Suzuki Swift Sport UK drive

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Suzuki Swift Sport front cornering

Old-school hot hatch pumps up the fun factor as it debuts in the UK

Verdict

4

Few hot hatches can match the Swift Sport’s fun factor. It proves that you don’t need a lot of power for a good drive – instead, the Suzuki makes the best of what it has got, in the shape of a characterful, high-revving, 1.6-litre engine, agile chassis and subtle but classy look. While its main rival, the excellent £12,960 Renaultsport Twingo 133, is slightly cheaper and great to drive, it’s not as comfortable as the Swift or as easy to live with day-to-day. That, together with excellent equipment levels and a fine quality interior, makes the grown-up Sport a great little hot hatch. Many hot hatches have become more complex and expensive over the years, but one has stuck to an old-school formula – the Suzuki Swift. As with its predecessor it doesn’t have much power, but it doesn’t weigh a lot, either – and with a price tag of only £13,500, it provides plenty of affordable fun.

When we first tested the car in Issue 1,198, we awarded it a full five-star rating. Does it feel as impressive on UK roads, though? Even basic Swifts are fun to drive, so the Sport has a strong base to build on.

New parts include a subtle bodykit with side skirts, a redesigned front bumper and a neat diffuser-style rear end with twin exhausts. Multi-spoke 17-inch alloys and a roof spoiler finish off the exterior, while inside there are heavily bolstered sports seats and updated dials.

As for the dynamics, Suzuki engineers have added stiffer springs and suspension bushes, together with a 134bhp 1.6-litre four-cylinder engine. This gets a six-speed gearbox with a clever synchromesh on the first two ratios allowing snappier changes.

Despite weighing only 1,045kg, the Swift doesn’t feel fast from low down, and you have to rev the engine hard to get the car moving along rapidly. Peak torque of 160Nm arrives at 4,000rpm, while maximum power kicks in at 7,000rpm: keep the engine in that range and the car feels every bit as quick as the 0-62mph time of 8.7 seconds suggests.

The motor also sounds great as it approaches the red line. The snappy box helps keep things on the boil, and thanks to a decent spread of ratios the Sport is even quite economical, capable of around 40mpg in regular driving.

Has the Swift Sport inherited its predecessor’s talents in corners, though? Throw the car into a tight bend and it hangs on well. Push harder on the throttle and the nose will eventually run wide; lift off and it’ll tighten its line, even allowing the rear end to step out a bit. But it’s not as involving as the old Swift Sport. The steering could be more precise and give better feedback.

Despite low-profile tyres and stiffer suspension the Sport rides pretty well, always feeling firm yet soaking up bumpy UK roads with ease. It may not be perfect, but it adds up to a very affordable and appealing formula.

Key specs

* Price: £13,500
* Engine: 1.6-litre 4cyl, 134bhp
* Transmission: Six-speed manual, fwd
* 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds
* Top speed: 121mph
* Economy: 44.1mpg
* CO2: 147g/km
* Equipment: 17-inch alloys, air-con, sports seats, keyless entry, ESP, leather multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, electric windows, Bluetooth, MP3, USB
* On sale: Now