Get Shifty. Get Swifty.
Those who build an emotional bond with their rides, will know that there are cars that simply do the point A to B, then there are those that do a little more and are impressive in their own right. And then there are cars that simply were built to resonate with their owners… almost like the manufacturer had their ears on the ground.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is one of those cars. In its third generation excluding the two rebadged Cultus models that were sold here during the 80s and 90s; the second generation GTi model being a personal dream car of mine in a time where having twin overhead cams and 16-valves was a big thing. Just a little nugget of interest, the second gen car then, was upped in power midway during its lifespan from 100 to 110bhp, in preparation for a catalytic converter installation, and a few lucky examples escaped with the hotter chipping, without the exhaust-mounted power sapper. Suzuki has kept to their special formula of big fun from a small car, with the third generation of their happy little hatchback.
Like their previous gen car, the Swift Sport is offered in cheerful Champion Yellow, and there are nine other colours to choose from, inclusive of three two-tone variants. While most things visually are identical to its 1.2 litre bread-and-butter stablemate, the sporty Swift Sport sports a sporty grille in-front, and a redesigned rear apron, housing twin tailpipes… sporty…
The Suzuki Swift Sport’s interior is largely shared with its 1.2 litre variant. This means clear and easy to read dials, and good ergonomics. But that also means an interior which is built to a price, easily seen with its liberal use of hard-hollow plastics. My rambling on about quality aside, the Swift Sport gets differentiating red accenting along the dash, door trim, centre console and even in the double stitching on its bucket-style seats.
The infotainment unit, which has a simple interface does recognise simple voice commands, allowing you to make calls on the go, and it also supports both Apple and Android devices. I would have been happy if a wireless phone charger was supplied.
One of the issues that Suzuki had also addressed seems to be the reclining angle of the rear seats, as they were way too upright for my liking. At least for me, I can now sit in relative comfort, without feeling nauseous.
Boot space is acceptable at 264 litres, but tiny when compared to the SEAT Ibiza, which is at 355 litres.
For Singapore, the “official” Suzuki Swift Sport comes equipped with a 1.4 litre turbocharged four-cylinder which also powers their Vitara SUV, and gets a boost from a 48V mild-hybrid drive system. Together with its mild electrification, the Swift Sport here delivers 127hp and 235Nm, this also means that it barely qualifies for the more affordable Category A COE, and it also bags an A2 VES rebate.
One of the main draws of the Swift Sport is that it is offered with a manual transmission. Interestingly, our friends over in Malaysia tell us that only the automatic is offered officially, though they get JDM-spec 138hp and 230Nm performance.
While it has lesser power than what is offered elsewhere, the addition of the mild-hybrid system, significantly contributes to how the now-turbocharged small hatchback performs. Initial acceleration, where you would traditionally experience lag in a turbocharged car, is mostly cancelled off with the electric motor helping the Swift Sport take off. On paper, things may not look that promising, with the small hot hatch reaching 100km/h in all of 9.1 seconds, but there is heaps of torque that you can tap on which is available till around 5,500rpm, before requiring a cog change to be within the torque band.
I truly appreciate that the Swift Sport feels extremely willing, and it performs effortlessly to keep it ahead of traffic, or even keep up with some more powerful cars while on the run. Weighing in at just over a tonne, there is little weight to lug around as you pitch the small hatchback into corners, where it happily obliges as you work the well-sorted gearbox to feed it into the correct ratio before a bend. The 195/45R17 Continental ContiSportContact tyres bite hard around corners with ease. Compared to many performance-leaning cars, the Swift Sport does not come equipped with an LSD or torque vectoring trickery. It really is quite pure-a-drive.
With the mild hybrid system often in play, you will also find that there is little need while on the highway for you to drop a gear from sixth when you need to overtake, as there is easily sufficient torque from low engine speeds, and a squeeze of the throttle is usually all that is needed to pull ahead.
Apart from the cheap feeling interior, the Swift’s build also feels rather thin, especially at the upper end of the door frames, where it does let in a significant amount of external noise. Given the car’s simple rear torsion beam suspension setup, the rear does unsettle itself over bumpy surfaces, and the short wheelbase does not make things any better. Apart from this, the Monroe-developed suspension feels well sorted most of the time.
Interestingly, even with a manual transmission, Suzuki had not held back with giving a little more. The car comes equipped with adaptive cruise control as standard, though it is designed to work from third gear, and there is also a reversing camera fitted, though the guiding lines are static.
The Swift Sport is not alone in this segment. The SEAT Ibiza FR 1.5 offers 150hp and 250Nm, is quicker, does 20km/l and is offered for similar money... but with a plusher interior and better overall build quality, better infotainment and for those who are lazy like me, a quick-shifting DSG.
That said, the Suzuki Swift Sport delivers driving pleasure for a small price (small by today’s just shy of 50k COE standards). With very few cars offered with a manual transmission, it will have its appeal with many enthusiasts here.
Credits: Words and Photos by Clifford Chow