Car reviews - Suzuki - Swift - Sport CVT 5-dr hatch
13 Apr 2012
SUZUKI Australia has launched the halo model of its volume-selling Swift-light car range, the Swift Sport.
A direct descendant of the critically acclaimed first-generation model launched in 2005 and a spiritual successor to the cult-classic Swift GTi from the early-1990s, the baby hot-hatch also draws on the brand’s long experience in the Junior World Rally Championship – right down to that signature canary yellow paint.
In an age of super high-tech little fun machines, it’s a refreshing change to hop behind the wheel of something so affordable and short on pretension.
It’s a very simple idea, really, and one embodied by classic hot-hatches of yore like the Peugeot 205 Sport and the Mk1 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The little naturally aspirated engine doesn’t have the most impressive numbers on paper, but it belies its modest output by way of its rev-happy nature and the close-knit six-speed ‘box with an absurdly light clutch.
This is an engine that gleefully responds to having its proverbial neck wrung, happily revving all the way out toward its 7000rpm redline while filling the cabin with a high-pitched screech almost reminiscent of one of the Japanese brand’s motorcycles.
Ultimately, though, this is a small engine and you really have to work the gears to squeeze the best from it, otherwise you may find it a little short on puff as it enters the middle of the rev range.
At highway speeds in the unsurprisingly tall sixth ratio, the little engine chugs along happily enough at around 2500rpm.
Disappointingly, we were unable to drive a CVT model, since the first shipment is not slated to arrive until later this month. Keep an eye out for our impressions of this new transmission, which we will drive in the coming weeks.
Of course, the zippy performance is helped no end by its 1060kg kerb weight, which is feather-light by today’s standards. This is an even more impressive figure when you consider its five-star safety rating and decent level of standard equipment.
The brand’s claimed fuel consumption figure seems pretty on the money. We achieved around seven litres per 100km on our hilly drive route, and we weren’t exactly driving with frugality at the forefront of our minds.
The electric power steering is quick on centre without being twitchy, and is suitably light for general commuting. In the twisties the steering is sharp, though a touch devoid of road feel.
While the little Sport always feels supremely nimble and chuckable, there is not quite as much communication between the front hoops and that lovely multi-function perforated leather-clad steering wheel as there is in, say, a Ford Fiesta Zetec.
A real highlight is the set of 195/45 Bridgestone Potenza tyres fitted as standard, which limit the little car’s propensity to give in to understeer at the limit. These are not cheap tyres, and Suzuki should be commended for going the extra nine yards.
The stability control system is mercifully unobtrusive, and while there are traces of bodyroll in sharp bends, this is all part of the fun. We are talking about a cheap little hot-hatch here, remember.
Despite the relatively low-profile rubber, large 17-inch standard rims and stiffened springs, the Sport exhibited a far more pliant ride than we had expected.
Only the most serious of corrugations we tackled were able to unsettle the car, in which circumstances we received some unwelcome kickback through the wheel.
The all-round disc brakes (ventilated at the front and solid at the rear) have essentially been carried over from the previous generation, albeit with slightly larger pads.
Even after 20-plus laps of the Broadford race circuit, they still exhibited strong bite, hauling in the little car without fuss – another tip of the cap must go to Suzuki’s effort to strip weight from the car, which gives the anchors less work to do.
Inside, the car still feels very ‘Swift’, with the same hard surfaces across the dash and door trims and the same easily deciphered and intuitive instrument layout.
But the additional features on the Sport halo model – in particular the climate-control air-con, Bluetooth system, cruise control and the grippy sports bucket seats – make the cabin a far nicer place to be.
The silver-rimmed dials have not been well thought-out, though, with annoying 30km/h increments making it hard to accurately judge speed at a glance. This is doubly disappointing when you consider that the dials in the regular Swift are among the very best in the business, with a clear and logical layout.
While we couldn’t drive the CVT, we did note the excellent placement of the shift paddles mounted nice and close on the wheel on the display car provided by Suzuki.
Headroom in the front is fine and it’s easy to find a good driving position, thanks to the welcome addition of telescopic adjustment for the wheel.
It is still squeezy in the back, though, with room for two adults and a child at a pinch. The boot is also small, despite the lack of a spare wheel under the floor (a tyre repair kit is standard fit).
Everything feels typically well screwed together (Suzuki’s reputation for quality is not for nought), although one of the cars we tested exhibited an annoying rattle from the driver-side front door.
Although subjective, this reporter thinks the Sport looks the biz, too - subtly aggressive without being garish, but it’s a shame there’s no three-door.
The wheels and skirts give the car a more muscular stance, while the smallish rear spoiler is far less gauche than the giant wing on the Sport-previewing Swift S-Concept that debuted this time last year at the Geneva motor show.
Suzuki is also offering a range of official accessories, including racing stripes, black paint on the C-pillars and a set of (very nice) aggressive side skirts with a black character line.
More than anything else, the Swift Sport is a loveable little flashback to the hot-hatch days of yesteryear. Pep, pizzazz, character, spunk… Whatever your buzzword of choice, the bargain-priced Suzuki has it in spades.
We need to drive the CVT before we call pass full judgement on the Sport range, but tackling the twisties in the manual evaluation car consistently left us grinning like a loon, and that is more than reason enough to recommend it.
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