New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI
Suzuki’s new Swift Sport promises lots of fun for the money – but is it a better bet than our current favourite baby hot hatch, the Volkswagen Up GTI?...
Volkswagen Up GTI 1.0 TSI 115 5dr
List price £14,155
Target Price £13,754
Smaller and less powerful than the Swift but promises fun for a more affordable price.
Most car manufacturers recognise just how vital millennials are to the future of the motor industry, but just how many genuinely fun hatchbacks are within realistic reach of young people? Even Suzuki, for so long a bastion of cheap thrills, has decided to ramp up the price of its latest Swift Sport by what looks like an eye-watering amount. It may still be cheaper than a full-blown hot hatch such as the Ford Fiesta ST, and you do get plenty of standard goodies, but the Swift Sport certainly isn’t the bargain its predecessor was.
In comparison, the Volkswagen Up GTI looks like an absolute steal. Although it’s compromised in some areas (you’ll be lucky to get much more than a couple of soft bags in the boot), it has the look and feel of a legitimate GTI and has already seen off the more powerful Abarth 595.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
The Swift’s switch to a more muscular 1.4-litre turbocharged engine (from its predecessor’s naturally aspirated 1.6), allied to light, accurate controls, make it an easy car to drive – but perhaps its greatest asset is how much more urgent it feels than its 138bhp power output suggests.
You’d expect its stronger engine to give it a performance edge over the 113bhp Up, but the gap is wider than anticipated because, despite being a good deal larger, the Swift barely weighs any more than its rival. In fact, the Swift feels really nippy, helped by the engine’s keenness to build revs; you have to be quick to grab the next gear to prevent the rev counter needle from bouncing off the buffers.
The Up’s engine may be smaller in capacity and a cylinder down (three versus four), but it’s still surprisingly flexible. Pulling eagerly from little more than tickover, it will even save your blushes if you end up labouring the engine in too high a gear – although the sweet-shifting manual gearbox means that’s unlikely. The engine loves to be revved, too, although acceleration is brisk rather than eye-widening.
The Swift’s brake pedal is a bit switch-like at lower speeds, so killing speed smoothly can be tricky. But the brakes themselves are stronger than the Up’s and stand up better to hard use.
The Swift’s lofty driving position only adds to the feeling of it leaning more in corners than the ground-hugging Up. That said, the degree of roll never gets to the point where your passengers will need to brace themselves against the doors. There’s plenty of grip, too, although mid-corner bumps cause the steering wheel to tug and kick back in your hands.
The Up is almost as wide as it is long, so it feels much more compact. Its light steering is ideal for nipping in and out of traffic, although it could do with more heft during faster driving.
Even so, the Up is more fun to drive than the Swift. Its tighter body control and impressive agility give you the feeling that you’re hardwired into the front wheels, even though its inferior grip means you can’t carry quite as much speed through corners.
The trade-off in the Up is a slightly fidgety ride around town, although both cars are actually quite comfy by hot hatch standards. However, you might get a bit fed up with the Up’s engine noise; there’s a slightly contrived drone whenever you press the accelerator pedal, although it’s fun to listen to when you’re in the mood. Otherwise, the Up is quieter, generating less wind and road noise on the motorway.