What Car? says...
Hot hatches were once the best way to get cheap thrills, giving buyers access to plenty of performance but without the compromises that come with many sports cars. These days most hot hatches are quite expensive – but not the Suzuki Swift Sport.
In fact, some models this Suzuki Swift variant used to compete with – including the Ford Fiesta ST and the VW Up GTI – are being discontinued, leaving the Swift Sport with very few rivals. That’s not to say it has the run of the class, though.
To help it compete, the Swift Sport has light weight on its side – in fact we had a bit of a surprise when we put it through our own performance tests. It's also got the sensible stuff covered, as a five-door five-seater packed with features that are often reserved for the options list on rivals.
So, read on to find out whether the Suzuki Swift Sport lives up to its name, and how it compares with the best hot hatches.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Let’s begin with the 'heart' of the Suzuki Swift Sport: its turbocharged 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine. It has mild-hybrid assistance to help with efficiency and improve performance, but the 127bhp power output doesn’t give it much in the way of hot hatch bragging rights.
Fortunately, the Swift Sport weighs only 1025kg (more than 100kg lighter than the i20 N). Little wonder, then, that it accelerates with an intensity that belies its humble claimed 0-62mph time of 9.1 seconds.
We clocked a 0-60mph time of just 7.0 seconds in our own tests, which is impressive – although the Hyundai i20 N is more than half a second quicker.
Maximum torque is available from just 2000rpm and you get plenty of shove from 1500rpm, so there’s little need to use the lower gears on a twisty road – the low-down grunt carries you from bend to bend. Despite being turbocharged, the little 1.4 unit loves to rev, topping out at 6000rpm.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox has well-spaced ratios that add to the Swift Sport’s verve, while an accurate throw, positive clutch action and strong brakes give you confidence when pushing it on a demanding road. All those are vital because this car is capable of some properly zingy mid-corner speed.
When you turn in to a quick corner, there’s a bit more lean than in some hot hatches, but the Swift Sport settles quickly and locks on to your chosen line.
If you squeeze on the accelerator mid-corner too aggressively, you might sense the front wheels beginning to run wide of your desired course, but a lift of the accelerator pedal tucks the nose back in promptly.
Pushed hard, it’s more composed and agile than the Abarth 595 but doesn’t have the prowess of properly sporty hot hatches such as the i20 N or the (much more expensive) VW Golf GTI.
The fly in the ointment is the Swift Sport's steering. As you turn the wheel, there's an initial numbness that can be frustrating. The front tyres still give you a reasonable amount of information, but you do have to contend with the wheel writhing in your hands a little over mid-corner bumps if you corner keenly.
When sporty driving isn’t your priority, it's surprisingly comfortable, and only the worst bashed-up road surfaces cause the suspension to kick and rattle. It’s certainly more compliant than the firmer i20N, its ride proving more settled and moving you around in your seat less, regardless of your speed.
As is often the case with hot hatches, you’ll notice plenty of wind and road noise at high speeds.
Strengths Comfortable ride; good body control through corners; sweet gearbox
Weaknesses Slightly numb steering; fair amount of road and wind noise
The interior layout, fit and finish
Interior quality has never been a Suzuki strong point, but while the Swift Sport’s dashboard is made from unappealing hard plastics, the overall effect is lifted somewhat by sporty red trim pieces, a stylish leather-bound steering wheel and alloy pedals.
There's also a colour display between the red-edged rev counter and the speedometer that should keep the PlayStation generation happy. It shows a host of information, including average speed, lateral acceleration, the turbocharger’s boosting efforts and G-force.
There’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment, so finding the right driving position won't be too taxing.
The biggest improvement over the regular Swift is that you get heavily bolstered sports seats. They're supportive and very comfy, giving the sense that you’re driving something genuinely sporty. They're narrow, though, so they might not suit everyone.
Forward visibility is good, but the view over your shoulder is compromised by thick rear pillars and small rear windows. Thankfully, rear parking sensors and a rear-view camera are standard, while dark roads are amply lit by the bright automatic LED headlights. Automatic wipers aren’t available.
In terms of infotainment, the Swift Sport gets a 7.0in touchscreen. It's integrated into the dashboard well enough, but the graphics look dated, the screen is sometimes slow to respond and the sat-nav is clunky to use.
Strengths Supportive sports seats; good forward visibility
Weaknesses Unappealing interior materials; clunky infotainment system
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Suzuki Swift Sport is a fairly practical five-door hatchback, and front and back seat passengers shouldn't feel short of space. It has a high high roofline and relatively decent rear leg room compared with the four-seat Abarth 595.
The Swift has more boot space than the 595, too. Even so, it’s still not particularly impressive, giving you just 265 litres of space, compared with the 352 litres you’ll find in the Hyundai i20 N. For some extra space, the back seats fold down with a 60/40 arrangement as standard, but that’s about as flexible as they get.
You can read more about the interior layout in general in Suzuki Swift review.
Strengths Plenty of front space; good leg room compared with Abarth 595
Weaknesses Small boot
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
The Suzuki Swift Sport comes into its own when we look at pricing, costing less as a cash purchase than every hot hatch except the Abarth 595. The thing is, while it’ll cost you slightly less than the Hyundai i20 N, the Swift Sport is on the milder side of the hot hatch class, making it quite easy to justify the jump in price to the more performance-focused i20 N.
What’s more, the Swift Sport is predicted to depreciate quicker than the i20 N, meaning you might get less of your money back if you decide to sell in three years. You’ll likely also see the effect if you’re buying on PCP finance, with the Suzuki’s swift depreciation increasing the amount you’ll pay each month.
The engine's mild-hybrid assistance makes it fairly frugal, helping it to achieve a fuel economy figure of just over 50mpg (compared with 40.3mpg for the i20 N). Better still, the Swift’s CO2 emissions are lower than for the 595 and i20 N, putting it in a lower company car tax band.
There’s only one trim to choose from, so you get plenty of standard kit with the Swift Sport, including 17in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and start, automatic air conditioning, automatic headlights, heated door mirrors, parking aids and touchscreen infotainment.
In terms of safety kit, the Swift Sport comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, a drowsiness monitor, blind-spot monitoring, a system to warn of approaching objects from the side when reversing and advanced forward pedestrian detection. That equipment helped it achieve a reasonable four stars out of five in its Euro NCAP rating, when it was tested in 2017 (the regular Swift got a rather shocking three stars).
Suzuki performed very well in our 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing fourth out of 32 manufacturers. Its cars come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, but that’s pretty par for the course and doesn’t match the five-year/unlimited-mileage warranty that Hyundai offers.
Strengths Great reliability record; lots of standard equipment; cheaper to buy than most rivals
Weaknesses So-so warranty; safety rating could be better; depreciates faster than rivals
For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here
In our tests, the Swift Sport was far quicker than its official 9.1 seconds 0-62mph time, sprinting from 0-60mph in just 7.0 seconds. The official top speed is 130mph.
|RRP price range||£24,270 - £24,270|
|Number of trims (see all)||1|
|Number of engines (see all)||1|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||50.4 - 50.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||3 years / 60000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£848 / £1,393|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,697 / £2,786|