Suzuki making Swift progress with a hot little hatch

Suzuki’s swiftest Swift proved a big hit with youngish owners looking for an affordable (to buy and insure) warm hatch.

The new Suzuki Swift Sport looks set to be a winner
The new Suzuki Swift Sport looks set to be a winner

Suzuki’s swiftest Swift proved a big hit with youngish owners looking for an affordable (to buy and insure) warm hatch writes Ian Donaldson.

So little wonder the new Sport model, on sale in January, is more a step forward than a leap into the automotive unknown, with more of what’s good and a bit less of what isn’t.

In the good column are power and economy, both boosted by a gentle reworking of the existing engine (now 134bhp from its 1.6-litre petrol engine) and the addition of a sixth gear to make long motorway drags a bit less of a . . . drag.

There’s also been a bit more space added to the length of the new Swift Sport for a slightly roomier interior (still only a four-seater, though) and the addition of cruise control and keyless entry – leave the key in your pocket and the car still knows you’re about. Like the old car, metallic paint is standard at no extra cost (tell that to Audi!).

So to the not so good; this welcome tinkering with an already successful formula has brought a price increase that’s rather more than a gentle uplift.

The old Sport cost £12,995 (they’re all sold, by the way), so the predicted £14,500 of the new model looks as though the Suzuki price setters knew they had an in-demand model on their hands and priced it accordingly.

It’s still not overpriced, though, when you consider the reworking you’ll find in the little hatchback, designed in Japan, tested on some awkward Yorkshire roads as part of its European acclimatisation and built in Hungary in a plant that’s this summer built its two-millionth vehicle.

The last Sport model was hard to pick out from its cheaper, slower siblings. The newcomer is less shy about boasting of its sporting prowess, with a bolder front grille, finned fog lamp housings, side body mouldings and a spoiler above rear window. Multi-spoked alloy wheels fill the wheel arches in muscular fashion.

Inside, the changes from non-Sport versions is subtle, with more firmly bolstered front seats about the only obvious change. Not that there’s much wrong with the cabin anyway, with room in the rear for two adults and a dashboard that’s simple (a good thing) and easy to read.

In slightly pearly white paint the Swift Sport looks every centimetre the sporty hatch it’s intended to be, with blacked out rear-side windows adding a touch of Mafia menace. It looks perfectly pitched at the early-30s and mostly male buyers who Suzuki thinks will fall for the car.

They’ll appreciate the car Suzuki’s engineers have taken over, making it feel sporty on the road, with a lot of work to make the suspension and steering feel sharper without turning the car into a racetrack refugee.

Like other sporty numbers from Japan (think Honda in particular) the Swift Sport’s engine needs to be worked hard for maximum attack.

Indeed, change gear at what sounds the right time and you’ll miss its verve. This is a car that rewards effort from its driver, who won’t mind swapping gears in a box that feels crisp and positive.

Driven with some restraint it will even prove an economical little tiger, with the official fuel average consumption figure better by 10 per cent, at 44.1mpg.

Company car user choosers might also note the newcomer’s emissions now slip below the critical 160g/km level.

Family car buyers will like the five-star rating all Swifts enjoy in the Euro NCAP tests.

It may be small but there’s a proper bigger car feel to the whole machine, a sure sign that painstaking development has followed every change.

That augurs well for a long-term relationship with a car that will bring a smile to many a young man’s face. And some older ones too.