Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Let’s begin with the heart of the Swift Sport: its turbocharged 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine that benefits from mild hybrid assistance to help efficiency and boost performance, too. Granted, with just 127bhp – a power output that wouldn’t look out of place in a run-of-the-mill hatchback – it doesn’t have much in the way of hot hatch bragging rights. But, at only 1025kg (over 200kg less than a Ford Fiesta ST, it is little wonder that the Swift Sport accelerates with an intensity that belies its humble claimed 0-62mph time of 9.1sec. In fact, during performance testing of the Swift Sport on a dry day, we clocked an impressive 0-60mph time of just 7.0sec; that’s 1.6sec quicker than the Volkswagen Up GTI.
With maximum torque available from just 2000rpm and plenty of shove from just 1500rpm, there’s little need to use the lower gears on a windy road; you can just use this low-down grunt to carry you from bend to bend. However, keen drivers will be pleased to find that, despite being turbocharged, the little 1.4 unit also loves to rev. Its rev needle zips readily around to the 6000rpm redline more keenly, in fact, than that of the Up GTI.
The standard six-speed manual gearbox’s well-spaced ratios play a part in the Swift Sport’s verve, while an accurate throw, positive clutch action and strong brakes give you confidence when pushing on down a demanding road. All of which are vital, because this car is capable of some properly zingy mid-corner speed.
Turn in to a quick corner and, once you’re past that initial moment of lean – there’s a bit more than in some hot hatches, but less you’ll encounter in the Up GTI – the Swift Sport settles quickly and locks onto your chosen line. Squeeze on the accelerator mid-corner too aggressively and you might just 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 certainly more composed and agile than the Up GTI and certainly beats the Abarth 595, but it’s not as much fun as the Fiesta ST.
The fly in the Swift’s ointment is its steering. The initial numbness when you first turn the wheel can frustrate, especially considering that the Up GTI’s precise, well-weighted steering is part of the reason it's so much fun, even at relatively low speeds. You’ll feel a reasonable amount of information coming up from the Swift’s front tyres, but you do have to contend with the wheel writhing in your hands a little over mid-corner bumps when cornering keenly.
When sporty driving isn’t your priority the Swift Sport is surprisingly comfortable; only the worst examples of bashed-up road surfaces cause the suspension to kick and rattle. The Up GTI is more comfortable still, although it doesn’t control its body movements quite so tightly over speed bumps and rippled country roads; over these surfaces, Swift passengers are shaken to and fro far less. You’ll notice plenty of wind and road noise, though. The brakes might take some getting used to, too; when you come off the accelerator pedal, the car sheds speed rather more quickly than you might expect. That’s down to the effect of the hybrid system, which recovers energy to recharge its batteries as the car slows down.
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