It’sa sport... (al­most)

The new Suzuki Swift Sport is one of the best hot hatches around, but one small ir­ri­tant holds it back from true great­ness, says wheels’ Sony Thomas

Friday - - MOTORING -

Suzuki has brought out some great cars over the years, but sadly it’s never the first stop for some­one who’s look­ing to buy a good-qual­ity, fun-to-drive Ja­panese car. With Toy­ota, Nis­san and Honda rel­e­gat­ing it to a dis­tant fourth, Suzuki as a brand has not been taken se­ri­ously enough by cus­tomers in the re­gion.

How­ever, the fact re­mains that Suzuki makes the best-han­dling Ja­panese hot hatch on sale to­day – the Swift Sport – which is way bet­ter in terms of driv­ing dy­nam­ics than any­thing of­fered by Ja­pan’s big three in this seg­ment.

Launched glob­ally in 2006, the Swift Sport has al­ready got a cult fol­low­ing, es­pe­cially in Euro­pean mar­kets and many parts of Asia. While most of these cars are three­door vari­ants, the five-door that’s avail­able here is no dif­fer­ent, with min­i­mal dy­namic dif­fer­ences and an al­most iden­ti­cal kerb weight.

It gets the same nat­u­rally as­pi­rated 1.6-litre en­gine that churns out 136bhp and 160Nm of torque. But we’ve been short-changed on the trans­mis­sion, which is a moan­ing, groan­ing CVT, while the Euro­peans get to squeeze the last drop of juice from this high-revving en­gine thanks to their six-speed stick shifts.

It’s a shame, as the en­gine is ever ea­ger to gather more speed, but is ter­ri­bly let down by the con­fused CVT. Suzuki should have re­served this rub­ber band ex­clu­sively for the reg­u­lar hatch, which would have made sense for the sen­si­ble,

econ­omy-con­scious buyer, while of­fer­ing the Sport vari­ant only with the sixspeed man­ual or at least a six-speed au­to­matic.

Al­though the trans­mis­sion takes away a lot from the per­for­mance, the Swift Sport’s go-kart­like driv­ing dy­nam­ics com­pen­sate for it. Its well-sorted chas­sis takes the sharpest of cor­ners with a kind of agility and com­po­sure that’s un­com­mon in the seg­ment, es­pe­cially in this price band (the 2014 Swift Sport costs just Dh72,000).

Add to this the im­pres­sively light kerb weight of just 1,085kg and the su­per-re­spon­sive steer­ing, and the Swift Sport turns out to be a fan­tas­tic hatch­back.

Even at the mod­er­ately high speeds the car is ca­pa­ble of, the Swift Sport’s ride is rea­son­ably com­posed, but off the high­way, the stiff, sport-bi­ased sus­pen­sion makes for a slightly bumpy ride, so fly­ing over speed bumps is not a good idea.

While there won’t be much dif­fer­ence in opin­ion re­gard­ing the Swift Sport’s driv­ing dy­nam­ics, the car’s styling has al­ways been po­lar­is­ing. The boxy, toy-car-like de­sign won’t ap­peal to ev­ery­one, but the thing is the tight di­men­sions — 3,890mm long, 1,695mm wide and a wheel­base of 2,430mm — con­trib­ute to the car’s su­perb han­dling. Also, the Sport-spe­cific ad­di­tions like exclusive front and rear bumpers, spoil­ers and dual ex­haust pipes lend it a slightly more ath­letic stance than the reg­u­lar Swift.

The in­te­rior looks rel­a­tively smart, too, with the ex­tra-bol­stered “Sport” up­hol­stered seats, stain­less-steel ped­als and leather-cov­ered, red­stitched steer­ing wheel giv­ing it an air of sporti­ness.

How­ever, the plas­tics are not top-notch. But then again, there’s

The Swift Sport could put many pre­mium hot hatches to shame

no other car that of­fers bet­ter plas­tics in the cabin for the kind of money Suzuki charges you, and those that boast soft-touch syn­thet­ics or leather and com­pa­ra­ble driv­ing fun will charge you al­most twice as much as the Swift Sport costs.

Fun to drive, cheap to buy and own, the Swift Sport could put many of the so-called pre­mium hot hatches to shame. If there’s one thing that stands in the way of this car achiev­ing hot hatch great­ness, it’s the CVT.

The boxy de­sign isn’t to ev­ery­one’s taste, but it makes for great driv­ing dy­nam­ics

Most cars with such smart in­te­ri­ors are dou­ble the price

Red stitch­ing

gives an air of sporti­ness

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