Suzuki Swift Sport

Do not stare di­rectly at this car

Autocar - - THIS WEEK - FIRST RE­PORT JAMES ATTWOOD

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT To find out if the new, turbo Swift Sport still of­fers good, simple hot hatch fun that can com­pete with the best in class

Turns out that pa­tience isn’t al­ways a virtue. Or, to sub­vert another cliché, some­times good things come to those who don’t wait. And proof of that, cur­rently parked out­side Au­to­car Tow­ers, is small, fun and very, very yel­low.

That’d be our new Suzuki Swift Sport, then. We’ve been ask­ing (well, pes­ter­ing) Suzuki for one for our test fleet since our first, brief taste of the hot hatch in Ja­pan last year.

Even­tu­ally, and pos­si­bly just to keep us quiet, Suzuki of­fered to de­liver one to us near the end of May. But they also ca­su­ally men­tioned that, if we fan­cied get­ting one nearly a month ear­lier, we could. The catch: we’d have to pick it up from an event they were run­ning – in Dublin.

So we’d have to f ly to Dublin, col­lect the Swift Sport, catch a ferry to Holy­head and then drive the 300 or so miles back to Au­to­car’s Twick­en­ham base. Catch? That’s not a catch. More like a kid be­ing told they can have their Christ­mas present early – and then given the chance to play with it for hours.

Af­ter all, what bet­ter way to learn about a new car than with an ex­tended road trip span­ning ur­ban driv­ing, mo­tor­way mileage and, with a short but bril­liant de­tour, some of the finest driv­ing roads in Wales?

As an aside, our lack of pa­tience wasn’t even tested when it came to spec­c­ing the Swift Sport: there aren’t any op­tions to con­sider. Ev­ery car gets a six-speed man­ual ’box, spe­cially tuned ex­haust, LED head­lights, 17in al­loys and the dis­tinc­tive Sport body kit. Inside, there’s air-con­di­tion­ing, a leather steer­ing wheel, a colour touch­screen and driver as­sis­tance sys­tems such as for­ward de­tec­tion, lane departure cor­rec­tion and adap­tive cruise con­trol.

Our only choice con­cerned the colour. We went for Cham­pion Yel­low, largely be­cause I have fond mem­o­ries of sim­i­larly hued Ig­nis and Swift Sport rally cars from a decade ago.

The op­por­tu­nity to do such var­ied mileage is a key part of the rea­son we wanted the Swift Sport on our fleet. Pre­vi­ous ver­sions have qui­etly be­come cult favourite hot hatches, be­cause they were simple, small, fuss-free and fun. Or, as we de­scribed it in our re­view, a “pleas­ingly old­fash­ioned lit­tle bun­dle of joy”.

Suc­cess cre­ates expectation – and so our hopes for this new Swift Sport have duly been raised. In ad­di­tion, Suzuki hasn’t sim­ply up­dated its hot hatch with a new look and mi­nor tweaks: there are some sub­stan­tive changes un­der the bon­net.

Suzuki has re­placed the peppy 134bhp 1.6-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated engine from the old Swift Sport with a 138bhp 1.4-litre tur­bocharged mo­tor. That means the car has more torque – 170lb ft com­pared with 110lb ft – but, ac­cord­ing to our first drive re­cently, per­haps a bit less char­ac­ter.

That first re­view did high­light some cause for con­cern, as ref lected by its three-star score. While our testers still judged the Swift Sport “a fine lit­tle driver’s car”, there was con­cern over the price: it’s been hiked to £17,999 (al­beit dis­counted to

£16,499 un­til the end of June). Now that’s expectation rais­ing – it’s four grand more than a Volk­swa­gen Up GTI, for starters.

Still, like any kid un­wrap­ping a shiny new toy, I wasn’t re­ally think­ing about the price when I col­lected the keys at Dublin Air­port. All I wanted to do was try it out. With not enough time be­fore the ferry to find some fun Ir­ish roads, I set­tled for a trip to Phoenix Park (main pic), largely so I could drive a bit of the clas­sic street cir­cuit (al­beit very slowly).

That seemed a great idea, un­til it was time to head to the ferry ter­mi­nal. The two were only split by six or so miles – ex­cept it was six miles right through the cen­tre of Dublin, in ridicu­lously heavy traf­fic. That wasn’t good for my nerves but was a use­ful test of the Swift Sport’s abil­i­ties in stop-start ur­ban driv­ing.

Un­like some hard­core hot hatches, and with­out the use of any drive modes, the Swift Sport is ca­pa­ble of do­ing a more than pass­able im­pres­sion of a non-sport­ing Swift, which helped ease my at­tempts to ma­noeu­vre my way out of near-grid­locked traf­fic on a se­ries of bumpy back streets.

Hav­ing made it to the ferry ter­mi­nal in the nick of time, the jaunt across the Ir­ish Sea was a chance to re­lieve the stress of city driv­ing and men­tally pre­pare to ex­ploit our new Swift in full Sport guise on my planned route from An­gle­sey to an overnight halt in Shrews­bury.

The trip proved that al­though the Swift Sport might have grown up and be­come a lit­tle more se­ri­ous, it’s still ca­pa­ble of en­ter­tain­ing with a re­spon­sive, re­ac­tive and just plain fun drive. As first im­pres­sions go, it was hugely pos­i­tive and it’s whet­ted my ap­petite for more time with the Swift Sport on some of the UK’S finer flow­ing A and B-roads.

And it’s worth not­ing that it didn’t dis­grace it­self the fol­low­ing day, when the fi­nal part of the journey took in the mo­tor­ways of Bri­tain, when I set off from Shrews­bury to Twick­en­ham with a mild de­tour via Bris­tol (it made sense at the time). I ar­rived back at Au­to­car HQ af­ter a long week­end of get­ting to know the Swift Sport keen to spend more time in it. One first im­pres­sion: it re­mains good, simple fun, yet is also a hot hatch that should set­tle in nicely as a daily driver.

Of course, it’s al­ways fun be­ing al­lowed to open your presents early. The ques­tion will be whether they’ll still feel shiny and ex­cit­ing a few months down the road. At some point, too, the ques­tion of value will come into play and we’ll have to con­sider that £17,999 price – and the sim­i­larly priced ele­phant in the room that is the new Ford Fi­esta ST.

Still, that’s for the months ahead. Right now, I’m af­ter an ex­cuse for another Swift Sport road trip.

It’s still ca­pa­ble of en­ter­tain­ing with a re­spon­sive, re­ac­tive and just plain fun drive

Attwood’s fin­gers are still sore from typ­ing this into his sat-nav From here the driver has 138bhp and 170lb ft at their dis­posal To Wales in a Swift, in a Swift: but one lives up to its name bet­ter than the other

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