A jolly good sport
Posted on: 16th Aug 2012
There's a video on YouTube that I like to show people when illustrating that a car's power isn't everything. It features a Porsche Cayman on the Nurburgring. The driver is clearly working hard at the wheel but his rear view mirrors are full of something upright and red and it won't go away. A Suzuki Swift Sport.
The Cayman is squealing its tyres and leaping over kerbs in a vain attempt to shake the little Japanese box but to no avail. Granted, the Swift is stripped, caged and has had a light tune but it's a testament to the rightness of the formula. The reason I know how fast that Swift was moving is because it was me at the wheel of the Porsche.
The Swift Sport is the default option for a number of driving schools at the Ring, drawn to its reliability, its excellent chassis setup and the size of the grin it paints on the faces of those who've never driven the track at speed before.
It's a fantastic package and one that deserves more recognition in the UK, where it has been outsold by all manner of mediocre rivals. The latest model might well rectify that situation. Unveiled at the 2011 Frankfurt Show, it doesn't look all that different but it's been improved in a myriad of ways.
The Swift Sport has never been about pure power. Suzuki could easily shoehorn a 200bhp engine into the thing if it pleased, but that would just make it uninsurable for younger drivers. Instead, and rather sensibly, engine power has been modest, the latest car massaging peak horsepower up from the old car's 123 to a still distinctly manageable 134bhp.
Straight line performance improves marginally, but Suzuki has devoted much of their attention - and rightly so - to developing the Swift's chassis dynamics so it offers even more poise and control.
Like the shampoo adverts, you may want to pay attention now. This is the technical bit. The torsion beam rear suspension has been tuned to offer better rigidity and wheel control, while beefier rear wheel bearings enhance stability at the rear under hard cornering.
Both front and rear springing is firmer and the front struts now provide greater roll stiffness.
Modifications to the steering and gearbox bracing, suspension subframe and front wheel bearings all improve rigidity and allow the front suspension to work without having to cope with chassis flex involvement. The result is handling that's even more faithful than that of the previous Swift Sport.
Design and Build
Let's face it, this Swift doesn't look a whole lot different to the old one. It retains that car's sit up and beg styling, with big headlights and an airy glasshouse. A deeper front spoiler helps with the sports appeal and the wheels look to fill the arches rather more convincingly.
The large front grille is flanked by finned fog lamp bezels that add even more sporting character. Newly developed high-intensity discharge headlamps with a metallic-grey coating as well as new design rear combination lamps lend the Swift Sport a more upmarket look.
The old Swift's interior was very basic and while the new car won't have you wondering if you're behind the wheel of an Audi A8, it does at least look a little more involving. It remains very driver focused, with a trio of overlapping dials in the instrument binnacle and a tapered centre console that draws the eye to the gear lever that marshals the six-speed manual transmission.
The sports seats offer plenty of lateral support and the view out of the car is better than in most rivals, thanks again to that upright seating position and big glass area.
Market and Model
We'll have to wait a little while for full UK specifications, model details and pricing but we've been assured that it's not a radical diversion from that of the outgoing model and continues to campaign in a market sector where both budgets and margins are tight. The outgoing model was pitched at £12,995 so tack a little onto that and you shouldn't be too far wrong.
Cost of Ownership
Even a car as focused on fun as the Suzuki Swift Sport can't escape the fact that many buyers look to economy and emissions when drawing up a shortlist of contenders. Fortunately it scores fairly well with carbon dioxide emissions being trimmed from the old car's rather unspectacular 165g/km to a more manageable but still not class-leading 147g/km.
Fuel economy improves as well, with the combined fuel figure easing up from 39.8 to 44.1mpg. Bear in mind that these figures are for a bigger and more powerful car and Suzuki's achievements deserve more than a little credit.
Despite its modest power output the old Swift Sport was saddled with an insurance rating of Group 23 which, coupled with its relatively high emissions, put a cap firmly on its residual values. The latest car will need to do a lot better if it's to resist depreciation.
The Suzuki Swift Sport has been a car that didn't always look great on paper but made all kinds of sense after a B-road blast. The latest model looks to retain the fun factor but build on the sort of things that get customers into the showroom in the first place.
It's quicker yet cleaner, drinks less fuel and offers a far more impressive interior. Best of all, the premise of its predecessor has been carried forward. Yes, it needs to broaden its appeal, but at heart the Swift Sport has always been a car for those who know their onions.
The problem with this car is that it looks so similar to its predecessor for much of the public to cotton onto the fact that it's a different car. Yes, there's an argument for sticking to a formula if that formula's been successful, but the Swift Sport is a car that has always undersold its talents. For those in on the secret, what's stopping you?