The sportscar you actually need

Suzuki follows the philosophy of designing quirky, reliable, and sensible cars. Think of the Ignis, the Jimny, Celerio, and the S-Presso. While we think Suzuki’s recent sales success is mainly due to its reliability, it is also mainly due to its motto of designing affordable and stand-out cars.

One of the leading cars in Suzuki’s stable, is the Swift. Since the manufacturer re-entered the Southern tip of Africa in 2008, the Swift has been central to Suzuki’s success story. This car truly embodies the philosophy of Suzuki to manufacture small, efficient, practical, quirky, and sporty cars.

The Sportier Swift offers buyers the opportunity to have considerable fun, without the need to break the 120km/h National highway restriction, at a fraction of the normal sportscar cost. With this car, Suzuki aimed  to show that everyone could (and still can) have responsible fun, yet use it as a practical family vehicle.

Nowhere can this design motto be showcased better than at the Simola Hillclimb; a motorsport event in Knysna, South Africa. The Swift Sport was never manufactured to reach the 100km/h in the quickest time. Rather, it was designed to give drivers a go-kart like, easy to handle feeling.

Whilst the Suzuki Swift might not have been the fastest car to cover the 1.9km long hill, each of the three drivers climbed out of their respective cars with big smiles after every session. The Swift Sport, at only 970kg, also seemed to be the perfect vehicle to race up the twisty hill. This was proven during the rain-soaked final run.

These three drivers covered a wide spectrum in terms of experience, with Sudhir Matai, a fellow motoring journalist, having competed in multiple racing formats. This included a podium finish in the South African Offroad Series, as well as winning the Border 100 Endurance race. Matai opted to drive a manual Swift Sport.

The other two automatic entrants were Wesley Greybe and Kumbi Mtshakazi. Greybe raced up the hill for Suzuki in 2022, setting a Swift Sport record of 54.580 seconds. Mtshakazi in turn, joined the team as the rookie, with no real prior motorsport experience.

Apart from a near brush with the tyres on Sunday morning, Mtshakazi immediately impressed the Suzuki team, posting times around the 1-minute mark. As he gained more confidence throughout the weekend, his times improved dramatically.

Even more surprisingly, Greybe managed to improve on his 2022 record, posting 54.395 seconds. Another interesting observation was the fact that the outomatics were constantly quicker than the manual. The Swift Sport seems to be one of the only sports hot hatches, where the automatic models are quicker than the manuals.

The A1 category for 4-cylinder road vehicles saw the three Swift Sports, racing against the newly launched Honda Civic Type R (FL5), in the hands of the experienced, Deon Joubert. There is, however, a significant contrast between the two models as the Type-R produces 235kW and 420Nm, whilst the Swift Sport produces half of that as the 1.4 BOOSTERJET engine produces 103kW (at 5500rpm) and 230Nm (between 2500 and 3500 rpm). That’s half of what the Honda produced.

Luckily, at R419 900 (6 speed manual) and R442 900 (for the 6-speed automatic), the Swifts Sports are more than half the price of the R970 000 of the Type R. As we also concluded during our Swift Sport test in 2020, the Suzuki is an everyday vehicle, as well as a fun little racer. The Type R in turn is an excellent track vehicle and surely one of Honda’s greatest marvels, but not necessarily an everyday vehicle.

In the dry, the Suzuki’s proved to not really match the pace of the Type R, but it all changed during the final session on the Sunday. This, as Matai and Greybe were the first cars to open the wet course for the other competitors. With both posting times, just 5 seconds slower than their dry runs, the Honda only managed to finish 5 seconds ahead.

The 2023 Simola Hillclimb saw racing monsters of all kinds. From the eye-watering single seaters, the highly technological Nissan GT-R R35s, the blistering fast Volkswagen Polo R WRX, all the way to bakkies, and daily drives; the 2023 Simola Hillclimb featured something for everyone.

Yet, Suzuki brought the most sensible vehicle to the party. This is the reason why I fell in love with the brand during my teens. I still fondly remember, saving MP4 videos to my external hard drive, of Suzuki Swift Sports racing in the Junior World Rally Championships. Now I have another memory to save. 

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