The Suzuki Swift Sport, sublime and simple

In Car Reviews, Suzuki by Kieran Bicknell

It’s hard to translate into words the sheer childlike enjoyment that I’ve experienced during my time with the Suzuki Swift Sport. I’ll admit, I had been rather excited for the delivery day since it was confirmed as I’d heard so many good things about both generations of the Swift; And boy, oh boy, did it deliver on my expectations.

On the outside, the Swift looks purposeful, yet one could say it even looks almost pretty; Either way, there is no denying that this is a very good-looking car indeed. The Sport model benefits from a subtle body-kit and more aggressive styling cues compared to the non-sport models, which increases it’s road presence dramatically. The sculpted lines around the front of the car accentuate the larger grille, while the front fog lights add a sense of width to the front end. The LED headlights with built-in DRLs add a touch of anger to the ‘face’ of the car with their swept-back, angular nature, leading the eye up towards the well-proportioned cabin. The twin exhaust pipes built into the rear valance are the biggest giveaway to the casual observer that this is more than your average city runabout, along with the ever-popular choice of a central, low- mounted fog/rain light in the rear diffuser which conjures images of open-wheel race cars in the rain.

It’s diminutive too – at a mere 3890mm long and 1735mm wide, making it an ideal city car to fit into tight spaces and through narrow gaps that most cars would struggle. Strangely enough, however, these small proportions don’t make themselves known inside the cabin, which feels far more spacious than you would expect. Headroom, in particular, is a fantastic asset in the Swift, with numerous inches of headroom available to all but the tallest of drivers, though I’m sure even those over 6ft would have no issue getting comfortable in the Swift. Rear seat space is also better than you’d expect in a small hatch such as this, though it is at the sacrifice of luggage space, with the Swift having a measly 265l of boot space with the seats up. Forward visibility is fantastic, with the large, deep windows giving plenty of side visibility also, however, the thick C-pillars and small rear window do make over-the-shoulder checks tricky especially when on the go or merging on slip roads. The reversing camera does go a long way towards rectifying the poor visibility when parking, though the strange lack of sensors is an odd omission while using the reversing camera in the rain is all but useless due to its’ location on the rear bumper.

The Swift Sport is up-to-date on all the expected tech to match its striking looks and surprising performance. In terms of infotainment, you get a built-in touch screen with the usual Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, along with built-in navigation and DAB radio. USB inputs are found below the screen in the dash ‘cubby’ which is conveniently sized for holding all but the largest of smartphones. One thing that I love on the Swift is how well-integrated the infotainment display is, sitting perfectly in the middle of the dash, rather than seemingly slapped on as an afterthought like so many other hatches.

Technology is also one of my most significant issues with the Swift, however – The safety features such as front collision warning and lane departure warning are great assets, however, the collision warning was far too over-sensitive, resulting in it being turned off the moment I enter an urban environment as it would scream at me every time there were parked cars on my side of the road.

By contrast, the instrument cluster information display has to be one of my favourite parts of the Swift, however. Those of us that grew up on games such as Gran Turismo and the like will find childish enjoyment in the inclusion of power/torque graphics, a g-force indicator and – most importantly – a boost gauge option for the 4.5” screen in the centre of the instrument cluster, making it feel like we’re in a video game; It’s almost as if Suzuki looked inside my head while designing this car – such simple pleasures, but they all add to the ‘sporty’ appeal of this car.

The mention of ‘sporty appeal’ leads us nicely into the most essential part of the Swift Sport; The drive. Straight-line speed has never been the trump card for the Swift, being outclassed in terms of power and 0-60 times by the Fiesta ST and the Polo, but the Swift has always been somewhat of an underdog; And I like an underdog. Move away from the 0-60 times and you have a car that is infinitely fun to throw around and will make you giggle like a schoolchild when you find the right road, nail that downshift and rev-match and throw it into the next corner. Driving the Swift is an experience in its own right, and takes you back to the days when hot hatches were about low weights and high fun factors. And it is all the better for it.

I can’t help but feel however that the Swift Sport would have benefitted from a better soundtrack; The 4-pot engine is far better than the generic ‘thrum’ from the 3-cylinders that are dominating the market at the moment. A sports exhaust with a ‘bark’ would round the Swift Sport off perfectly, and provide a suitably exciting aural experience to match the dynamic driving style.

This is the first car in a long time where I’ve simply gone for a drive just for fun. Windows down, no music on and twisting Wiltshire B-roads; Absolutely sublime. When you come to a town or village however, the Swift turns back into a sensible, nimble little city car, before reaching the next national speed limit section and the fun begins all over again. The ride is noticeably firm thanks to it’s tweaked sports suspension, but certainly not firm enough to cause discomfort or become ‘crashy’ on uneven roads. Push too hard however and the Swift brings you back into check with predictable understeer which is easy enough to correct, meaning that even less-experienced drivers should get plenty of fun from the spritely 1.4-litre, 140ps ‘Boosterjet’ engine.

Fuel economy is also not to be sniffed at, with a reported 47.1 mpg (combined) figure, though the small fuel tank means you may visit the petrol station more regularly than expected – especially if you’re partaking in the style of driving that the Swift excels at. Motorway runs proved themselves even more frugal, however, with a reported 52.5 MPG on a run up the M4 – not bad for a car such as this.

Usually, at this point in my reviews, I highlight the faults and issues that I’ve had with the review car during my time with it, though I have to say I’m scratching my head somewhat for this one. Sure, there are a few small complaints such as the over-sensitive warning systems and the fact the reversing camera has the resolution of an early-2000s flip phone. Still, these issues are all overshadowed by a simply fantastic driving experience – and that’s what the Swift is all about after all.

The only ‘real’ issue that I can see here (beyond the small fuel tank admittedly) is the price. At £19,249 OTR, the Swift Sport is biting at the heels of the more popular Fiesta ST. It is worth noting however that the Suzuki price is with all options fitted. In contrast, the Fiesta ST base price of £18,995 may appear lower initially, but that is before you make the likely upgrade to the ST-2 pack at an additional £1000 on the list price. Not to mention the really die-hard hot hatch fans will likely upgrade to the ST-Performance pack at another £850 on top of sticker, so it is easy to be seeing a car that is touching £21k before you even drive it. At that price the Swift looks an absolute bargain for a car that will give so much joy when on the open road, yet simultaneously be the perfect city car for the style-conscious urban dweller – no mean feat and Suzuki have pulled it off with style and aplomb.

During this week, I’ve been absolutely smitten by the Swift Sport. Perhaps its the cheeky styling of the Swift which belies its’ sporting ability, or maybe it’s the Swifts’ strange willingness to encourage spirited driving, pushing you to seek out winding, high-speed roads where the Swift Sport performs best. Whatever it is, the Swift Sport has charm and character by the bucketload. Do I really have to give this one back? Actually yes but the New Swift Sport Hybrid is coming very, very soon.

Car reviewed: Suzuki Swift 1.4 Boosterjet Sport MT, on the road price £18,999 0-62mph 8.1secs Top speed 130mph Engine 1373cc 4 cylinder unleaded Euro 6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 50.4mpg CO2 emissions 125g/km Max Power 140PS@5500rpm Torque 230Nm@2500rpm Transmission 6-speed manual

Kieran Bicknell

Motoring writer

Kieran Bicknell offers his fresh take on car reviews by making the most of his dynamic, yet detailed approach to writing. Having graduated from university with a BA (Hons) in Photography and spending a number of years as a freelance automotive photographer. Kieran is now putting his knowledge and writing skills to use, with the ability to supply both written articles and imagery. Kieran feels at home in anything from small superminis to the latest SUVs, and relishes the opportunity to drive, photograph and write about anything with four wheels.

“The best car safety device is a rear-view mirror with a cop in it.” – Dudley Moore