Suzuki Swift Sport Is World Class
Suzuki's Swift Sport may be lacking a 'made-in-Europe' tag and Type R or GTI badges - but make no mistake this is a genuine hot hatch.
In fact, if measured by the 'smile' factor for enthusiast drivers, the Swift ranks right up there with the best of them.
And, priced at $24,990, the extensively-equipped Swift Sport makes its opposition look a tad overpriced.
What You Get
The Swift is undoubtedly Suzuki's best-ever passenger car - nicely styled, well-equipped and great to drive. But this is a company with motor sports embedded in its DNA, so it was inevitable Suzuki would take the Swift five-door, toss in a bigger engine and add some sports kit. The result - well it's no surprise it's impressive.
So impressive that the company embarked on an ambitious World Rally Championship campaign and has earned some significant success in this sometimes heart-breaking sport.
Under The Hood
Swift Sport gains a larger capacity 1.6-litre VVT (variable valve timing) engine (other models get a 1.5). Maximum power is 92kW at 6,800rpm and peak torque is 148Nm.
More than just a boosted 1.5-litre, there's lots of new stuff in this powerplant: the block, camshafts, pistons, conrods, crankshaft, intake and exhaust manifolds, electrical throttle body, oil cooler and sports exhaust/muffler to name just a few.
As you would expect from Suzuki, it loves to rev and pulls strongly with a great, raucous exhaust note all the way to its 8,000rpm redline.
Drive is to the front wheels via a unique five-speed manual transmission with close ratios and enhanced linkages for firm, quick shift feel.
Fuel consumption is quoted at 7.5l/100kms (combined cycle).
This is a Swift so don't expect acreage in the rear seat. And it's a drivers' hot hatch so the focus is up front anyway.
There you will find nicely trimmed sports seats, a thick leather-wrapped three-spoke sports steering wheel, silver-finished gear lever, stainless steel non-slip pedals (accelerator and brake nicely positioned for heel/toe changes) and a large tachometer with the zero positioned at six o'clock (just like racy GSX R750 motorbike).
Audio is a four-speaker in-dash CD system with iPod and MP3 compatibility and illuminated remote controls on the steering wheel.
Swift Sport passed its first test in our week behind the wheel - adjusting the drivers seat, steering wheel and exterior mirrors quickly delivered a purposeful, sporty driving position where we felt 'part' of the car, not sitting atop it. Neither arms nor legs were compromised and to be honest, we can think of some massive performance, bigger-brand street machines that can't match the Swift in that department.
Exterior & Styling
Swift isn't the newest kid on the block these days, but - here's a tribute to the stylists - it still looks modern, stylish and has great charisma even in our busy small car market.
The distinctive front end with those large wrap-around headlights is accentuated by the Sport's low front spoiler, integrated fog lights and large black honeycombe grille and under-bumper air intake.
At the rear, most noticeable is the large rear spoiler, unique tail-lights and twin exhausts.
Swift Sport sits lower on 16-inch alloy wheels and runs firm sports suspension with Monroe dampers 60 per cent stiffer than standard Swifts.
On The Road
Many years ago your Car Showroom correspondent enjoyed a few competition outings in a race-prepped Swift so anticipation was high for this encounter with the latest model.
Sure Swift has grown up and now comes standard with features like ESP, traction control and six airbags, but the driving enjoyment quota remains high. Those who appreciate high performance driving will appreciate the pocket rocket from Suzuki.
That marvelous engine that just loves to rev is nicely matched to the close ratio, quick-shifting five-speeder and the nicely sorted chassis responds well when tossed into a series of bends.
We reckon the ESP and traction control calibration is spot-on for high performance driving - and again that's not a claim some higher-priced rivals can make.
Rocketing into a tight hairpin, the Swift stops quickly, you heel/toe down to second gear, fling it into the turn and the balance is there, yes, there's the usual front-wheel-drive understeer, but acceleration is rapid and the poise is remarkable for a car in this price league.
Around town, the Swift Sport is tractable, easy to drive and surprisingly quiet and refined over bumps and train tracks.
The Swift Sport only really disappointed with its rear seat which - like the rest of the Swift range - is too flat and unsupportive.
This is fun with a capital 'F' and if you're looking for a hot hatch, but can't stretch to the Germans or the Type R, don't for one second think the Swift Sport is the B-team.
Instead remember all those race victories on two wheels and rally success on four wheels and ask yourself: has Suzuki ever not built racers for the road?
We're big fans of all cars in this segment (hey, we like driving!).
Honda's Civic Type R (made in England) is superb in every way but at $41,990 isn't really in the same league as the Swift. Likewise Renault's Clio Renault Sport F1 Team R27 - it's a $36,990 proposition.
First-rate driving dynamics, performance, value
Rear seat didn't get the sports treatment