Suzuki Swift Sport: Just how sporty is it?

  • We reflect on Swift Sport's performance credentials
  • Can 136bhp really be all that exciting these days?
  • Read our in-depth ride and handling evaluation

In our line of work it’s astonishing how much the word ‘Sport’ is over-used. We’ve seen seven-seat MPVs described as sporty, for goodness sake. It’s with a glimmer of trepidation, then, that I approach the sporting abilities of our latest long-term test car: the Suzuki Swift Sport.

Let’s talk power!

First, let’s look at the engine. It’s a 1.6-litre petrol unit built bespoke for the Sport version of the Swift. On paper it doesn’t look all that impressive; it has a Mondeo-esque 136bhp and 160Nm of torque, with peak pull available at 4,400rpm. The kerbweight, however, is just 1,045kg – which means the little Suzuki actually has a respectable power-to-weight ratio and hence will hit 62mph in 8.7 seconds. That’s exactly as fast as its main rival, the Renaultsport Twingo 133.

Although it’s not slow, you do have to work the engine quite hard to extract purposeful performance. Thankfully it isn’t turbocharged, meaning there’s none of the delay associated with modern engines which use the forced induction system to make things more efficient. Instead, the Sport relies on low weight and a well-tuned engine to keep carbon dioxide emissions down to 147g/km. In fact, throttle sensitivity is extremely acute, and so this is a car which responds oh so very eagerly when you prod the loud pedal.

As the rev counter’s needle climbs up towards the red line the engine’s note becomes ever more sporting, the twin exhaust pipes tangled in an aural duel with the noise from the 1,600cc powerplant.

Flicking through the gears on the six-speed gearbox is a joy. It’s a short throw – as should be the case in any car with ‘sports’ on the mind – and each ratio clicks into place with assurance. The lever itself is placed well inside the cabin, and the three pedals are both well-situated and nicely spaced apart.

What’s it like on the road?

Next, let’s explore the ride and handling. When I first drove this car in Barcelona last year I was impressed with the mixture of handling and ride quality Suzuki’s engineers appear to have worked into the chassis. It’s no secret in our game though that car firms often pick places with nice roads so people like us say nice things about their cars’ ride quality. I was very pleased to discover my faith in the Sport’s refined nature hadn’t been misplaced, because it does ride well on UK roads – a stern test for any car. Bumps and potholes don’t jolt the chassis like they would some rivals’, the relatively fat tyres definitely adding a welcome level of suppleness.

With larger tyres you’d be forgiven for expecting a slightly wallowy handling experience from the Swift’s hottest derivative. Luckily though Suzuki’s crack team of chassis development specialists have had the car set up specifically for our roads, so actually with its re-worked front and rear suspension it handles absolutely brilliantly.

Sure, it’s composed when driving normally, but when you turn things up a notch and really attack a corner it’s surprising just how far you can push. It just seems to grip and grip, lapping up any hooligan tendencies you might have in a way which inspires real confidence.

The steering is up to the task, too. Although it is electrically assisted, which usually means lacking feeling, there’s enough communication through the wheel to know exactly what the front wheels are doing. There’s a nice weighting behind it too, which further helps with the feeling that this is a car meant for going fast.

Finally, the brakes seem excellent thus far. Being the track-obsessed car bore that I am, I’d like to try them on a race circuit to see how they fare under extreme conditions, but on the road they provide every single bit of stopping power you’ll ever need.

So, to conclude, you can probably tell I’m rather impressed with the little Suzuki Swift Sport. It’s fun, but has serious sporting ability at the same time. The fact that you can dial it right up and still remain fairly safe on your local back-roads actually had me wondering whether a bigger, more powerful hot hatch is really necessary at all. This was perfectly illustrated a few nights ago when I took the highly acclaimed Renaultsport Megane RS 265 home; it’s one of the best hot hatchbacks money can buy. After 100 or so miles I missed my little Swifts ride quality, and being 100% honest, I wasn’t having any more fun.

So there you go: bigger isn’t always better.

Current mileage: 6,531

Average mpg: 39.1