The addictive deceiver
By the time you read this the chaps at Suzuki should have calmed down to a mild panic. Firstly, I put astronomical mileage on the Swift Sport press demonstrator and then I evaded most of their attempts to reclaim the car.
As this is one of my favourite B-segment vehicles it was inevitable that I would dodge any endeavour to give it back, especially since this was the luke-warm Sport version. Suzuki blessed the three-door car with firmer suspension, a revvy engine and some other go-faster artefacts. Just add petrol.
The swifter Swift reported for duty with its agreeable shape reminiscent of the previous Clio, dollied up with huge wheels, a roof spoiler and two shiny exhaust pipes. This beefs up the otherwise endearing shape of the car and, particularly in bright blue, announces its sporting intentions.
Inside, the thick sports steering wheel and gear lever are covered with black leather and red stitching which complement the red ‘n black bucket seats. Build quality seems on par with its rivals and matches black plastics with a single silver dashboard accent.
Its RDS radio/CD/mp3 sound system, the digital climate control and trip computer feature red displays, as does the odometer inside the uncomplicated chrome-ringed instruments. Snazzy carpets with sporty lettering and a set of shiny pedals complete the Swift interior.
Both front seats and the steering wheel are adjustable in most directions and although its two doors are quite sizable, at least they have grab handles in the centre of each door. Both windows and exterior mirrors buzz to the tune of electric motors and the Swift packs two front airbags.
Rear passengers enjoy good head and shoulder room, but only sufficient leg room if the front row is occupied by children. Better still, adults in the front and children in the back should be just fine. The whole rear bench folds flat to improve boot space from 201 to 494 litres.
Suzuki’s keyless entry system provides buttons on either door to lock or unlock the vehicle and a dummy ignition key to start the party. Host of this event is a 1586cc 16-valve in-line 4 cylinder with 92kW (125hp) at 6800rpm and 148Nm at 4800Nm.
Ahh, you think, that doesn’t sound like much. Don’t worry, so did I. This engine is incredibly rev-happy all the way to 7000rpm, amazingly brawny in its mid-range, furiously loud when poked with a stick and surprisingly frugal when you’re not in a hurry.
Its performance stats also make for uninspiring reading with a top speed of 200km/h and a 0-100km/h time of 8.9 seconds. We managed 9 flat but yet again it felt more like 7; I cannot stress enough that this car feels much, much faster (and exciting) than what you’re reading now.
The initial on/off throttle response isn’t always ideal, but all three pedals have minute travel and incredible response. The 5-speed gearbox could do with a sixth gear and/or closer ratios for improved cruising and acceleration but the lever provides crisp and precise movement through the cogs.
Swift Sport also has meaty steering which commands the Good-Year Eagle F1’s to change direction with verve. It has decent highway manners, loves sweeping bends and loathes potholes or crinkled tarmac. I tried to get the little (3.75m length) critter unstuck and it only offered me predictable under-steer in return.
The brakes are equally impressive with fantastic ABS feedback, electronic force distribution, coupled to the car’s ESP and semi-invasive traction control. And it is all this responsive equipment that makes the Suzuki Swift Sport an undiluted, addictive, grinning from ear-to-ear experience. Think Mini Cooper.
Bad points? The triple S coil-sprung suspension with McPherson struts front and torsion beam rear is quite hard, made even worse by wafer-thin 195/45R17 low-profile tyres. The bucket seats are cosy but if you long for comfort the Swift Sport should immediately be removed from your list of potentials.
The fuel tank is a little on the small side and my average consumption hovered just above 8L/100km, a litre above the manufacturer claim. Still, it felt like I was driving a much thirstier car and on top of that, this one only releases an average of 165g CO2/km.
Oh yes, and it costs an eye-watering N$199 900. That is a lot of money for a small car, but then you could argue that most motor manufacturers rip us off. Included in the price is a 3-year 100 000km warranty and a 4-year 60 000km service plan.
The Suzuki Swift Sport is hard sprung but highly responsive, low on numbers but high on attitude, deceptively small but with a humungous grin-factor. Take one for a test-drive and I’ll guarantee that you’ll also become insanely possessive of its key.
Climate: Overcast, severe wind
Road: Dry tarmac, level
Occupants: Driver, no passengers
Fuel level: 1/3
Mileage: 6 300km