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First Drive: Suzuki Swift Sport

Lighter, longer, more powerful and practical, the new Swift Sport aims to worry the established elite at their own game, discovers Jonathan Musk…

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SECTOR Supermini PRICE £17,999 FUEL 50.4mpg CO2 125g/km (NEDC) 135g/km

Following the launch of the fourth generation Swift last year and the company’s recent fleet focus, Suzuki is a company on the move. This is the latest variant of the popular Swift hatchback and replaces the equally well-liked Swift Sport. There are, however, fundamental changes that have taken Suzuki’s engineers a full three years to ready the car for market.

The Swift put an engineering focus where it was needed. Both smaller and lighter than its predecessor, the humble hatch gave Suzuki’s car range the boost it needed and today fleet numbers are up and continue to climb – in the direction of a targeted 10,000 sales by 2020. Swift Sport builds on that success but is both lower and 50mm longer. Its engineers aimed for “ultimate driving excitement” and only the best ideas made it off the table.

The 1.4-litre Boosterjet petrol turbo engine is the same as that used in larger Suzuki like the SX4 S-Cross; it pumps out a modest 138bhp but with an impressive max-torque of 170lb.ft available from low 2,500rpm – some 44% more compared to its predecessor.

Attached to a six-speed manual and an uprated clutch to cope with the drastically increased torque, the Swift Sport has all the ingredients to deliver a warm hatch demeanour. It too has been uprated and now sports a 10% shorter throw than the old model, as well as other design enhancements making for smoother operation.

Perhaps the biggest change of all has been made to the suspension setup and body, using the Swift’s ‘Heartect’ platform, that also underpins the Baleno and Ignis. Additional welding and use of ultra-high tensile steel for the Sport makes the chassis stronger and the body is a full 40% lighter than the previous generation Sport, contributing to a feather-light total weight of 975kg – that’s 70kg lighter than before.

All these enhancements combine to deliver 14% better fuel consumption and 15% improved emissions, yet greater performance over the outgoing model. An appealing option for those with more flexible choice lists, or the ability to take a cash allowance.

Jumping into the car for the first time, it’s immediately noticeable how light the doors are, but the rest of the car appears to remain untouched aside from the obligatory red ‘sporty’ accents and cossetting bucket-type seats. This means that practicality remains unchanged, including a 25% larger, 256-litre, boot than the previous Swift Sport.

Out on the open road, it’s immediately clear Suzuki has built something special. It’s an engaging animal that entices, complements and then inspires driver confidence. At pace, this is as good as it gets without risking your licence. It’s not fast enough to worry anything big and German, but it’s exactly the right blend of performance meets usable enjoyment. The chassis is so well-sorted that flying over weather-beaten mountain roads is coped with little more than a wobble. Quick but weighted steering provides driver feedback at any speed. Turbo-lag is conspicuous by its absence and yet settling down for a motorway jaunt is relaxing. This really is a do-it-all and do-it-well car that’s hard to fault.

However, if I was to really nitpick, the gearbox could be smoother and have an even shorter throw to enhance the experience further and the exhaust note could be a little more aggressive, although this would likely come at the expense of around-town manners. This is a truly impressive little car that belies its cost and humble origins; hats off to Suzuki.

What We Think:

The only thing standing in Suzuki’s way is quality competition from the likes of the Ford Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Up GTI, but the Swift Sport is good enough to give each of those a headache. And, while the Up GTI might undercut the Swift Sport on paper, it lacks the same practicality and equipment. Overall, the Swift Sport offers old school charm and fun in a thoroughly modern and capable package.

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FIND OUT MORE: Suzuki will be offering exclusive early drives of the new Swift Sport at The Fleet Show 2018, taking place at Silverstone Circuit on 9 May. Click here to register for free.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.