Driven - July 2019

New Suzuki Swift Sport driven in South Africa

Suzuki Swift Launch Review

We drive the new Suzuki Swift Sport in South Africa

Picture this, a 17 year old man looming to purchase his first vehicle. After browsing many websites, he suddenly follows a friend’s recommendation and finds himself engrossed by none other than the Suzuki Swift Sport. Generation one, engine code M16A, color: Champion Yellow. “ This was the one” he thought.  Unfortunately for this young man, this was where the fairytale ends, as the Champion Yellow Swift Sport was out of budget. However, it’s not all doom and gloom as the young man proceeded to stay in the Suzuki family and purchase the Suzuki Swift 1.3GL – great car, great engine. 

This is where my love for the Swift began. 

Since then, I’ve gone on to own the 2nd generation Suzuki Swift Sport which still sits in my garage today. It’s safe to say I’m extremely familiar with these vehicles and pretty fond of them as well. No sooner had we learned that the car was coming to SA, had I already called dibs on the launch. 

Suzuki Swift Sport Exhaust

 

The day ahead looked to be an exciting one. We wouldn’t be driving the new Swift Sport on the road, but rather on the track, skidpan gymkhana style at Red Star Raceway.

As excited as I was, feelings of apprehension crept in as I had many many questions that needed answering. I really wanted the new Suzuki Swift Sport to be successful, yet it’s undergone big changes. The focus of this being the power plant, the 1.6 NA engine that powered both previous-generation models has been replaced in favor of Suzuki’s new Booster engine – a 1 400cc turbocharged motor which produces 103 kW and 230 Nm of torque and features direct injection. 

Whilst this isn’t a massive increase from the 100 kW and 160 Nm provided by the much-loved 1.6-litre naturally aspirated Swift- it will inherently change the characteristics of the vehicle. With the new boosted engine, power and more specifically torque now come in much earlier in the rev range. This means exploring the full potential of the engine no longer requires you to ring its neck, or in other words, rev the engine right to the redline to get the power you need – unlike the previous generation Suzuki Swift Sport. 

In fairness, this is what I and many others loved about the previous generation, it’s free-revving nature and high rpm limit made for a fun, engaging and natural drive – even if you did need to work hard for it. 

Suzuki Swift Sport rear

So, would the new Swift Sport carry on the legacy and provide a rich driving experience? Or has it been dampened due to the rising trend in turbocharging technology? 

After just a few short laps on the handling circuit at Red Star Raceway, I found the answers I was looking for. 

The new Swift Sport does lose its high rpm limit, but this doesn’t seem to affect the free revving nature of the engine. It becomes a much easier car to drive quickly as power delivery arrives much lower in the RPM range, and the 6-speed short shift gearbox aids the experience.  While it’s easy to notice that the Swift is now turbocharged, it doesn’t feel like it has swung too far in the other direction and this really shows with the performance of the car and on paper.

Suzuki Swift Sport Front

Suzuki could have opted for more power if they had wished, but they didn’t. 103kW is only 3 percent more power than the previous model, and if you think that seems a little underwhelming then you’re missing the point. The key with this vehicle isn’t power, but power-to-weight. The new Swift Sport has shed 90 kg, coming in at a total weight of 970 kg. This weight saving along with a slight increase in power and low-end torque provides a noticeable difference in performance.  

If we compared the power-to-weight ratio with a much more expensive hot hatch like the Volkswagen Polo GTI, we find that per tonne of weight, the GTI produces 115 kW & 250 Nm. The Swift Sport in comparison offers up 106kW/237Nm per tonne – here we can see how the low weight of the Swift plays a big roll in its performance.

Suzuki Swift Sport Blue

The nature of the swift means that total power output isn’t the holy grail and aiding the driving experience is the Suzuki’s chassis. It’s 40 mm wider and 15 mm lower than before, with Suzuki also retaining a similar suspension setup to that of the previous generation – if it aint broke, don’t fix it!  The result? A really sharp and nimble front end and an engaging experience with oversteer on tap if desired (and if you know what you are doing) you can really throw this car around and have plenty of fun. The 6-speed manual gearbox features a further 10% reduction in shift distance, I’ve always loved this box and the new one is just as pleasing.  The blend of more torque with reduced weight allows the Swift to retain most of the driving experience that puts a smile on our face.  

In terms of technology and safety, the latest swift sport includes a nice 4.5 inch digital display with the ability of Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and a rear view camera for reversing. 6 airbags are standard, and an additional 135 liters of luggage space is now available in the new model. There is now an automatic gearbox available in the form of a torque converter. The only time I spent in this vehicle was on the Gymkhana, so I can’t really give a driving opinion yet.

Suzuki Swift Sport Red

Final thoughts

Suzuki’s new Swift Sport is not as raw from a driving perspective as the previous generation but it was never going to be. If cars like this were solely journalist/enthusiast-focused, they wouldn’t be well fitted for the modern consumer at all. Suzuki seems to have the balance right – they have incorporated new technology which aids safety, fuel economy and performance but they have also done well at retaining the soul and character of the Suzuki Swift Sport. It’s sad to see the 1.6 NA motor go, but times change and to sell cars manufacturers need to adapt to the times. It’s an evolution and a very good one at that.

Suzuki Swift Sport Pricing in South Africa

The new Suzuki Swift Sport 6 speed manual will cost you R315,000.00 including VAT, with the automatic variant coming in at R335,000.00. This price includes a 5- year/ 200 000 km promotional warranty and a 4 -year / 60 000 km service plan.