There are five main corners at Broadford raceway, north of Melbourne, and the new Suzuki Swift Sport will do lift-off oversteer at every one of them. Hatchbacks need to be safely-understeery shopping trolleys, but a hot hatchback must kick its tail out after a big mid-corner lift of the throttle. It’s what makes them agile and fun.
So there’s an early tick for this, the second-generation Swift Sport, a car which Suzuki claims to have improved by tweaking, rather than overhauling, the first-gen’s formula. Similar styling matches an identical pricetag – $23,990, or Fiesta Zetec/Hyundai Veloster money – but there’s an extra ratio for the manual (now six-speed), an extra 8kW liberated from the 1.6-litre naturally-aspirated four (now 100kW) and, for the first time, a $2K-optional CVT with steering-wheel-mounted paddleshifters.
On the road, the Sport maintains a raw attitude, with screwed-down body control and a vocal engine that revs to 7000rpm. Yet, like the regular Swift range, there’s a refined veil that covers that rawness. Thanks to extra sound deadening, the new Sport is quiet, and a stronger body and suspension tweaks results in ride quality that never turns unbearably harsh – unlike the first-gen model’s.
If only the Swift Sport had the steering of a Fiesta. The electric-assist set-up is decently reactive on centre, but completely numb and overly light as lock is wound on. It’s certainly no equal partner for the sharp front-drive chassis. Drive the Suzuki properly – instead of looking for lift-off histrionics – and turn-in, outright grip and overall balance all impress.
It would be cruel to point out that a standard Rio 1.6 has more power, but the Swift Sport is some 119kg lighter, at 1060kg. The trim body allows the small four to feel responsive enough for buyers to forfeit doing their hot-hatch shopping based on the kiloWatt count. If only Suzuki provided a spare wheel – only a goo-kit is supplied, and after tearing a sidewall after the track session, it left us waiting for Suzuki to fetch a new wheel…
In isolation, the new Swift Sport is an impressive entry level hot hatch. But we’ll be putting it up against some very stiff competition in the May issue of Wheels magazine, so stay tuned for the final verdict…
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