THE SUZUKI SWIFT Sport sums up all of what I like about Oriental culture, from martial arts to Anime and the whole Zen vibe, I see it all in this tweetie bird-coloured Swift. Stationary, it sits like a monk meditating in a temple, humming away on idle but fully aware of potential danger and in a constant state of set. On the move, it feels as nimble and agile as a Ninja jumping over roof tops in the dark: stealth, instant direction change and savage execution. Then there’s the Jet Li and Jackie Chan side of it, the purity of the naturally-aspirated engine to go with the smile left on your face every time you’re able to mix it with cars that you shouldn’t really be playing with in the first place. A true Japanese hero then?
Helping to make the Sport look more Samurai then ‘glamour eye’ are a few key detail additions. The front foglamp bezels have been given wolverine claws for added aggression, the grille is more pronounced and joins the front apron making it look like its glaring its teeth. There are Sport-specific 16-inch wheels, side skirts that hug the ground, a rear diffuser that harvests twin tailpipes and a roof spoiler for that all-round boy racer look. The added parts certainly make this Swift look more urgent, battle ready and, of course, sporty. Those of you who remember the previous Swift Sport will no doubt have noticed the fact that this new one has two extra doors: the previous model was purely a three-door hatch.
The interior of the new Sport has undergone a subtle makeover that sets it apart as the black belt martial artist in the Swift range. The steering wheel and gear knob have been sewn up with sporty red stitching, as do the better-bolstered seats that also have the word Sport embroidered on them. The dials on the instrument cluster now have a silver metallic border to them, then to top it off you get stainless steel slatted pedals that are positioned perfectly with heel-and-toe enthusiasts in mind. On the gadget side of things, you get all the normal throw-ins from the regular Swift including CD/MP3 player, a six-speaker audio system, a USB port, air-conditioning and electricity to work the windows and mirrors.
The Swift Sport doesn’t go around brandishing a huge power output upwards of the 150kW region that some other current hot hatches are surpassing. Instead, its 1.6-litre engine pushes out an even 100kW of naturally-aspirated power, which peaks at 6900rpm, right when you think that the tacho needle is about to do a full rotation. Max torque is 160Nm developed at 4000rpm, which is a touch lower than with the previous Sport. Karate-kick the accelerator to the floor, drop the clutch and launch the Sport off the line as the 7000rpm red line approaches and you can’t help but notice how similar the engine note sounds to Bruce Lee mid-scream. Snatch the gear lever into second and Bruce takes a breath before laying out another roundhouse yelp, breaching the 100kph mark in 8.4 seconds, a full six tenths faster than the previous Sport. While these figures may not be mind blowing, they are more than adequate to keep you coming back for more, especially since you can thrash the Sport as much as you want and it will still return under 7.5ℓ/100km. On our economy route, the Sport managed 5.6ℓ/100km, just 0.1ℓ more than the regular Swift.
This is the section where the Swift plays its joker card: it is now 10mm closer to the ground and the suspension has been tweaked to provide a flatter ride when launching into a corner. The engineers have also managed to shed 30kg, giving the new Sport a slightly better power-to-weight ratio. Having only 100kW at your disposal means you can really wring the Sport by the neck without feeling like one wrong move will result in a kung-fu elbow to the throat. Steering is crisp and the inevitable understeer is gradual without any instant, annoying shriek from the tyres. The grip from the front tyres is tenacious and the little Sport corners like a hare being chased by a pack of hungry dogs. Force it into any situation and the Swift is eager to please, creating a real sense of security that suggests acting like a teenager at the wheel should be the norm rather than the exception. And I have to say that ride comfort is even better than before: what used to be a stiff, jerky ride over the bumps and undulations is now more composed. It is still firm, but you won’t get out after a long drive and start looking for your kidney under the seat.
Thinking about it, there isn’t much competition in the Swift Sport’s segment as most manufacturers seek out the turbocharger route for fuel efficiency reasons, although the Swift matches most and beats many in that department. At a price of R213900 it’s even tougher to pick rivals. You can look at the smaller Renault Twingo RS or Mini Cooper and Alfa Romeo Mito, but the Alfa and Mini are more expensive and won’t offer anywhere near the same thrills as the Swift can. R200k doesn’t get you much when you want something with a bit of a fun factor, sporty style and boy-racer emotions. The Swift, then, is a rare breed, delivering on all sides and thus far hard to beat as the bargain buy of the year.
TopCar was invited to drive Suzuki’s sportiest Swift months ahead of its release – and it’s about time too. A normally aspirated 1.6-litre engine might not sound exciting but thanks to a clever VVT multivalve system it manages to churn out an easily exploited 92kW and 148Nm with little fuss – stroked by a manual five speed transmission.
This endows it with a 200kph top speed and a 0-100kph time of 8.9 seconds. It’s not a hot hatch – but in the B segment it competes in its warmer than most. Point it through a set of twisties as we have repeatedly done in the mountainous blacktop around Pretoria, Hartebeestpoot Dam and Magaliesberg and the tight little chassis really shines.
Steering is satisfyingly heavy – belying its 1030kg curb weight – the result is a turn in at low and high speeds that encourages you to push. Mid corner acceleration is a particularly strong point thanks to the razor’s edge throttle response and minimal weight transfer on direction changes. Entertaining! If the bean counters manage to keep the Sport’s price tag under R200 000 it has a real performance gem on its hand, made all the more attractive courtesy of a ‘100 units only’ production run – come on Suzuki SA!
Look out for a comprehensive first drive of the Suzuki Swift Sport in our June edition of topCar magazine, on sale from the 17 May 2010.