After all these years Suzuki has finally come through. It’s finally delivered a worthy successor to its original pocket rocket, the Swift GTi.
Too bad they couldn’t have put a GTi badge on the back, or even a Turbo moniker for that matter — it deserves one. Aussies can’t get enough of that stuff.
As the owner of an original GTi (the ugly, boxy one with square fog lights) and a disappointed on-looker at the launch of the first Sport in Japan, this time I’m smiling.
My thanks go to whoever got rid of the conservative, old farts who call the shots back in Hamamatsu, because the latest Swift Sport ticks all the boxes — it’s that good.
What’s it cost?
Priced from $25,490 plus on-roads, it’s available with a six-speed manual or CVT style auto.
The six-step CVT with wheel-mounted change paddles adds $2000 to the price and is the subject of our test.
We’ve yet to drive the manual but look forward to doing so in the next few weeks, although word has it the CVT is the pick.
The new Sport has a lower, wider stance than its predecessor, more aggressive styling, plus new tech and safety features.
Standard kit includes cloth trim, single-zone climate air, keyless entry and start, electric folding mirrors, auto lights and mirror (but not wipers), driver info display, 7.0-inch touchscreen with sat-nav, a reverse camera, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
It also comes with six airbags, electronic stability control and advanced safety stuff such as auto emergency braking, lane departure warning, weaving alert, high beam assist and adaptive cruise control — not bad for the money.
What’s it go like?
Like a shot.
It’s quick off the line and pulls strongly through the mid range, with plenty in the tank for overtaking.
Finished in bright yellow with sporty embellishments, this car is an attention-getter.
Getting in for the first time, it takes a bit of wiggling to find a comfortable position, with high-sided seats that are a tad narrow — but thankfully not too highly bolstered.
The sports buckets are trimmed in a cloth combo with red stitching and embroidered Sport logos.
The dash is all hard plastic, but looks better than this suggests, with a flat-bottomed steering wheel trimmed in leather with contrasting red cross stitch.
Cycling through the driver information screen brings up: clock, motion, torque and power, acceleration and braking graphs, and one for turbo boost.
Unfortunately, a digital speedo has been overlooked — a blank screen leaves room for one.
Push the button and the engine comes to life, but be careful putting it into drive because pulling the transmission lever all the way back selects manual mode.
This we discovered can be used as a defacto sport mode because the transmission will eventually change gears when the the engine redlines.
Plant the accelerator and it’s quick enough to surprise more fancied marques, and can be punted hard and fired into corners with confidence that grows at every turn.
The dash from 0-100km/h takes a sharp 7.2 seconds.
The ride is firm but never quite harsh, but tends to become unobtrusive after a few days — although the tyres do generate quite a bit of noise over coarse bitumen.
With 17-inch alloys and pricey 195/45 Continentals, the car turns in nicely and has loads of mid-corner grip, with a tendency to understeer at the limit (and some lift-off oversteer under hard braking).
Out on the open road, left to its own devices, the transmission becomes a little dozy and is slow to respond if called upon to perform in a hurry.
The 1.6-litre naturally aspirated unit has been replaced by a 1.4-litre turbocharged four.
It’s a lift from the Vitara Turbo wagon, with a smidgen more torque, and is rated at 103kW of power and 230Nm of torque, the latter between 2500 and 3000 revs.
The previous model was good for 100kW and 160Nm, and it is the extra torque delivered lower in the rev range that makes the big difference.
The auto is 85kg lighter too, and the combination of more power and less weight brings the car to life.
The three-cylinder turbo model in comparison offers 82kW and 160Nm, and is itself no slouch.
Whether it’s the auto or manual, fuel consumption for both is rated at 6.1L/100km.
We were getting 6.4 from the tiny 37-litre tank after almost 500km (and it takes premium 95 RON unleaded).
A puncture repair kit is provided in the event of a flat tyre.
What we like?
Not too expensive
Looks great, especially in yellow
Steering and handling
Uses hardly any fuel, even when you’re up it
Back seat can accommodate full size adults
What we don’t?
Satnav sometimes confuses parallel roads
Transmission goes straight into manual mode when you pull back
Where’s the sporty analogue clock from Vitara?
Takes premium 95 RON unleaded
No digital speedo
No parking sensors
Small boot (it is a small car)
Plastic trim panel catches side of foot on exit
The bottom line?
Impressive package and importantly fun to drive. The question I keep asking myself is whether it’s worth forking out twice as much for a Civic Type R or Ford Focus RS? They’re both fantastic drives, but are they twice as much fun? Somehow, I think not.