What is it?
The third-generation Suzuki Swift Sport is the warm hatch version of the brand’s big-selling supermini.
Turbocharged engine, stronger visual presence, long standard equipment list.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is not as powerful as its perceived rivals but makes up for this with its fun-to-drive factor in a package that is not too extreme for everyday use.
The £18K price tag sounds a lot at first glance but becomes much more competitive when the extensive standard equipment list – including safety technology – is taken into account.
The Suzuki Swift is an important car for the Japanese brand – one of the three major sellers (alongside the Ignis small SUV and the larger Vitara SUV) that contributed to Suzuki GB’s record 40,000 new car sales figure in 2017.
And the Swift Sport is an important member of the Swift line-up. This is the performance version of the supermini, and the nearest thing Suzuki has to a ‘halo car’ – creating an image for the brand. More Swift Sports are sold in the UK than anywhere else in Europe.
So with the third-generation Swift launching to pretty positive reviews in 2017, a Sport model was always going to happen, and now it has arrived.
In reality, this is a ‘warm’, rather than ‘hot’, hatch. The power has been upgraded but not by much, as we will see shortly, and while turbocharging of the unit makes it a lot more flexible, other GTI models offer more potent performance, though for rather more cash.
Suzuki, however, claims its Sport should be considered directly alongside rivals such as the Peugeot 208 GTi and even the Vauxhall Corsa VXR, because that’s exactly what buyers are comparing it to. According to its makers, the fun-to-drive factor of the Sport makes it as attractive as those more hardcore cars.
Visually, the Sport ticks the right boxes. One criticism that was laid at the previous model was that it looked too much like the stock Swift, and this has now been addressed.
The new Sport gets a bespoke nose, with a set-back grille framed by standard-fit LED headlamps and a carbon effect splitter beneath. The carbon is repeated on the side skirts and the rear diffuser, which boasts twin exhaust pipes. There’s a rear spoiler, and polished alloy rims that shout ‘sports car’.
As a finishing touch, the six exterior colour schemes available for the Sport include the bright yellow worn by Suzuki’s Junior rally cars. All the other five colours are metallic, which comes at no extra cost. A range of personalisation options, including racy stripes, is currently being finalised.
Buying and owning the Suuki Swift Sport
It is easy to choose a Suzuki Swift Sport, because there is only one model and not even a range of options to add to the £17,999 price – the Swift’s extensive equipment list all comes as standard.
The basis is the latest Swift five-door – unlike the previous Sport there is no three-door option. This latest architecture makes a big difference because the body shell is both significantly stiffer and extensively reduced in poundage. The Swift Sport tips the scales at a mere 975kg.
Propulsion comes courtesy of a 1.4-litre petrol engine, replacing the previous 1.6-litre unit. The 140hp it offers is an increase of just five horses, but… This is one of Suzuki’s latest Boosterjet units, it boasts a turbocharger, and the torque increase is some 70Nm.
All of this pulling power is on offer from a mere 2,500rpm – a couple of grand less than the outgoing car. Combined with a slick six-speed manual gearbox, and the weight saved, and the result is a very flexible, sporty little supermini.
The extra performance comes with improved economy and emissions – 50.4mpg and 125g/km on the traditional laboratory test. The Sport is also one of the first cars to offer figures under the new more ‘real-world’ testing procedure, in which it returns 47.1mpg and 135g/km.
The Swift attracted some less positive headlines in 2017 when the entry-level version scored a paltry three stars in crash tests by Euro NCAP. A safety pack with autonomous emergency braking was an option and so not included in the test – when Euro NCAP crashed the higher-spec SZ5 variant with the pack as standard equipment, it scored four stars.
The Sport comes with the latest iteration of the pack, known as Total Effective Control Technology, as standard. It includes a camera and laser-guided forwarded detection system with the Dual Sensor Brake Support autonomous emergency braking. Also included is adaptive cruise control, auto high beam headlamps, lane departure warning and even a lane keeper assist making corrections to the steering wheel.
Inside the Suzuki Swift Sport
Step inside the Swift Sport and again there is a degree of bespoke treatment. Detailing in red – the recognised ‘sporty’ colour – features prominently. There are embossed Sport logos on the seats, which are semi-bucket in design higher sides to offer more support when cornering at speed. And there is a bespoke leather-rimmed steering wheel.
Equally impressive, however, is the general quality of the surroundings. Fit and finish is very good indeed – the red-themed trim panels smoothly incorporated, the plastics of a soft-touch, high-rent feel.
The driver’s environment is sensibly laid out and continues the quality. A seven-inch infotainment screen is prominently visible and very easy to use. This reviewer came to the Sport from two weeks driving the latest family cars from big hitters Honda and Vauxhall, and both offered satnav graphics that felt five years behind the Suzuki’s.
The satnav appears to have been improved, with none of the lag we experienced when testing the first of this generation Swift in 2017, and in the Sport it also comes as standard. As does smartphone compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto or MirrorLink, rear electric windows, a parking camera, fog lamps…
Suzuki has faced criticism for the Swift’s £17,999 price tag, but argues that for the same money from rivals one can only buy a mainstream, less powerful supermini with a lot of the equipment not included.
Finally, adding Sport does not compromise the room on offer. The fractionally-longer wheelbase compared to the second-generation model means more interior space and a boot enlarged by 54 litres to 265 litres.
Driving the Suzuki Swift Sport
No matter how bold the visuals are, or how much equipment one gets, call a car a Sport and it needs to perform. After a launch test route that included a dash across an impressive southern Ireland mountain route and several laps of the Mondello Park race circuit, we can confirm it does indeed perform, but in a particular fashion.
It is not an out-and-out hardcore hot hatch as is a Renaultsport Clio or a Vauxhall Corsa VXR. But it doesn’t really need to be. Such cars come with compromises – the potency combined with rock-hard suspension and a struggle to justify everyday use.
The Swift Sport could easily be that everyday car. In fact it lives up to its name, because it feels swift, without being too extreme. The turbocharged engine picks up cleanly and smoothly, and slick shifts help to ensure the car is as at home cruising a motorway as tackling a challenging series of B-road bends.
In corners the Swift is particularly impressive, but then it should be. The car’s popularity amongst UK buyers saw two weeks of the three-year development cycle spent pounding British roads, the engineers whittling down more than 100 spring and damper combinations. The one they eventually chose works very well, offering precise turn-in and excellent control of body roll, without swerving to too hard a ride for everyday road conditions.
Overall this is a car that is easier to drive than its predecessor because the wide spread of plentiful torque means one doesn’t have to work hard to get the best out of it. As a result, it’s probably not quite as enthusiastically grin-inducing as the old car – it produces a more grown-up performance, but one that is still highly satisfying.
In terms of rivals, the Swift Sport is difficult to pigeonhole. It is pitched against hot hatches such as the Peugeot 208 GTi and Renault Clio RS that are faster but more hardcore and significantly more expensive. The Volkswagen up! GTI is cheaper, but also smaller.
So the Swift Sport’s direct rivals are not really that direct, but it doesn’t really matter. On offer here is a complete package that offers all the performance one needs, without the compromises, and comes with both a quality build and a long equipment list. Once one does the math, that initially eyebrow-raising price £18K tag is actually quite good value.
Value, and the fun factor, are what Suzuki believes will continue to drive buyers to its car, whether they are looking for a warm or a hot hatch, and the number crunchers could well be right. This is a car that looks enticing, but needs to be driven to be really appreciated.
|Make & model||Suzuki Swift Sport||Peugeot 208 GTi||Volkswagen up! GTI|
|Engine||1.4-litre petrol||1.6-litre petrol||1.0-litre petrol|
|Power||140 hp||208 hp||115 hp|
|Torque||230 Nm||300 Nm||200 Nm|
|0-62mph||8.1 sec||6.5 sec||8.8 sec|
|Top speed||130 mph||143 mph||122 mph|
|Fuel economy (combined)||50.4 mpg (NEDC)|
|52.3 mpg (NEDC)||58.9 mpg (NEDC)|
|CO2 emissions (NEDC/WLTP)||125/135 g/km||125 g/km (NEDC)||110 g/km (NEDC)|
|Euro NCAP rating||4 stars (2017)||5 stars (2012)||5 stars (2011)|