Many commentators have suggested that the little Suzuki punches above its weight – or at least price – in the warm hatch league, so we were keen to put these claims to the test at the recent SMMT Test Day in Hampshire.
First impressions are of a rather cheeky looking little car, looking purposeful from all angles, particularly the rear where twin chrome-plated big-bore exhaust pipes poke proudly out of either side of the rear valance.
Inside, too, the interior looked welcoming, with smart cloth sports seats featuring red pinstripe detailing, and which were comfortable & supportive, although the seat back bolsters could perhaps be a little too tight for those of more ample proportions. The standard specification includes a raft of useful goodies normally expected only on more premium machines, including satellite navigation, DAB radio, HID headlamps, foglamps & cruise control.
Closer examination of the interior showed the central multimedia system to be slightly too obviously an additional feature sitting in its double-din socket. Other manufacturers, such as Nissan, manage to integrate these “aftermarket” systems into their facias by matching trim materials and finishes rather better – come on Suzuki!
Doubtless some will criticise the proportion of hard plastics used in the trim panels, which is indeed more than in some competitors – but, hey, the Swift Sport is over £1,300 cheaper than the Mini Cooper, perhaps its nearest competitor in size and performance terms. And that’s before you start picking from the Mini options list to match the spec of the Swift, which rapidly sees the price differential rapidly escalate to over £3,000. Anyway, how often do you run your hands over the interior trim panels of your car once it’s out of the showroom, so who cares whether trim panels are hard plastic or not, so long as they look good, which those on the Swift undoubtedly do!
The rear seats were surprisingly spacious, making this a true 4-seater, unlike some competitors. The boot, too, was of reasonable size.
In performance terms, the pendulum does swing on paper towards the Cooper, which although producing a similar 136hp, wins the torque stakes with 220Nm against the Swifts 160Nm. Claimed fuel consumption and emissions are also markedly better on the Cooper, at 62.8 against 44.1 mpg on the combined cycle and 105 against 147g/km CO2. However, as we all know, manufacturers claimed fuel figures are rarely anything like those experienced in the real world, and real world fuel consumption figures from owners suggest that the Mini is far worse than the Swift in this respect, and that around 41mpg is a reasonable expectation from both cars.
However, it is likely that the balance may be redressed next year if and when the Swift Sport receives a version of Suzukis new 1.2 litre Dualjet engine destined for the rest of the Swift range.
On the road, the Swift’s handling felt taut & well balanced, with positive and neutral steering controlled through a small and nicely-finished multifunction steering wheel. The ride, for such a small car, was impressively well controlled, and made a good job of absorbing everything that some pretty poorly surfaced Hampshire lanes could throw at it.
The engine was pretty responsive, courtesy of that 160hp, provided that good use was made of the rifle-bolt-slick gearlever controlling the 6 speed gearbox – unlike some competitors who make do with only 5 cogs in their boxes.. Peak power is delivered at 7,000 rpm, meaning that spirited driving to keep the VVT engine in its optimum rev range was accompanied by a fair amount of engine noise. However, adopting a slightly more relaxed driving style calmed things down and allowed that sharp and tidy handling to be exploited as a means of making rapid progress.
All too soon it was time to hand the Swift back to Suzuki, but it was easy to see why the Swift has deservedly been such a huge success for Suzuki, with over 4 million sold worldwide since 2005.
Find out more on the Swift Sport website here