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Road Test: Suzuki Swift Sport

Replacing a cult classic, Alex Grant finds out if the grown up new Swift Sport has lost its edge.

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SECTOR Supermini PRICE £17,999 FUEL 50.4mpg (47.1mpg WLTP) CO2 125g/km (135g/km WLTP)

If you’re looking for one component that sums up the Swift Sport, it’s the button that engages its ‘sport’ driving mode; it’s a small black button to the right of the steering wheel, marked ‘Engine Start’. A promising sign that the replacement for a cult classic hasn’t become over-complicated, even if it’s not quite as straightforward as the old car used to be.

For those in the know, the Swift Sport was a bit of an unsung drivers’ car hero. A revvy petrol engine, with no turbocharger, packed into the front end of what was already a sure-footed and lightweight hatchback, it was a hot hatch built to the classic definition. Hugely entertaining, yet also thrifty to run, and never really putting your licence at risk.

The UK is a big market for cars like this, and Suzuki reckons that’ll be true for the new one. It’s predicting almost a fifth of Swift volumes will be the Sport, so this isn’t some half-hearted trim level dropped in at the top of the range. Behind the bodykit, extra welds mean the structure is stiffer than the standard car, the suspension and brakes are upgraded, while the oversized twin tailpipes cut into the rear diffuser are the visible part of a bespoke sports exhaust system.

Power output hasn’t changed much between generations. The engine is a 1.4-litre ‘BoosterJet’ turbo from the Vitara and S-Cross, producing 138bhp versus its predecessor’s 134bhp. However, it’s also 70kg lighter than the old car, at a city car-rivalling 975kg, and peak pulling power is available right in the middle of the rev range, rather than willing you to wring the engine out to its redline.

This amounts to quite a change of character compared to its predecessor. All of the old car’s responsiveness and feather-footed agility is still here, so it’ll dart down country roads with the eagerness of an excitable Yorkshire Terrier, with barely any body roll or sense that it’s trying to catch you out. But the in-gear acceleration is totally different, adding new-found urgency of throttle response that doesn’t require a downshift. It’s an easier car to get the most out of, at any speed.

However, there’s a surprise this time. Hot hatches have always succeeded as a best-of-all-worlds machine, and the biggest generational step forward is how good the Swift Sport feels when you’re not taking the long and winding route home. The bucket seats won’t leave you aching over long distances, ride quality is very impressive for a car in this class (let alone a hot hatch), and it’ll comfortably return more than 50mpg on the motorway. Factor in adaptive cruise control, built-in navigation with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, and plentiful interior space, and it’s become a thoroughly accomplished all-rounder.

Though not without holes to pick. The gearbox is a development of the old car’s six-speeder – its throws are longer and less precise than you’d really want in a car like this, and it’s whiny while slowing through the gears. Carbon fibre-effect vinyl on the bodykit is a little tacky, too, and the touchscreen volume controls on the infotainment can be a bit unresponsive. Niggling details perhaps, but the price has crept up since the old car, so they’re more obvious. Despite the changes, Suzuki’s cult classic is alive and well.

What We Think:

The Swift Sport remains an addictive driver’s car at almost any speed, but with the added benefit that it’s comfortable and efficient enough not to be tiresome the rest of the time.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.