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Used test: Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

Both of these diminutive hot hatches are loads of fun, plus they're seriously cheap when bought used. But which is the better buy?...

New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

The contenders

Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 Boosterjet

List price when new £17,999
Price today £11,500*
Available from 2018-present

The Swift Sport is one of our favourite used hot hatches, and good value bought used

Volkswagen Up GTI 1.0 TSI 115 5dr

List price when new £14,155
Price today £11,500*
Available from 2018-2019; 2020-present

The bubbly Up GTI is smaller and less powerful than the Swift but still great fun

*Price today is based on a 2018 model with average mileage and full service history, correct at time of writing

So you fancy a car with a good turn of speed and the fun factor turned up as high as it’ll go, but you also need something that’s reasonably practical and cheap to run. You’ll be wanting a hot hatch, then. No other class of car mixes pulse-racing fun and day-to-day, real-world ability quite as neatly.

Here, we’ve gone to the smaller end of the spectrum and chosen one of our favourite tiny tots, the Suzuki Swift Sport. This is the third generation of a car we’ve always admired for its driving agility and cheap thrills. We’re pairing it up in this test with the Volkswagen Up GTI, another one of our favourites, and a car that we know delivers driving pleasure in spades.

New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

On top of that, to make these already affordable cars just that bit more affordable we’re testing them both here at three years old. Which one makes the better used buy? Read on and we’ll tell you.


Performance, ride, handling, refinement

The first thing to point out is that the Up GTI we're testing here is one of the earlier examples. The car was hugely sought after following its launch in 2018 and demand soon outstripped supply. That, and the introduction of some more stringent emissions regulations, lead to it being temporarily taken off sale in 2019 but reintroduced, unchanged except for some new alloy wheels, in 2020.

New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

Turning our attention to the Swift. It has a muscular 1.4-litre turbocharged engine, allied to light, accurate controls, and that makes 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.

New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

The Swift’s brake pedal is a bit switch-like at lower speeds, so shedding 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.

New Suzuki Swift Sport vs Volkswagen Up GTI

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.