2018 Suzuki Swift Sport

OH dear. The car guy gave a wicked grin as he tossed the key fob. “Enjoy” he said “it’s the yellow one”. And it was, Champion Yellow. Our mature tester approached the Swift Sport, hmm, small and bright, he thought to himself.

But as you look closer, the new aggressive front end, the updated styling down the side and the carbon fibre housed rear exhausts, one begins to wonder just what the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport might be like.

OK get it over with. Open the door and slide in. Tardis like, the interior feels larger than the car looks. Plenty of room. The finish is excellent, cloth sports seats enclose the driver and front passenger, but may be a little tight for a larger person.

Dash is simple but comprehensive. OK, fire it up. Seat belt on, Push the button. Brake off, lever down to D. Little nudge as the gears engage. Off we go. This is where it starts to get interesting.

It’s a small car, with a smallish engine. The expectation is that it will perform like a small car. Out on to the road and waiting for a break in the traffic. A break and tromp the accelerator and OMG!

The little car becomes a rocket, the “little” engine moves up the revs and the car is into the gap and keeps on going. Wicked grin from the car guy understood. And we were sporting the same grin.

The new 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport comes with a 1.4-litre Boosterjet turbo engine that delivers an incredible amount of power for the light weight car. 103kW and 230Nm, all to move a car that weighs less than a tonne (auto is 990kg at the kerb).

We start to relax and take in the features. We’d already noticed the room, and the seats, now the rest of the car starts to sink in. Yes, the bright yellow bonnet is still prominent, but the subtle details of the car begin to filter past the grin.

The leather and stitched steering wheel feels great and the steering is light, but with definite feedback from the road. The car moves well and hugs the road, reminiscent of the old Cooper S of a by gone era.

As we move through the gears with a bit of heaver acceleration, there is a nice little bump with each change, as the automatic gearbox takes up the slack. That gives the car a sporty feel and the grin is back.

Apart from the a very slight lag when taking off, the turbo spins up very quickly and maintains a very even power delivery through the gears (and one of the dash options is a boost gauge, distracting but fun to watch).

And it appears that Suzuki have thought about how a driver wants to drive, without prompting the auto seems to maintain the revs in a decent range when pushing the car (a little) so that there aren’t pesky lags when coming out of longer corners.

The gearbox doesn’t select a higher gear immediately after the foot comes off the accelerator either, like many of the other autos we have driven, so perhaps fuel saving is not the primary design aim of this car.

And when using the flapper changers (sorry – paddle shifters) on the steering wheel, the car feels almost regretful when it finally defaults and changes gear ahead of you. It’s exhilarating.

While we had the Sport, we saw an average of 6.4-litres/100km, in a good mix of heavy commuter traffic and country road runs. Suzuki advertise a combined consumption of 6.1, we will give them that, as we did have fun.

Matching the engine is a well thought out suspension and chassis package. The MacPherson strut and coil springs on the front are sporty firm, and the torsion bar with coil spring at the rear minimise the body roll nicely.

The chassis feels quite solid and rigid. These can make it a little tiring on some of Australia’s well maintained (sic) roads, though this is what gives this car amazing handling through virtually any corner.

It has flat neutral handling with little or no body roll, and typical built-in over steer, characteristics of a typical new Swift chassis, though the electronic stability control and traction control work extremely well in wet or dry weather.

It does however give a false sense of security, especially if the car is driven too hard, as the turbo charged engine has a lot of power, so care should be taken to get to know the cars limits well before it is driven too hard.

Having said all that, the first corner will make it worthwhile. The power delivery to the road via the front wheels is also well thought out and controlled, with very little in the way of torque steer when pushing through tight corners.

We should say, that although we’ve been generally talking about the auto version of the Swift Sport, we also drove the manual variant as well. We found the manual clutch to be brilliant, light and with excellent travel.

Gear changes are fairly smooth, the synchro works beautifully well, even getting back into first gear. That said, getting through to fifth and sixth gear always seemed to be a little bit harder.

The reversing camera is good too, actually it’s very good, and even has indicator lines, a surprise for such an affordable small car, but something we’d love to see on all cars as standard.

To supplement the driver experience, the car has a range of feedback displays. Nestled between the cowled speedo and rev dials is a little LCD screen. Flicking through this from the steering wheel control, the driver can select from a number of info options.

From the boring trip meters and average fuel consumption readouts, to boost and performance graphs. These can be a little distracting but also add to the driver interaction with the car. It also displays alerts.

This little Suzuki also has a range of safety features as standard, including six airbags, ESC, AEB, lane departure warning, weaving alert, high beam assist and adaptive cruise control.

On the highway, the adaptive cruise control works, which while that sounds odd, is not always the case. Some systems seem to struggle to cope with shifting speeds and maintaining distance at the same time.

It does not have blind spot monitoring though, but the visibility from inside the car is excellent, except perhaps directly behind, as the rear seats have full head rests and the rear window is rather small.

On the entertainment side, the Swift Sport comes with a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system, with Bluetooth audio and phone, SatNav, Apple Car Play and Android Auto. The menus and touch screen are easy to use and intuitive.

The car will take four adults, or three smaller children and two adults, with ease and surprisingly, there is not an overly large drop in performance with a full load. The back seats maintain the Tardis theme with sufficient head and plenty of leg room.

The boot is, as you would expect, quite small, but would easily load up a day’s shopping or a couple of medium sized bags. The rear seats fold down 60/40 to provide a very useful space too.

But here in lies a second small issue, the spare tire is a space saver, and this may not be the best solution if you plan lots of long distance trips.

We don’t mean to gush by the way, even though it seems we have, but this is a fun little car. The Swift has been around for a while now in various forms, and the 2018 range is instantly recognisable.

The stand-alone Swift Sport model, a special hot compact if you will, comes in at a very nice price point for a very useful small car, that just happens to have a solid performance kick and is quite good looking.

The 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport is available from $27,990 for the manual and $29,990 for the auto. It comes in Champion Yellow, Mineral Grey, Speedy Blue, Pure White and Super Black. A special Red Devil edition is also available.

Our test vehicles were provided by Suzuki Australia. To find out more about the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport, please contact your local Suzuki dealer. Pictures courtesy of Neoklis Bloukos/PhotoAutomobili. Neoklis also contributed this story.

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