An obsession with cost is mainly why one of the B segment’s best cars is the way it is. The Swift SPORT, which is only 3.9 m long, feels alive for the same reason that the even smaller VW up! GTI or Abarth 500 do: a lack of unnecessary or unwanted components and technology.
Keeping it light
Suzuki seems to ask itself constantly how yet more money can be saved. That means its cars’ panels are often slimmer or flimsier-yet-still-durable. Or simply absent in the case of unnecessary parts.
Carpet and glass and sound insulation are thin, doors may clang and have hard interior trim, petrol engines are small in capacity and lack electrification. I offer no criticism for any of that, finding it refreshing.
Thriving in selected markets
The Japanese company is gone from the USA, continues in China as a small brand and has been quietly expanding sales all across Europe. Suzuki also remains number two in Japan and we all know how strong Maruti has always been in the Indian market (a consistent 50% share). A clever company then.
It’s been a very good year in the UK for the brand (deliveries: 13,077), and perhaps the cars’ useful yet non-distracting technology could be one of the reasons.
People respond to good value pricing too, something which Suzuki has always been known for. That, and lightweight, fun hatchbacks.
An even better Swift Sport
Having been concerned that the Swift Sport might not have necessarily been improved by making it a mild hybrid, I learned that worries were unnecessary. This is still a cracking car. And now it goes a little further on each litre of fuel and emits fewer grammes of carbon dioxide.
There’s a comedic line on the global website which advertises the Sport’s features. Even so, Let Me Sting You isn’t inaccurate. The buzz from the way it drives becomes addictive.
Damp roads can be exciting instead of potentially dangerous and there’s so little mass and width – just 1025 kg and 1,735 mm – to be concerned about. The feedback from the steering is direct, the tyres aren’t too wide so you can sense where they are on the grip spectrum, much notice being given before traction is lost.
Mild, plug-in and series hybrids
In this job I’m often asked about favourite cars and the Swift Sport Hybrid – to use the official name – is in my top ten. That word is used so that the UK importer can claim that all of its passenger vehicles are now petrol-electric.
The line-up here consists of the Ignis, Vitara and S-Cross mild hybrids, plus the Swift and Swift Sport and two models supplied by Toyota: the Swace (hybrid) and Across (PHEV).
The MHEV system for both Swifts consists of an ISG (integrated starter-generator) and 48V electrics. This applies for both 1.2- and 1.4-litre engines in the Swift and the Sport’s higher output 1.4.
While not greatly contributing to fuel saving, the change was nonetheless worthwhile in what was already a near-perfect car. The K14D series Boosterjet engine uses six percent less fuel than the previous non-MHEV, the official WLTP average being 50.4 mpg. Power and torque are 95 kW (129 PS) and 235 Nm (173 lb ft).
There’s just the right amount of assistance to the steering and zero intrusion from the automatic lane-keeping system. Braking is also excellent and an owner probably won’t be replacing tyres – well, the back ones – too often either. These are benefits of the philosophy to keep cost and weight out.
As for suspension, even though the wheelbase is only 2,450 mm long, the springs and Monroe dampers have been tuned by people who know how to play to the car’s strengths.
It isn’t especially quick car, 0-62 mph taking 9.1 seconds and top speed is 130 mph. As mentioned earlier, economy is also very good thanks to the low weight and sensible gearing from the six-speed manual transmission (there’s no automatic option). The CO2 average is 125 g/km.
I really am battling to find anything to report about the little Sport that’s less than terrific. You soon become used to the lack of automatic up/down functions for three of the windows, and there is only one USB socket.
Perhaps it could sound a bit raspier, and the red line is at 6,200 rpm which seems low. What else? A spare tyre and a boot that has a cubic capacity of 265 l would be appreciated too. At least the mild hybrid system’s battery hasn’t stolen some of that space and placed mass outside the wheelbase: it and the DC/DC convertor unit are below the front seats.
The (other) good stuff
Suzuki adds to the overall appeal with other things such as the big windows, real instruments, tonnes of headroom, a handbrake, simple functions on the touch screen instead of endless menus and sub-menus plus the basic narrowness of the cabin and car itself.
The Sport will be remembered as a classic. That’s being helped by there not being that many examples of this model on British roads (an average of 1,500 a year), the affordability of the thing and how you cannot help but enjoy every drive.
The eighth generation Swift is due in 2023 and will probably be in UK showrooms by the end of that year.
We shouldn’t see much in the way of adjustments to the existing car before then. Build for this and other European countries will likely be at the Sagara plant in Japan.
Pricing for the Suzuki Swift (mild) Hybrid starts at GBP20,070 (including a current GBP2,000 discount).