What Car? says...
The Suzuki Swift Sport and other hot hatches no longer offer quite such cheap thrills as they used to – with a noticeable rise in the cost of getting hold of a new one.
Still, Suzuki loves a good deal, whether you’re buying outright or on finance. So, while the Swift Sport looks like a Ford Fiesta ST rival in terms of price, if you shop around, it gets closer to the less expensive territory of the VW Up GTI and the entry-level Abarth 595.
The Swift Sport is hotter than you might imagine, too. The 127bhp you get from its mild hybrid turbocharged engine might not sound like a lot, but this Suzuki Swift variant has light weight on its side. Indeed, we had a bit of a surprise when we put it through our performance tests, as you'll find out later in this review.
It's also got the sensible stuff covered. The Swift Sport is a proper five-door five-seater packed with nice-to-have features that are often reserved for the options list on rivals. You get plenty of advanced safety kit, including adaptive cruise control, lane-departure prevention and blind-spot monitoring (some of those aren't even available as an option on certain similarly sized cars).
So, read on over the next few pages of this review to find out whether the Suzuki Swift Sport lives up to its name, and how it compares with its main hot hatch rivals when it comes to performance, handling, interior quality, running costs, boot space and other important factors.
When you're ready to buy a new car of any make and model, we can help you get it for the best price if you search our free What Car? New Car Deals service. It has lots of tempting savings, whether you're planning to buy outright or with finance, and is a good place to look for the latest new hot hatchback deals.
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. Mild-hybrid assistance helps with efficiency and improves 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 200kg less than the Ford Fiesta ST). Little wonder, then, that it accelerates with an intensity that belies its humble claimed 0-62mph time of 9.1sec. In fact, during our performance testing on a dry day, we clocked an impressive 0-60mph time of just 7.0sec. That’s 1.6sec quicker than the VW Up GTI.
Maximum torque is available from just 2000rpm and you get plenty of shove from just 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. Keen drivers will be pleased to hear that, despite being turbocharged, the little 1.4 unit also loves to rev. Its rev needle zips around to the 6000rpm red line more keenly, in fact, than that of the Up GTI.
The standard six-speed manual Suzuki 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 less than in the Up GTI, and 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 and Up GTI, but it’s not as much fun as the Fiesta ST.
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. Indeed, the Up GTI’s precise, well-weighted steering is part of the reason it's so much fun, even at relatively low speeds. The Swift's front tyres 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. The Up GTI is even more comfortable in the main, but on speed bumps and rippled country roads Swift passengers are shaken to and fro far less.
You’ll notice plenty of wind and road noise, though, and the brakes might take some getting used to – when you come off the accelerator pedal, the car sheds speed rather more quickly than you might expect. That’s down to the hybrid system recovering energy to recharge its batteries as the car slows.
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 displays a host of information including average speed, lateral acceleration, the turbocharger’s boosting efforts and the amount of G-force generated under acceleration and braking.
There’s plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment – more than you'll find in the VW Up GTI – so finding the right driving position won't be too taxing. The biggest improvement over the regular Suzuki Swift is that you get heavily bolstered hot hatch sports seats. They're supportive and very comfy, giving the sense that you’re driving something genuinely sporty. They are particularly 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, though.
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 slow to respond and the sat-nav is clunky to use. Happily Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring are included as standard so you can use apps on your phone and bypass the system’s software altogether.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Unfortunately, flexibility and boot space are some way behind the competition. The back seats fold down with a 60/40 arrangement as standard, but that’s about as flexible as they get. The boot is smaller than the one in the Ford Fiesta ST and does without the Up GTI’s useful height-adjustable boot floor.
You can read more about the interior layout in general in our review of the standard Suzuki Swift.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Suzuki would argue that the Swift Sport is a true hot hatch competitor to the Ford Fiesta ST. In reality, though, it sits somewhere between the pricier, more powerful Fiesta and the cheaper, slower VW Up GTI.
That said, the Swift Sport’s comprehensive list of standard kit does make it more attractive. There is just the one Sport trim level available, and it's fully loaded with standard features, including climate control, keyless entry and start, and 17in alloy wheels.
The engine's mild-hybrid assistance makes it a lot more frugal than the Fiesta ST, helping it to achieve a similar fuel economy figure to the Up GTI (50.4mpg and 51.4mpg respectively). The Swift Sport has the same CO2 emissions figures as the little Up GTI so they sit in the same company car tax band. The Swift Sport is the more expensive of the two to insure, though.
In terms of safety kit, the Swift Sport comes with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance, a drowsiness monitor, radar cruise control, 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 (the regular Suzuki Swift got a rather shocking three stars).
Suzuki performed very well in our 2021 What Car? Reliability Survey, finishing third out of 30 manufacturers, and outperforming Ford and Volkswagen by a considerable margin. The Swift Sport comes with a standard three-year, 60,000-mile warranty.
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|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|