Suzuki Swift Sport: affordable supermini has plenty of get up and go-go-go
AS NEW cars get ever bigger and bulkier, it can be easy to forget the joy of slipping behind the wheel of something small and nippy,
My long-serving daily is a trusty Volvo V70 estate, a car that is many things – powerful, comfortable, quiet, roomy, reliable, non-threatening to fellow road users – but could never be accused of being 'nippy': the Titanic probably had a smaller turning circle.
While you'd be surprised at how quickly executing the odd 12-point manoeuvre simply becomes part of your driving routine, a recent spin in the new Suzuki Swift Sport reminded me of the good old days when I used to drive a Volkswagen Polo that would rarely need even a three-point turn to get out of any tight spots it encountered.
Although the Polo was highly manoeuvrable, at a mighty 999cc of non turbo assisted petrol power, it really wasn't that nippy – unlike the Swift Sport, which uses a 1.4l Boosterjet 48V Hybrid powertrain, its hybrid system involving a larger than usual starter motor which kicks in when needed while underway to provide a little extra power and improve efficiency.
The Sport boasts 129hp, can hit 62mph from standstill in a smidge over nine seconds and is capable of up to 130mph, which must feel incredibly quick/terrifying in such a compact car.
Fifty-millimetres lower than the standard Swift thanks to its performance-tweaked suspension, the Sport also gets beefier anti-roll bars, uprated brakes, its own distinctive 17-inch alloy wheels, a more 'aggressive' front bumper/grille design and subtle side skirts. All in all, it's an attractive looking vehicle which doesn't over-do it on the hot hatch accoutrements.
Like all Swifts, the Sport is only available as a five-door, though the rears have neat body-flush door handles 'hidden' high on the C-pillar for a cleaner look. At just 1,025kg, the little Suzuki boasts the lowest kerb weight amongst its competitors – think Ford Fiesta ST, VW Up GTI and Abarth 595 – and of course less bulk translates into more planet-friendly emissions and improved fuel economy. Suzuki claim you can manage around 50mpg during 'combined' driving, and Co2 output registers at 125g/km.
Impressively, the Swift Sport is just as attractive on the inside. It gets special sports seats trimmed in a charcoal fabric with contrast red stitching to match the red accents on the dash, doors and centre console. Driving position is spot-on with generally good all-round visibility (though those large C-pillars do somewhat hamper over-the-shoulder views) and a multi-function steering wheel which adjusts in/out as well as up/down. The front seats are comfortably soft in a way that 'sports' seats often aren't, with side bolsters that will hold you in place while enjoying the twisty stuff without making you clamber around them when exiting.
What's definitely not soft are the scratchy plastics of the door tops, dash 'pad' and console cubby-holes, which belie the Sport's relatively affordable price tag of £22,570. The central touchscreen display is also fairly basic in terms of graphics and functionality, but easy to use with it. The home screen is divided into four selectable quadrants: DAB radio, Bluetooth phonecall, smartphone link (Android Auto and Apple Carplay via USB link) and onboard satellite navigation – and there's also a reversing camera display which pops up when you need it. Heater and climate controls are kept sensibly separate as a row of dedicated rotary switches below the touchscreen.
You could also argue that the presence of a mechanical handbrake lever – practically extinct on modern cars – and analogue speedo/tacho gauges (featuring read-outs in an attractive red/silver combo) in the driver's binnacle are also 'cut price' items: I happen to like such 'retro' touches, and the latter also incorporates a nifty central LCD display which keeps you abreast of power output, boost levels and other performance related data.
I'm not so fussed on the six-speed manual gearbox, which on my test car refused to allow smooth changes through the gate between second and sixth: rather than straight up and down shifts, the stick needed to be guided slightly to the left or right after passing through neutral in order to accurately select the desired cog. Annoying, but possibly an anomaly – other road tests of the Swift Sport report pleasing gear changes.
Gearbox quibbles aside, the Suzuki Sport is a comfortable, fun little car, with even its lowered suspension soaking up typical A-road bumps with ease. The steering feels light yet connected, keeping you in touch with the road and enabling an accurate gauge of remaining grip through the bends during spirited driving: when you put your foot down, the eager to please Boosterjet hybrid set-up provides a great squirt of speed with plenty of torque on tap right through the gears, ensuring that you can easily keep up with traffic and also overtake when required.
Come off the power and the regenerative braking system kicks in: while nowhere near the 'one pedal driving' effect you get with proper EVs, the car does slow noticeably more quickly than through mere engine braking alone as it recovers power to re-charge the hybrid system's batteries.
You can carry two adult sized rear passengers with ease and in decent comfort too, as head and leg room is excellent in the back: add a third rear passenger and things will inevitably get a lot more cramped, though the low transmission tunnel means even the middle seating position affords better than average foot/leg room for a small car. There are also easily accessible isofix anchor points for fitting child seats.
And, despite its supermini tag, the Swift's boot is a pretty decent size at 265l - though mind your back when negotiating that raised boot lip while loading.
Standard driver safety features include Lane Departure Warning, Lane Departure Prevention, Traffic Sign Recognition, Dual Sensor Brake Support, High Beam Assist, Weaving Alert and Rear Parking Sensors, plus Adaptive Cruise Control for more convenient driving in the kind of stop-and-go traffic that's likely to be the Swift's bread and butter.
The Suzuki Sport Swift actually doesn't offer any optional extras in terms of driver assistance or electronic toys: however there are a selection of exterior styling choices including contrast door mirror caps (£54), side rubbing strips (£208), racing stripes (£310) and two-tone paint (£165), which adds a blacked-out roof with either metallic red or blue beneath and does look really good, plus leisure accessories like a roof rack (£226).
With buy-it-now prices starting at £22,570, the Swift Sport is also currently available at £239 per month on a 48-month PCP agreement following a customer deposit of £4,140, with Suzuki providing a not to be sniffed at £2,000 deposit contribution.
Suzuki even offer a 14-day return guarantee, just in case you buy one only to realise you've made a huge mistake – though that's highly unlikely.
If you're bored with big unwieldy motors and fancy trying an affordable supermini with plenty of get up and go-go-go, the Swift Sport definitely lives up to its name.
SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT: VITAL STATS
- Powertrain: 1.4l Boosterjet 48V Hybrid
- Gearbox: 6-speed manual
- Maximum output: 129hp (95kW) / 5,500rpm
- Maximum torque: 176lb ft / 2,000rpm
- Fuel distribution: Direct injection
- Maximum speed: 130mph
- 0-62 mph: 9.1secs
- Kerb weight: 1,025kg
- Fuel consumption (WLTP combined): 50.4mpg
- Co2 emissions (WLTP): 125g/km