Saturday, 16 June 2012

2012 Suzuki Swift Sport FULL ROAD TEST

Light hatchbacks with brawny engines have been with us for over 30 years and how we have come to love them. The latest to join the fray is Suzuki’s second generation Swift Sport which has some rather big boots to fill.

The original Sport caused quite a stir when it arrived in early 2006, the hatch it was based on was already widely praised for its roomy, well built cabin and neat exterior design – the Sport added strong performance and crisp handling to the package. This new Swift Sport does the same again; we hit the road to find out how good it really is.

What is it?

The Swift is Suzuki’s B-Segment, or supermini, entry and as the name suggests the Sport is the most potent variant in the line-up. Following on from the run-away success of the previous generation Sport this new iteration is all new and was launched in January 2012. It aims to build on the impressive road manners and decent performance on offer before but with lower emissions, better economy and crucially vastly improved comfort – a major criticism of the old model. At the heart of the Sport is a heavily fettled-with 1.6 litre normally aspirated petrol engine serving up a beefy 136 bhp (up from 123 bhp) from 4,400 rpm fitted with Variable Valve Timing. Prices start at £13,499 and come with a remarkable arsenal of standard equipment.

Rivals: Renaultsport Twingo, MINI Cooper, Ford Fiesta Zetec-S

Key Features
  • Automatic digital air conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • ABS, EBD & ESP
  • 7 Airbags
  • HID projector headlamps
  • Keyless entry
  • Bluetooth audio system
  • 17" alloy wheels
  • Twin exhausts
  • Sports seats

The new car has grown in every direction to improve cabin space, has wider tracks all-round for improved agility and to look at it ticks all of the right boxes.

At the front there are generously proportioned HID Projector headlights that stretch way back into the wings, an imposing mesh grill and cool finned fog light surrounds. The floating a-pillar and high raised waistline sit well with the lowered suspension, sill extensions and eye-catching 17” alloy wheels. The best is saved for the rear in the form of a neat boot spoiler and best of all a racy lower diffuser which houses the twin exhausts. It’s a very butch looking machine that’s stance is squat, sporty and athletic especially in the metallic Silky Silver finish of our test car.

Press the small button on the chunky door handle – no key needed here – open the door and jump into the driver’s seat to admire the view. The cabin is neatly laid out with clear instrumentation and although the material quality on offer isn’t the best, it feels really well constructed. Red stitching on the meaty leather covered steering wheel, gear knob and seats lift the mood- reminding you of the cars sporting aspirations. The front seats themselves are wonderful, pinning passengers in place with their thick bolsters that offer plenty of support during enthusiastic cornering. The dials are also a joy to use and carry on the sporty theme with their metallic surrounds and red and white graphics.

Equipment levels are very good for this class of car, keyless entry with start button, digital air-conditioning, Bluetooth connectivity and automatic HID projector headlamps all come as standard. As do essential safety kit including, seven airbags, ESP, and antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution granting the Swift Sport the coveted 5-star Euro NCAP rating. It’s also nice to see cruise control on a car of this kind which is a boon for motorway driving.
Clean modern design inside lifted by sporty red stitching
Figure hugging front seats are very supportive and look fantastic
Enough room in the rear for short journeys but lack of legroom limits practicality

Cabin space, as you would expect of a car measuring just 3,890mm in length is decent in the front but less-so in the rear. Headroom in the back is fine but legroom is restricted if anyone approaching six foot is sat up front. Access to the rear however, is easier than a lot of 3 door cars as the front seats pivot and slide right-the-way forward. Annoyingly the seats do not return to their original position so need to be re-adjusted every time someone enters or exits the back of the car.

Boot space is adequate at 211 litres extending to 512 litres with the rear seats folded but is hampered by a huge load lip. It’s more than enough for a couple of weekend bags. Usefully there are also a quite a few well placed storage areas scattered about the cabin, one of which is located on top of the dashboard – perfect for storing CDs and keys.

Dip the clutch; push the Engine Start Stop button and the throaty 1.6 litre 136bhp engine bursts into life. Rev the engine a little and the roarty exhaust note makes itself know. With 118 lb ft of torque on offer from 4,400rpm and a 0-62mph sprint taking 8.7 seconds you aren’t going to be winning any records. What it lacks in outright pace it more-than makes up for in character and usability.

Thanks to a beautifully snappy 6 speed gearbox making swift - as the name suggests - progress is easy. Where in rival cars with more power and turbos you can floor it in any gear for fast getaways, the Swift Sport needs to be revved. Power delivery is smooth and progressive but everything starts to change when the engine reaches around 4000rpm, the soundtrack suddenly deepens and then a good kick of thrust follows and continues right up until the 7000rpm redline. At this end of the spectrum the experience is very addictive as the Swift seems to love being pushed hard.

HID projector lights look thoroughly modern as do distinctive foglight surrounds and large grill.
This continues when the road gets twisty too. The Swifts steering is perfectly weighted for all driving conditions. Around town it’s light and accurate, at higher speeds and when cornering it weights-up nicely. There’s also plenty of feedback so the driver always knows what the front wheels are doing. In terms of handling the Swift is incredibly rewarding with tightly controlled body movements and high levels of grip always feeling poised and composed at all times. If one does approach a corner with too much speed which will rarely happen, the car gently slips into understeer but with some careful dialling in of the throttle the nose tucks nicely back into the driving line. The disc brakes all round also do a great job of scrubbing off speed with a satisfying feel to the pedal.

When you’re not in the mood for some spirited driving the Swifts engine remains hushed and refined. Comfort levels are also surprisingly good with a firm yet compliant ride that does an admirable job of soaking up the UK’s pockmarked roads. Where others will crash over the roughest road surfaces the Swift will make light work of anything in its path creating a comfortable long distance companion. This is further enhanced by low levels of wind and road noise, light controls and the standard fit cruise control.

At £13,499 the Suzuki Swift Sport is priced on par with its Renault counterpart but undercuts the MINI Cooper and Fiesta Zetec-S by up to £2000 which represents superb value for money. It is also better equipped than them all. Costs are also not be sniffed at with a combined fuel consumption of 44 mpg which we were able to achieve while the car was with us. Furthermore noticeable improvements have been made over the previous model to the emissions which are now down to 147g/km equating to Band F which will cost owners a reasonable £135 per year.

Words and Photos by Rob McSorley

Technical Data

Price as tested: £13,499
Engine: 1.6 16v 136bhp - 0-62mph: 8.7 secs - Maximum Speed: 121mph -
Economy: 33.6mpg (urban) –54.3mpg (extra-urban), 44.1mpg (combined) - Emissions: 147g/km (Band F) - VED (12 months): £135
Dimensions: Length: 3890mm - Width: 1695mm - Height: 1510mm - Wheelbase: 2430mm

*data from Suzuki UK

The Verdict 4/5

The new Swift Sport is a real achievement that deserves to be successful. Suzuki have cleverly managed to improve the car in all of the areas of weakness previously such as its poor ride quality and refinement whilst making improvements in running costs and emissions at the same time. It offers buyers an exhilarating blend crisp handling and frisky performance. It is also impressively refined and its low asking price represents undeniable value for money. Some drivers will wish the Swift had more power but we feel the performance on offer is decent enough and suits the character of the car well. The only minor weaknesses are in cabin space and interior quality where some rivals offer more but this doesn't detract from the superb all-round package.

You will like

Sporty looks
Finely tuned handling
Accessible performance

You won’t like

Cabin/boot space
Interior quality

Special Thanks to; Suzuki Motors, Steinbeck Crescent, Snelshall West, Milton Keynes, MK4 4AE

All photographs and text are the exclusive property of Rob McSorley (except where stated otherwise). They are made available for your personal viewing enjoyment only. No images are within the Public Domain. The photographs may not be copied, reproduced, redistributed, manipulated, projected, used or altered in any way without the prior permission of Rob Mcsorley (

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