In an era of homogenisation, finding something unique can be a frustrating endeavour. Sadly, uniqueness is becoming underrated and as a consequence, it’s becoming unobtainable for buyers without limitless funds.
Standing their ground is small car specialist Suzuki. The Japanese marque maintains a portfolio that resists conformity which has resulted in the brand trending upwards. This is likely to continue with new versions of the Jimny and Vitara on the way.
New models aside, Suzuki’s fortunes rest heavily on the Swift, it’s the bread and butter model that keeps the operation moving.
Our first encounter with the new Swift came last year in the form of the GLX Turbo which proved to be an excellent small car. That result has set our expectations high for this review of the third-generation Swift Sport.
The sportiest version of the new Swift range doesn’t carry any hurdles to ownership, it can be had for $25,490 plus on roads for a manual. Opting for an automatic transmission adds $2000.
It comes well stocked - LED headlights, daytime running lights, 17-inch polished alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, climate control air conditioning and a 7.0-inch infotainment system with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are all standard inclusions.
According to ANCAP, the Swift Sport is also safe and has been awarded a five-star safety rating. Standard safety kit includes autonomous emergency braking, lane departure warning, weaving alert, adaptive cruise control, high beam assist, rear-view camera and six airbags.
Debate continues over what constitutes a hot hatch, it needs to have x amount of power, it needs to take x number of seconds to hit 100km/h. Some enthusiasts turn to scientific theory and mathematical equation to formulate appropriate criteria. None of that is necessary. To keep it simple, a hot hatch needs to be small, fast and agile.
The Swift isn’t one of these cars that noticeably increases in size with each generation. It’s still a small car. What has evolved is the styling. There’s a decent dose of masculinity which is most prominent at the front. The staggered black honeycomb grille gives the snout some much-needed muscle, as does the carbon-fibre look front bumper highlights, under spoiler, side skirts and rear diffuser.
Speed is a lot like beauty, it’s in the eye of the driver. Suzuki doesn’t publish an official figure for the 0 to 100km/h sprint, however, during testing 7.5 seconds was achievable. That’s not the stuff records are made of, but the Swift Sport is one of those cars that always feels faster than the speedometer reading states.
A turbocharged 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol engine now powers the Sport. It pumps out 103kW of power and 230Nm. In isolation, these digits aren’t worth bragging about, yet they do the job.
The Swift Sport is fast enough to have you weary of potential speed traps. When the right foot is planted, there is a whisker of lag before the catapult sensation arrives.
For this review, Suzuki offered us the choice of transmission, as much as we love the feel of an engaging manual, we opted for the six-speed automatic. While it would be the choice of the purist, stick shifters are in decline. The auto is civilised when the situation requires and can be controlled with paddles when the right road presents itself.
Now to agility, this is something Suzuki engineers take seriously. The chassis has been stiffened up to keep things taut in the corners. The Sport can take on tight turns at speed and remain composed and grippy. There’s a level of athleticism here that resembles Patrick Swayze on the dance floor.
Despite all the extra equipment and chassis work, the Swift Sport is some 80kg lighter than its predecessor. This is a car made to carve up a twisty section of road, it’s an incredibly entertaining way to spend a day.
The work done under the sheet metal has also delivered improvements to the steering, it’s consistent and predictable which builds confidence in novice drivers. All these elements encourage boldness in those behind the wheel.
What hampers the driving experience is a very touchy brake pedal. It requires a very delicate foot, the slightest touch applies a disproportionate amount of braking force. Acclimatising to the pedal will take longer than any test drive.
Over our week, we piloted the Swift Sport over 844 enjoyable kilometres and returned a combined consumption figure of 6.4L/100km. A remarkable figure considering the amount of enthusiastic driving the car was subjected to.
Another reason the Swift Sport is an enjoyable drive is the interior. From every angle, there’s no doubt you’re in a model that wears a Sport badge. The fashionistas will appreciate the comfortable and supportive semi-bucket seats with embossed “Sport” logos.
The car’s sporty character is also reinforced with a D-shaped leather steering wheel, alloy pedals, red highlights across the dash and the red contrast stitching that decorates the cabin. The tasteful splash of colour significantly elevates the cabin atmosphere.
While on the cabin, Suzuki’s latest infotainment system is comprehensive. All the usual suspects – Bluetooth, USB and smartphone mirroring - are all present. The only aspect of the package that needs upgrading is the map graphics on the satellite navigation. To say they look old would be an understatement.
When it comes to ownership, the Swift Sport requires servicing every 6 months/10,000km. In 2018 these intervals are too short. Being a new engine, servicing every 12 months should be the norm. At least the costs are reasonable. Suzuki offers a capped-price service program with maintenance costs over the first five years of ownership averaging out to $217 for each helping of fresh oil.
Despite the majority of mainstream brands moving to a five-year warranty as standard, Suzuki is sticking with three year/100,000km coverage. This is extended to five year/140,000km if servicing is done on time at an authorised dealer.
The Swift Sport has evolved, there’s a newfound level of maturity, yet it continues to be an uncomplicated driver’s car. It’s characterful in a way that will delight traditionalists and awaken the senses of youngsters keen to experience a dynamically proficient hatch without breaking the bank.
Those who love to drive will find much joy with the Swift Sport, it’s everything a hot hatch should be. It’s so much fun to drive, after our test week, we had to seriously ponder why one would spend $50k on a rival.
2018 Suzuki Swift Sport Specifications
Price from $27,490 plus on-road costs (auto) Engine 1.4-litre four-cylinder Boosterjet turbocharged petrol Power 103kW @ 5500rpm Torque 230Nm @ 2500-3000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 6.1L/100km Tank Capacity 37L Length 3890mm Width 1735mm Height 1495mm Wheelbase 2450mm Turning Circle 5.1m Kerb Weight 990kg Service Intervals 6 months/10,000km Warranty three year/100,000km
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