Suzuki Swift Sport review
by David Finlay (20 August 2012)
The original Suzuki Swift Sport was launched towards the end of 2006 (see review), and although we weren't hugely impressed by it we thought it wasn't a bad little warm hatch for the money. Its successor is something else again.
There's still a 1.6-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, but maximum power is up by 11bhp to 134bhp. Fuel economy has also improved to 44.1mpg, and while I dare say that may be partly due to some work on the engine it probably has more to do with Suzuki's decision to replace the old close-ratio five-speed gearbox with a six-speeder.
The previous transmission was very low-geared, and that made the car a bit of a trial at motorway speeds, as well as forcing it to use quite a bit of fuel. The six-speed replacement is still low-geared, and the ratios are still very close, but at least this Sport will now do more than 20mph per 1000rpm in top. As a result it's both more economical and less exhausting.
The relatively low rev drop between ratio combined with the remarkable flexibility of the engine (it will operate quite happily at well below 1500rpm and nearly 7000) mean that it would be an act of utter carelessness to find yourself in the wrong gear for the situation when you're driving the car as sportily as it name encourages you to.
This is a point in its favour, but it wouldn't be enough to make this Swift the car it should be. For that, the suspension has to be right.
In the previous Swift Sport, it wasn't quite. The back end was very stiff, which made the ride uncomfortable and suggested that Suzuki was trying to shift the balance of grip forwards. If so, it didn't work, because the front end couldn't bite into the tarmac sufficiently, and you needed to work hard to keep the car on line through corners.
Suzuki has clearly been on the case with this, and the results are far more important than the 11bhp power increase, however welcome that may be. Today's Sport rides remarkably well - to the point where it hardly feels like a performance-oriented car at all - yet its road behaviour is also much better than before.
There is still a tendency for the front to lose grip first, but this happens under much more severe conditions than before. You could drive this car quickly but sensibly for year after year without noticing it. You would notice the high level of grip, a generally very good front-rear balance and an ability to react well to properly-timed throttle applications but not make too much of a fuss if the driver steps on the gas earlier than would be wise. And, to make things even more wonderful, exceptionally supportive seats keep you firmly in position even during the most vigorous cornering.
An uncharitable fellow might wonder why Suzuki didn't make such a good job of the Swift Sport in 2006 if it can do it now. Well, never mind. The important point is that this is a delightful car of its type, almost - if not quite - as much fun as its very close and very similarly-priced rival the Twingo Renaultsport and outstandingly more refined.