It's funny thing with the Suzuki Swift Sport. You can be at an event packed to the rafters with the most brand-blind enthusiasts who will happily get into a fist fight for dissing their preferred brand or saying another brand is good, yet when the Swift Sport is mentioned, you get a unanimous "Ja, those are good little cars hey?" There's a reason for this; the Suzuki Swift Sport is that damn good! This exact Champion Yellow one is the last to be sold new (demo) through a dealership in SA, and I was lucky enough to take it for a test drive before that happened. As many of you will know, I'm a huge fan of Suzuki products, I've driven every single one except for a Kizashi, but never at the coast. Thanks to Suzuki SA's Brendon Carpenter, I had the chance to drive the last of the last SSS cars in SA, in Cape Town. That's one tick on the bucket list.
At the coast, the little 1600cc powerplant comes alive. Sure, at the Reef it's a sprightly thing, but that extra coastal air pressure will see you swapping cogs fast enough on the short ratio 6-speed transmission to get the wheels to spin in 2nd, as opposed to the little chirp heard in Jo'burg. With a revvy normally aspirated 1600cc motor that produces just 100kW and 160Nm of torque, its miles behind when compared to the current hot hatches that everyone raves about. Bigger capacity motors with turbocharging is the way of the world now, but there are those out there (me) who still have a taste for the original hot hatch recipe that was made famous by the Mk1 Golf GTi from 1976. That car featured an 1600cc 8-valve lump with mechanical K-Jetronic fuel injection that was packed in a compact, lightweight body that afforded the car a decent power-to-weight ratio. It could hit 100km/h in 9-seconds. Add eight more valves and electronic fuel injection to that description and you could be talking about the Suzuki Swift Sport. It's easy to chuck a powerful motor in any hatchback, and with Suzuki's racing expertise it would have been quite easy, but the essence of the SSS would have been lost.
My afternoon with the car left me with smile cramps. Seriously, it's so much fun to drive but is just that little bit more special at the coast. The accelerator is nice and responsive, the steering is as direct as it gets and that "feel" that everyone makes a hoohaa about is there in spades. From puttering around at 1200rpm to thrashing the car to the redline, you always know what the car wants to do. The suspension geometry and a taught chassis make for an amazing combination, you can chuck the car around like a red-headed stepchild and it will obey every instruction you give it. If you want to go a little more balls to the wall, you can take the traction control off for a little lift-off oversteer fun but it's not really necessary as the nanny filters only kick in if you get things very wrong. The suspension also bugs me as I'd want the car to be lower because I'm from Kempton, but it's so good you don't want to mess with it in case you detract from it's capability. You also don't get chucked around in the cabin, some great seats are in play with high side bolsters to keep you firmly in place when entering hooligan mode. Also, there's some great dials to keep your eye on, it's actually a pretty good place to be seated. There is one single let down, and that's the old-school infotainment system that's really just a radio with Bluetooth functionality. That said, who wants an interactive touchscreen jobbie when you're carving up mountain passes or racetracks? You know how Toyota and Subaru were harping on about the 86 and BRZ making such low power because it's all about the drive? Well they can learn a thing or two from Suzuki. Personally I think they went boostless on those cars because those boxer motors like to eat ringlands for fun...
So why am I posting about the last of the last Suzuki Swift Sports? That's because today (6 June 2018) I'm headed to Durban with Suzuki SA to sample the new generation Suzuki Swift. I've seen plenty images of the car online, I've watched hours of reviews and while I'll miss this outgoing model, I'm looking forward to the new stuff. When news first broke about a new Swift, I was patiently waiting for details on the Sport model hoping that it would remain normally aspirated. Alas, Suzuki decided to turbocharge it. The reasoning isn't because it wants to try and play with the competition, it was purely based on efficiency and emissions and turbocharging is the answer to better figures all round. What I do like about the new Suzuki Swift Sport is that it's retained all the same ingredients made famous by that little Golf 42 years ago; it's compact, lightweight, has brilliant underpinnings, and still uses a small capacity lump, albeit with boost. Dropping 200cc but adding a turbo has seen the power remain much the same at 103kW but torque rises to 230Nm. On the plus side, for those who have more money than the need for a warrantee, boosted cars can make more power much easier than normally aspirated ones. I envision a future of plenty 200kW SSS cars running around soon.
While the new Swift Sport will only arrive later in the year (or possibly next year) it's time to say farewell to the last of the last proper fun cars. I'll report back on the new Swift range in the meantime of course, I'm just hoping they have given the local market enough blingy tech to look at inside so that no one even looks at competitor cars in this segment. I have my fingers crossed that the new Swift is all that's it's cracked up to be, but Suzuki hasn't disappointed me yet...
You can see an overview of the outgoing Suzuki Swift range over here if you like.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.