nissan Skylines and the hotter Subarus, but now you can have it in this small hot hatch.

There’s also a display measuring the passage of time – that’ll be the clock - and a pair of circular bar graphs revealing the quantities of power and torque you might recklessly be deploying at any particular instant. Given that both are uncalibrated, they’re largely pointless, especially as you don’t need any instruments to gauge the strength of effort you’re summoning from its 1.4 turbo motor.

As you may have guessed by now, this is our first taste of what the new Swift Sport will be like when it arrives on our shores in spring 2018. Most notably, this new Swift Sport has a downsized engine compared with the spritely outgoing version, with that car's naturally aspirated 1.6-litre unit replaced with the turbocharged 1.4 Boosterjet engine used in the Vitara S. The differences on paper may only be a 4bhp power increase but it's on the torque front where the Swift Sport benefits from a peak torque of 162lb ft over the previous gen's puny 110lb ft.

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's it like?

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.

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.

Most keen drivers would happily trade the Suzuki’s lane-keeping twitches for a bit more on the edge adjustability, although this protective electronic tic is probably too deeply embedded to delete. You can at least turn the lane-keeping off, as you can the traction control, but the Swift Sport simply isn’t up for tightening its line on a trailing throttle.

Despite the paring of 80kg, there’s a 52lb ft torque boost, with the Vitara’s direct injection 1.4 turbo Boosterjet allowing you to fully access peak twist from 2500rpm through to 3500rpm. There are six ratios with which to achieve that access, with the gearlever slotting home with a slightly rubbery resistance that’s slightly at odds with the crisp immediacy of the rest of its controls. Reverse is also surprisingly awkward to get to. Apart from this mild balletic shortfall, the Swift Sport seems to be a well-rounded package for an enthusiast after something compactly practical and affordable, with the added boon of having the peak twist available from 2500rpm. 

There’s refinement besides the verve, with the engine quietening at a cruise and the ride absorbent enough not to be incessantly reminding you that you’re having fun of a sporting kind. The seats are supportively enveloping too. Soft furnishings are limited to seats, carpets and headlining, but the hard-feel dashboard is lifted by those flashes of colour and the cheeriness of the Swift’s instruments and infotainment display. You also get a stylish leather-bound steering wheel and alloy pedals.

Equipment is surprisingly comprehensive, what with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, climate control and the camera and radar systems required to provide the assorted driver assistance. Radar provision also means that adaptive cruise control is standard, while you also get a reversing camera.

Should I buy one?

The result is a small, 'dashabout' car that’s also well-equipped for long distance and ought to be easy to live with, too. In terms of equipment and sophistication, the Swift Sport has matured substantially. The good news is that it has actually lost weight despite all these additions. If it could be made to play with throttle, it would make an excellent, old-school hot hatch with 21st century electronics.

Suzuki Swift Sport

Where Tokyo, Japan; On sale April 2018; Price £14,500 approx; Engine 4 cyls, 1371cc, turbocharged petrol; Power 138bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 2500-3500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerbweight 970kg; Top speed na; 0-62mph na; Fuel economy na; CO2 rating na; Rivals Ford Fiesta 1.0T 140 ST-Line

Join the debate

Comments
17

26 October 2017

Making the choice very easy, a nobrainer really - Suzuki.

26 October 2017

In the eighth paragraph it is mentioned that the Suzuki has an "autonomous emergency barking system."  Is this a new-fangled car alarm or something used to clear squirrels and cats from the roadway as one approaches them?

26 October 2017

yes it's smaller than the Fiesta ST-Line 5-door 1.0T that Autocar lists as a rival but that's a whopping £17,600 and is only a 1.0 3 cylinder jobbie with just 138lb of Torque (might even be the 3 dr model).

What does Suzki have to do to get more stars than the competition, give  them away??

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

26 October 2017

I think it's to wake you up if you doze (or even dose, presumably on sleeping tablets) off...

It's a pity that "electronic correction intervention" doesn't stretch to basic spellchecking or proofreading...

26 October 2017

I own the outgoing model, which is a great car. The review shows some interesting improvements, some less so, but the new model doesn't look anywhere near as good. It is interesting the review shows it in yellow. The only bright colour the old model ever came in was red (which I have and love the shade), but Suzuki dropped that some time ago.

26 October 2017

That there's no 3-door version will rule it out for me.

26 October 2017
Wow, What a great Car, I think it worth the price

26 October 2017
Little hatches aren't really my cup of tea but this one is actually pretty cool. Shouldn't be too hard to turn the boost right up.

27 October 2017

This sounds a cracking little car, but does it really weigh 970kg kerb weight, nearly 200kg less than an equivalent Fiesta one cylinder short of a proper engine? Or does the 970kg refer to the base weight of the Swift range, "from £11484 list price"?

It would be good to see the actual measured kerb weigh of some of these models published just to see if manufacturers like Suzuki and Mazda really are being as clever as they seem, or just taking advantages of different measurement methods.

28 October 2017

I understand that the lightest model of current Swift weigh's mere 890kr. - cheapest 1,2l normally aspirated 90bhp. The current Swift has lost 120 kg. in comparison with previous gen. Swift. -  "...an overall 120kg reduction in kerbweight of between 890-980kg." - The lardyest Swift is the 4x4 still short of the ton, just.

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