Earlier this week I was lucky enough to be invited to the UK launch of the brand new Suzuki Swift Sport. It took place in Ireland, which, if you’re any decent with geography, isn’t in the U.K. Let’s gloss over that though. One thing that’s more difficult to gloss over, is the price. You see, the new car demands a price of almost £18,000, meaning it no longer offers the cheap thrills of its predecessor, which went on to become a cult classic. The question is then, does this new model deserve its lofty price tag.
It was a few moments after I landed at Dublin airport that I got to see the Swift Sport in the metal for the very first time. I had enjoyed the press pictures, so I was eager to see what it would look like up close. Thankfully, it didn’t disappoint, even in the Champion Yellow that my good friend and YouTuber, Chris (Pocket Rockets), had selected for our drive in to the Irish countryside. I’m not a fan of yellow, but I can appreciate Suzuki’s choice of this shade.
It’s to hark back to the Swift rally car of the early noughties, a car which – insert facts here-. There is a charge for this nostalgic colour, but like the previous Swift Sport, all the other colours – which are metallic – are free of charge. I’d personally go for the Speedy Blue as it looks fantastic when the light hits it.
Step inside and you’ll notice a flat bottomed steering wheel finished with perforated leather and the obligatory red stitching. I’ll be honest, it doesn’t feel as nice to hold as the wheel you’ll find in a Ford Fiesta ST-Line, but it’s still satisfying to hold. There are also red inlays to help give the inside a bit of extra sportiness, but these can be personalised if desired. That leaves the sports seats, which offer a good level of comfort and decent support, although I found my shoulders needed a bit more support whilst I was a passenger on circuit.
So it’s more expensive, surely it’s more powerful?
It is, but in regard to bhp, there is an increase of just 4 – 134bhp to 138bhp. Before you sigh in disappointment, let me tell you about the torque, which is where things get tasty. The outgoing model used a naturally aspirated 1.6 litre petrol which offered 160Nm of torque, whereas the 1.4 litre turbo lifted from the Vitara S pumps out a muscular 230Nm. In case you’re not a mathematical whizz, that’s an increase of 44%. Yes, big gains indeed.
This power is mated to the front wheels via a 6-speed manual gearbox, which offers a 10% shorter throw according to Suzuki. 0-62mph is dealt with in 8.1 seconds, and it will continue to a top speed of 130mph. Compare that to the previous model and the difference isn’t groundbreaking, but what I will say, is that you can really feel that extra torque, especially when you’re overtaking on the motorway.
If you’re bothered about such things, it’s also greener as it emits 125g/km – 22 less than the last model. On a combined run you’ll be able to get up to 50.4mpg, which is better than the figure of 44mpg than the last model. So although it may be more expensive to buy, it’ll be cheaper to run.
Does it still handle well?
Although the new Swift Sport is a bit faster and more flexible in how it delivers its power, it’s a car that’s never been about out-and-out speed. Like the Mazda MX-5, it’s been more about the chassis, handling, and balance. With that in mind, does the new Swift Sport still deliver in the corners? The answer, is a big fat yes, although I suppose that should come as little surprise as the standard Swift is more than competent in the corners.
The steering is heavier than that of the standard Swift, providing a satisfying weight whilst also offering a direct turn-in. The front end is keen to follow your steering input and the ContiSportContact 5 tyres offer high levels of grip. In short, it’s even better in the corners than the last model, but I suppose that should come as little surprise as the new version is lighter but also more rigid.
Despite the extra firmness, the car is still compliant and the ride is decent. Sure, there’s audible tyre noise from the the bigger alloys, but the wind noise is will controlled and the new model definitely feels more refined. Driving it on the motorway was a breeze and you get a sense you could drive this a long distance with little complaint.
Time to hit the track
Although the Irish backroads were enough to help the Swift Sport shine – mind you, the colour had already done that – Suzuki was able to put on a track session at Mondello Park. The weather looked moody, a long way away from the glorious spring sunshine offered from the previous day. Pocket Rockets and I headed out on sighting laps with an instructor at the front of a convoy made up of more Champion Yellow models as well as Super Black Pearl variants, making the scene look like a mobile hazard tape.
As a passenger I would have wanted a bit more bolster support as I was being thrown around a little bit, and I had to make sure I didn’t lean too far to the right in case I collided with Chris. When I wasn’t bracing myself, I was able to feel the grip of the car, as well as detecting the lack of body roll that the Sport had to offer. This is where the 15% camber rigidity has paid dividends.
How does it feel from the driver’s seat though? With driving gloves on and the traction control off, it was time for my turn in the hot seat. At this the rain had started to fall, but the track was still dry enough to get a good idea of grip. From the first few corners, I could tell this was going to be a positive experience. Because of the light weight, it’s wonderfully agile in the corners and it’ll dart in to corners, with that increase in torque able to pull you out cleanly.
I’ve just realised that I’ve not even mentioned it up until this point, but the brakes are brilliant. Chris and I agreed that they were definitely one of the highlights of the car. We didn’t notice any real fade either whilst we were on track, but once again, that’s where the decrease in weight really helps.
Are there any downsides?
The Swift Sport is a wonderful car, but I’m afraid it’s not perfect. Although the gear shift has a 10% shorter throw, I found it lacking a slickness on track and it took me a while to gel with it on the road too. I found the pedal placement wasn’t set up in order for me to heel and toe as there is a sizeable gap between the brake and the throttle, plus they are different heights. The engine/exhaust note isn’t the best either, which could be a disappointment to some owners.
What about that price though?
Yes, £18,000 does seem steep for this car, especially when the cabin features its fair share of hard plastics and it won’t be as attractive to look at compared to rivals. It’s also a noticeable step up in price compared to the last model, so it no longer offers the cheap thrills it used to. However, it comes with a raft of equipment, which its rivals simply cannot match. Just to name a few features, the new Swift Sport is able to offer a colour touchscreen with navigation, DAB radio, smartphone connectivity and Bluetooth.
Naturally, you get an aggressive bodykit, which sits on 17″ alloy wheels, and you get the front sports seats as well. Despite it’s sportiness, the Swift Sport scores well in the safety department as it features adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, high beam assist, lane departure warning and weaving alert function – all as standard. To put that in to perspective, the equivalent SEAT Ibiza FR will cost you almost £2,000 more, and the same goes for the Ford Fiesta.
Yes, the Swift Sport is more money than it used to be. Are you getting more car? Yes, you definitely are. The new model offers more space, more power, more strength, less weight and more kit. Yes, it’s not perfect and I believe the price will put some buyers off. However, there will some decent finance deals, especially if you currently own the second generation Swift Sport.
Is the Swift Sport a better car than it’s predecessor? Yes. I feel it lacks a bit of the previous car’s character, which is probably mostly down to the new engine, what this model offers, is a more grown up, refined approach – much like the standard car.The Swift Sport is still a cracking car to drive, both on road and track, so I simply cannot wait to spend more time with this little pocket rocket, which will hopefully come later in the summer.