With my alarm sounding at 4 am to be in the air toward Gauteng before 6 am I knew that it was going to be a long day ahead but the thought of getting to drive the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport, with Red Star Raceway as the destination, more than made up for the lack of sleep. As a hot-hatch fan and someone who enjoys budget thrills, I was yearning to get behind the wheel.
Let’s start with what makes the new Swift Sport tick, under the bonnet is the Japanese firm’s new 1.4-litre turbocharged Boosterjet engine. It delivers 103 kW at 5 500 rpm and a meaty 230 Nm between 2 500-3 500 rpm a notable 70 Nm hike over the outgoing naturally aspirated 1.6-litre. Some shudder at the idea of downsizing and turbocharging, and this Swift Sport is out to prove that it’s better for it. Tipping the scales at only 970 kg the little hatchback offers a kW/tonne ratio on par with larger-engined more expensive machinery like the Polo GTI and Mini Cooper S. That’s an impressive base to work from as far as hot-hatches are concerned.
Since we’ve got that out way what else is different? Wider and longer than its predecessor launched back in 2011, Suzuki claim enhanced stability at speed (more on its dynamic abilities later). The new Swift Sport, when compared to the regular 1.2-litre, it is longer but only cosmetically thanks to an aggressively styled front end with a honeycomb grille, deeper air dam and an imitation carbon fibre splitter. Headlights are LED units with signature LED daytime running lights adding both presence on the road and better visibility in dark driving conditions.
Diamond-cut 195/50 R16 alloys are found at each corner wrapped in Yokohama Advan A13 rubber. The carbon fibre-look additions continue down the side sills. It’s not all for show as it may seem, Suzuki state that this model has improved the aerodynamic efficiency by 10% over the old model. A rear diffuser with dual exhaust exits and a subtle integrated rear spoiler complete the purposeful stance.
Step inside and you’ll be met by what is undoubtedly a familiar Swift’s cabin with most of the creature comforts you’d expect from a flagship model and some neat “go-faster” bits make the Sport’s interior feel a bit more special. Heavily bolstered bucket seats that hug both hips and thighs dominate the cabin. Red stitching on the seats are complemented by a smattering of red detailing on the gear lever boot, rev counter as well as on the chubby steering wheel which is wrapped in perforated leather no less. It feels really good to hold with well-placed thumb supports. Stainless steel pedals add some spice too and are well-positioned for heal and toe manoeuvres. Varoom! Other fun elements include an LCD trip computer that can display a G-meter, turbo boost gauge, torque and power graph as well as your instant acceleration and braking inputs.
Now time for its performance capabilities. The obligatory 0-100 km/h sprint is over in 8 seconds and it’ll scoot towards a top speed of 205 km/h. At the launch, Suzuki officials mentioned that during testing earlier in the year they recorded a faster than claimed 7.4 seconds 0-100 km time and from behind the wheel it does indeed feel quicker than the claimed figure suggests. On the short circuit of a tight and technical Red Star Raceway, a track that is primarily used to host motorcycle racing the Swift Sport was fun and exuberant while squealing away. The dual exhaust pipes look great but the sound emitted from them lacked some drama when spectating. On the inside, however, it produces a raspy induction noise when the throttle is wide open, nice! It’s light and with oodles of available torque, it wasn’t necessary to go near the redline to ensure a respectable lap time. This is where this Swift Sport departs from the previous model. Rather than ragging it valve-less it to get the most out of it, one rather aims to keep it on boost as after 6 000 rpm it gets stifled when running into the rev limiter.
Agile and chuckable are words worth using though, especially thanks to the uprated suspension, improved rigidity and larger Monroe shocks. The suspension is forgiving and leans confidentiality through faster bends this controlled supple nature over curbs should shine through on a bumpy road, but only time will tell. The steering is, unfortunately, a weak point. It’s precise and weights up at speed but is devoid of feel similar to that on the regular Swift. It’s not enough to seriously detract from an all-round fun little package especially when mated to the short-throw 6-speed manual gearbox.
Suzuki has seen a gap in the local market, where warm hatches and hot hatches intersect. The Swift Sport’s pricing and performance reflect this and occupies a niche where driving enthusiasts can get into the new car market without completely breaking the bank. While in search for something nimble, well-equipped, practical as well as fun and engaging a starting price R315 900 is palatable. It’s fast enough to have fun but not that quick that you’ll easily end up in trouble. With a 3-door Opel Corsa GSI costing R365 900, an option-less Polo GTI costing R368 400 and the new Fiesta ST not making its way to South Africa the Swift Sport is a completing proposition and should find itself a few very happy owners.
In a nutshell:
Suzuki Swift Sport
Honest fun in a practical package for acceptable money
Hard interior plastics and lifeless steering
Engine: 1 998 cc, 4-cylinder turbo petrol
Power: 103 kW @ 5 500 rpm, 230 Nm @ 2 500 – 3 500 rpm
Claimed performance: 0-100 km/h 8.0 sec, top speed 205 km/h
Economy: 6.1 l/100km (claimed)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Price: From R 315 900