Suzuki Swift Sport: long-term test review

Third report: our Suzuki Swift Sport impresses on Yorkshire tripVerdict4A trip along some fantastic roads in Yorkshire has proven once again that the Swift is great to drive, but it’s not as rewarding as we would like when pushing hard. It’s easier to live with day to day as a result, aside from a few small niggles.

Mileage: 3,048
Economy: 42.8mpg

Thanks to our Swift Sport’s bright yellow paintjob, I spend about 70 per cent of my time around the little hot hatch squinting. On a sunny day it stands out on the road like little else.  

The Suzuki also seems to be at its best when driven at seven tenths, and I got the chance to explore this further on a recent trip up to North Yorkshire.

• Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 review

When that angry-looking nose is aimed at a twisty, undulating road at a brisk pace, the car feels in its element. The forgiving suspension set-up helps to enable a smooth flow, while the engine’s strong mid-range, flattered further by the hatch’s limited weight, makes it feel lively on the straight bits.

It’s just a shame that when the Suzuki is pushed harder than that, it starts to become a little unstuck. Harsh mid-corner bumps leave the dampers struggling to keep up.

There’s not much in the way of movement, either. While the previous-generation Swift Sport would adjust its line with a merest lift of the throttle, it takes a serious mid-corner crest to unsettle the new car. In other words, it’s not really worthwhile trying to extend it to the limits of what it can do, so it’s best to appreciate it at the level where it’s happiest.

The Swift continues to be a solid companion to live with every day. Recent night-time drives have revealed just how bright and clear the LED headlights are – a quality that would’ve been unthinkable on any supermini barely five years ago. But thick C-pillars hamper rearward visibility, and there aren’t any parking sensors to compensate. It does have a reversing camera, although its position in the number plate housing means that when water drips off the bumper, you can’t see where you’re going.

Suzuki Swift: Second Report

We bring warm hatch together with kindred spirit from eighties

Mileage: 2,704
Economy: 46.9mpg

I was pretty chuffed when I found out that the first model I’d be running on the Auto Express fleet would be a Suzuki Swift Sport. While some people prefer huge, wafty barges, I’ve always had a thing for small, sporty hatches. It’s a big part of the reason why, when I’m not using a test car, I have my own 1989 Peugeot 205 XS to enjoy.

Despite the almost 30 years’ worth of development (and scruffiness) that separates the Swift and my 205, there are a number of similarities. Both have a 1.4-litre petrol engine, both are among the lightest cars of their contemporaries and both are positioned a step below the full-on hot hatches of their respective eras.

The 205 GTi was the defining eighties hot hatch, and these days the Swift Sport sits below the Ford Fiesta ST in terms of power and performance. So how do the two compare? The Swift is featherweight by modern standards, at 975kg, but it’s positively obese beside the 820kg XS. That’s the compromise you have to make for airbags, a rear parking camera and forward collision detection. Or indeed any safety gear at all.

Then there’s the equipment. The Swift has electric windows all round, a touchscreen sat-nav system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, climate control, alloy wheels and LED headlights. My Peugeot has a digital clock that works sometimes.

And even though the old-timer has a weight advantage, the Suzuki still bats it aside in a straight-line sprint. The 205’s twin-choke, carb-fed 1.4-litre petrol engine produces 85bhp, a lot less than the turbocharged Swift’s 138bhp motor, and this translates to a difference of 1.9 seconds in their 0-62mph times.

Still, the Peugeot emphatically proves numbers aren’t everything. Building up speed may take longer, but the razor-sharp throttle launches the 205 forward with a rasp from the exhaust and a snarl that builds angrily towards the red line.

While the Swift’s turbo unit feels a little lazy, and sounds dull, it’s a lot more punchy in the mid-range. It doesn’t relish being revved hard, but you can make quick progress when short-shifting. I’m a fan of the Swift’s heavier-than- average steering (although not everyone in the Auto Express office agrees with me on that), but it doesn’t deliver the feedback of the 205’s unassisted rack.

The Swift’s gearbox is snappy enough; it just can’t compete with the wonderfully light yet mechanical feel of the 205, which leaves you slinging through the gate for fun. It’s a shame the Suzuki’s shift is good rather than great, because a sweet manual gearchange is one of the things that Japanese hot hatches usually manage to get just right 

The 205 was developed when noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) testing wasn’t really a focus, so it’s noisy, buzzy and most of the dash pieces don’t fit properly. The noise of each bump isn’t even remotely suppressed from the cabin, but the ride is fairly forgiving – something both cars have in common.

By the standards of modern sporty hatchbacks, the Swift is positively pillow-like. I live in London, and even on the capital’s poorly-surfaced roads, the Swift Sport manages to keep its composure. Still, going over large potholes is much more comfortable in the older, lighter car.

So which would I buy with my own cash? Well, by all objective measures, the Suzuki is the better choice, and it’s accomplished even against modern rivals. But that doesn’t mean that the Peugeot can’t put a smile on my face. It’s also easy to forgive the 205 XS for missing out on modern kit when it cost me less to buy outright than a single monthly PCP payment on the Swift.

Suzuki Swift Sport: first report

The Suzuki Swift Sport hot hatch faces a tough interview as it joins our long-term fleet

Mileage: 1,593
Economy: 43.1mpg

A recent study stated that it takes a third of employers just 90 seconds to decide whether or not they’ll offer a candidate a job at an interview. I couldn’t find any specific research into whether the first impressions of a bright yellow Japanese hot hatch are as vital, but I’m sure the principles are much the same.

This is our new Suzuki Swift Sport, and I’ll be running it for the next few months. So has my first encounter left me with the desire to hire, or will I be showing the sporty supermini the door?

Well, if its looks are equivalent to a well-crafted cover note, it’s already got my attention. A subtle bodykit, 17-inch alloy wheels and the retina-burning paintjob help an already-handsome car to stand out in a class where style means almost as much as substance.

Inside, the impressions are more mixed. You’re greeted by a pair of body-hugging sports seats which, lovely though they feel, are mounted too high. The steering wheel is nice enough to look at and to hold, but I’d like it to move slightly closer towards me.

In terms of design, the dashboard seems a generation behind other superminis, and thanks to the hard, unforgiving plastic used, it feels it as well. The infotainment system is poor, too: it looks like a cheap aftermarket job and is about as enjoyable to operate.

At five foot seven inches, I rarely make the most of a car’s headroom, but there’s plenty if you need it. Boot space is no match for a Volkswagen Polo’s, at 265 litres, but then the Suzuki is 13cm shorter.

The most important part of the interview process, however, comes in the drive. As with the looks, first impressions are positive; the steering feels well weighted and precise, the pedals are well positioned for heel-and-toe downshifts, and the gearbox, although not as snappy as it could be, is positive.

The Swift’s CV includes a recent road test against the Volkswagen up! GTI and Ford Fiesta ST-Line, where the Suzuki really held its own. Sure, it should feel more playful on the limit and it needs a fruitier exhaust, but our new hot hatch is otherwise very accomplished.

However, there are one or two quirks that are beginning to grate already. The over-reactive autonomous emergency braking system meant I quickly switched it off, but it turns back on again every time you restart the car.

Then there are the brakes: while they’re absolutely fine on the open road, they squeal loudly when I come to a gentle halt. You know, the sort of stop you do countless times during a slow-moving commute into the centre of town. My drive to work, in other words. Marvellous.

*Insurance quote from AA (0800 107 0680) for a 42-year-old in Banbury, Oxon, with three points.

Key specs

  • Model: Suzuki Swift Sport
  • On fleet since: June 2018
  • Price new: £17,999
  • Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl petrol, 138bhp
  • CO2/tax: 125g/km/£140
  • Options: None
  • Insurance*: Group: 35, Quote: £350
  • Mileage/economy: 3,048/42.8mpg
  • Any problems?: None so far

Rate your car in our Driver Power customer satisfaction survey

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *