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
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
gives an air of sportiness