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City Slicker - Suzuki Swift Sport Review

Updated: Apr 27


Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Ever more stringent emissions laws mean even the most efficient cars must adapt to survive. But the Swift Sport has always been about simple, honest thrills. Does the fun factor remain with the adoption of hybrid technology? Photography by Andrew Ambrose.


Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Background and History

The warm hatch is a vitally important subcategory of cars. They’ve been around almost as long as hatches with more firepower under the bonnet, professing to have equal sporting intent, but forever living in the shadow of the big guns. Owning one is an important stepping stone for the young car enthusiast who wants to experience engaging motoring without the crippling insurance premium, or a refreshing reset for the experienced driver who’s grown tired of the horsepower war. If a warm hatch fails to inspire, it could be the end of the road in that particular four-wheeled obsession.


Champions of the breed have come and gone, but since the mid-2000s, the one constant has always been Suzuki’s sublime Swift Sport. Yet 2022’s Sport is a rather different animal from the one that first stole our hearts. Stringent emissions laws have meant the sweet and eager 1.6L four has been downsized and turbocharged, supplemented by a 48v hybrid system.


On top of that, EU meddling means the car now comes equipped with all manner of safety systems - blind spot assist, lane change assist and automatic collision avoidance, while the media system occasionally barks hazard warnings at you. It sounds like a recipe for weight gain and the complete antithesis of honest, carefree driving pleasure. Can the Sports cheeky character survive the increasing influence of the bureaucrats? Spending a week with one should either confirm or allay these fears.





​Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Styling and Interior

Straight away the exterior of the Sport strikes the right tone. The five-spoke, 17” alloys look sharp and the subtle body kit, wrapped in matte carbon, adds a touch of aggression alongside the rear spoiler and twin exhausts. It’s a well-proportioned car that just sits a fraction too high, despite a suspension overhaul that drops the ride height by 15mm compared to the cooking Swift. 

I also rather like the interior of the Sport. For sure, it's not going to light the fire of those fixated by soft-touch plastics, but the standard bucket seats are supportive yet comfortable, the steering wheel looks and feels great with dark red highlights and a ‘piano wood’ effect centre console adds a stylish element. I’m also rather pleased to see the touchscreen (including Apple CarPlay) is located within the dashboard rather than mounted upon it.



Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Perhaps that's why I’m also getting too excited about seeing proper, analogue dials. Two main pods (one rev counter, one speedometer) are well executed on a satin grey background with maroon highlights, and inserted within each one is a smaller secondary dial to cover fuel and water temperature. Between the two sits a small digital display giving the impression of a sporting chronograph watch.


The only oddity is the rather optimistic peak readings - the rev counter counts to 8,000 rpm and the speedometer reaches 160 mph, yet it all feels part of the charm. This is an interior that makes a rival Mini feel rather try-hard. It also has to be said that the overall build quality is superb and all the big car toys are present, such as radar cruise control, climate control, automatic headlights, rear parking camera and parking sensors.

There are drawbacks however, and the first major flaw rears its head in the driving position, which is far too high - my eyeline is only a couple of inches below the sloping roofline (despite having ample headroom) and my ankles are pitched at an acute angle to operate the pedals. It brings to mind sitting in a Golf buggy. Another is the decision to insert some of the ‘piano wood’ into the bottom half of the steering wheel. It certainly looks the part, but it also looks rather prone to scratches from a fancy set of nails or a wedding ring.


Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Powertrain and Performance

The good news is restored by the powertrain, for the mild hybrid system only acts like the blank tile in a game of Scrabble, filling in the gap below 2,000 rpm before the turbocharger comes on song. Think of it as electronic anti-lag - our sort of green technology. Otherwise, the duties of the 48v system are to act as a starter motor, take care of electricity generation, and offer a coasting mode during motorway driving, all powered by scavenging energy via regenerative braking. Once you become accustomed to the feeling of strong engine braking when coasting, the integration of the technology is seamless. All in all, the technology saves a potential 129 kg of CO2 in a year compared to the previous Sport.

Being a warm hatch, you’d think this is the sort of vehicle where you’ll pay little attention to the performance figures, but such is the sheer roll-on pull of the thing I simply refuse to believe the quoted 0-60 mph time of 9.1s is anything but insurance sandbagging by Suzuki.


The Sport has an indecent turn of pace in give-and-take driving, acquiring another 20-30 mph faster than the cookie monster empties a jar of his favourite triple choc chips. I would love to see the in-gear figures, for I would certainly be more confident executing an overtake in the punchy Swift than I would in a far more powerful naturally aspirated hot hatch, such as a Renault Clio 200. The performance falls off sharply above 80 mph, but I am not in the least bit surprised to note What Car magazine has recorded a Swift Sport taking seven seconds dead to reach 60 mph. Keep chasing the horizon and the Swift will eventually touch 130 mph.



Suzuki Swift Sport Review

The key to this surprising turn of pace is a featherweight kerb weight of 1,025 kg, motivated by a turbocharged, mild hybrid 1.4 litre, four-cylinder engine. That's a lot of effort to make a humble 129 bhp (delivered at 5,500 rpm), meaning the amusingly titled “Booster Jet” engine develops a mere 92 bhp/litre, all in the name of emissions. But the flip side is an abundance of torque - a strong 173 lb-ft peak is delivered from just 2,000 rpm. Power-to-weight might be the statistic that generates headlines, but in terms of torque-to-weight, the little Swift puts a lot of heroic hot hatches in the shade. With a figure of 169lb.ft/tonne, it actually matches today's default choice, the 200 bhp Fiesta ST. Not bad for a ‘warm’ hatch - no wonder it feels so er, swift.

Of course, this means the performance of the Swift is front-loaded, with the engine giving its best before 5,000 rpm. That doesn’t mean it drives like a turgid turbo diesel - it’ll still respond and spin keenly to 6,000, but there is little reward in terms of thrust so the most enjoyable technique is to short shift at 5,500 rpm and surf the torque once again. The slick and tightly spaced 6sp gearbox also helps you keep things on the boil. One curiosity is the rev counter, which is red-lined at 6,250 rpm, but all the engine will give is 6,000.


Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Handling and Ride

Attack some corners and it soon becomes clear Suzuki has set this car up to be ultra-friendly and accessible, with an overall handling balance of absolute neutrality rather than friskly playfulness. Those 17” alloys are wrapped in modest 195-section rubber, meaning ultimate grip levels aren’t sky high, and combined with the low mass this results in very progressive behaviour.


The steering also toes the composure line, having a reassuring amount of weight to it but little in the way of feedback - such is the Achilles heel of an electric rack - while the gearbox and clutch have a light and slick action. Driven hard enough, the body will start to roll, but it is the tyres, not the chassis, that succumbs to pressure first. At the limit of adhesion, the car leans heavily on the sidewalls, which compress easily and the car ‘folds’ into unpleasant understeer. The trait is reined in quickly and cleanly, but you’ve learned not to venture to that zone again - this is an eight-tenths car that you steer around a corner in one smooth swoop of the wheel, almost guiding it with your fingertips.


Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Driven thus, the Swift is immense fun threading through narrow country lanes or making the most of that clear roundabout, complete with a little protest from the tyres on exit as you ride that mid-range thrust. I would love to review a Swift Sport on a more focused tyre - whilst the standard fit Continental Sport Contact 5 is performance orientated, it has been around for over five years now and the game has moved on.


Certainly, a switch to something sharper such as a Michelin PS4 would eliminate this behaviour. Purposely try and induce some lift-off oversteer and the most the Sport will do is tuck its nose back into line progressively rather than snap into an immediate correction. In this instance, the Sport loosely reminds me of the Fiat Panda 100HP, only one that's been through a medieval stretching rack.


One minor frustration is the initial bite of the brake pedal, which has at least an inch and a half of soft travel before the true bite begins. This is likely a deliberate move to smooth out the effect of the regenerative braking during regular driving, but the consequence is left foot braking becomes nigh-on impossible to judge, and heel and toeing takes some practice. In more expressive cars this might become a problem, but it is of little concern in the neutral Swift.



Suzuki Swift Sport Review


For some keen drivers, a bigger potential pitfall is Suzuki appears to have put all its eggs in the sub-NSL speed limit basket, and the team is divided over this one. The rift is caused by a complete dominance of tyre roar originating from the rear of the car above 70 mph, which is loud enough to suffocate any encouragement given by the engine. The zesty spirit that got you up to this speed in the first place suddenly evaporates. The good news is this means the Swift isn’t a rowdy sod when zipping down the high street, which is refreshing in an era of artificial 'pops and bangz', but it’s a potential deal breaker for those who enjoy sustained performance on the open road.

That tyre noise also becomes a nuisance on a motorway cruise too, meaning you have to dial the volume up more than expected on the media system, whose speakers could do with a bit more clout. Again it's a simple but intrusive fault that could be cured with a change of rubber, because otherwise refinement is superb for a supermini, and while the ride quality is taut, it’s never jarring.


Suzuki Swift Sport Review


Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Running Costs and Conclusion

Across a week of mixed driving that included stop-start commuting, motorway runs and two specific journeys to our favourite North West roads for general road testing tomfoolery, the Swift Sport simply refused to give anything worse than 45 mpg. Remarkable. From a £47 tank of fuel, the Swift covered 325 miles.


Such results trigger the man maths calculator, over my 12,000 yearly average, the Swift would save me £1,428 - or £119 per month in fuel. Now subtract that from the monthly PCP of £235 and the actual cost (to me at least) for a brand new car complete with all the toys and a warranty is £116, and I’ve already spent more than that maintaining the Clio in this calendar year. Bring road tax in as a factor, and the outlay gets closer to £100/month. Compared to the dedication required to commute in my Clio, the Suzuki is like a magic carpet ride.

Previously the Sport has attracted criticism for its list price of £22,580, but currently, Suzuki is offering a £2,000 contribution as a part of the above PCP example, making it great value once more. Overall, the Swift Sport isn’t a car for getting up at 5 am and driving to the Yorkshire Dales brigade, and whilst that remains the primary focus of this magazine, we have to recognise fitness for purpose. This is a warm hatch, one that thrives in the real world with traffic, speed limits, spiralling costs of living and general misery, all while putting a smile on your face - a sparse commodity in this day and age.


It's not perfect with the flawed driving position and soggy tyres, but it receives our full endorsement for its refreshing joy factor and honest motoring. Rather than smothering the driving experience with a dull throttle and 1,001 safety gadgets, the new hybrid technology is keeping the fire alive. For a keen driver, a second-hand Fiesta ST or Hyundai i20N remains the more focused machine, but it’s certainly worth trying a Suzuki Swift Sport before you sign on the dotted line.


 

Suzuki Swift Sport Review - Facts and Figures

​Engine -1,373 cc turbocharged inline-four, mild hybrid, 16v, max 6,000 rpm

Output - 129 bhp @ 5,500 rpm, 173 lb-ft @ 2,000 rpm

Weight DIN - 1,025 kg, bhp/tonne 126, lb-ft/tonne 169

Transmission - 6sp manual, fwd, open differential

Performance - 0.60 mph: 9.1s, top speed: 130 mph

​List price £22,570


 

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