When you introduce two new models to the market, and they both have the magick of a turbocharger attached, there's no better place than a racetrack. The team at Suzuki South Africa made sure the introduction of the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport and the updated Suzuki Vitara was not only memorable, but they also made sure to introduce the car at a venue that could properly exploit the products. You must know that when you're invited to RedStar Raceway, things will be about speed, and even if you're not accustomed to fast cars on track, that's it's still going to be a great day at the office.
Usually I like to put up a little disclaimer when it comes to Suzuki's cars, because I'm such a fan that bias creeps in. Most people who know me are aware of my Suzuki obsession to the point that any time an interesting Suzuki-related post is seen on just about any online platform I get tagged in hundreds of times. If you're bored, search my name and Suzuki together and you'll see what I mean. So yeah, expect some over the top flattery from me on both the new Swift Sport and the Vitara. The thing is, while I do this because I'm a long time fan who's followed the progression of the brand in SA, I'm not alone in singing my praises. If I had to round up every positive comment from my fellow motoring journos both locally and internationally, there'd be so much to go through that you'd swear we were all paid to be nice. We weren't of course, but such is the stack of accolades that it's thoroughly plausible.
I know you're eagerly awaiting details of the Swift Sport, so I'll start off with the Vitara, I'm cool like that...
Suzuki Vitara Turbo
The all-new Vitara was launched back in 2015, and it quickly became a favourite, as you'd see in my full review five months later when I had it on test for a week. So three years in and the Vitara has received some more attention to keep it current, which is pretty easy to do when the thing doesn't look like its aged at all. What the Suzuki engineers have done is equip the turbocharged Vitara with the the same spec of the current range-topping GLX grade, but have added a few changes to raise the visual impact. We now find the Suzuki Vitara Turbo sporting LED DRLs with LED headlights and taillights. Chrome always makes things look more larney, and so we now find chrome in the front grille and under the fog lights. In the cabin a 7-inch touchscreen was added to head up the infotainment system, which also includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Yes, included FOR FREE. Some mainstream manufacturers could take note of that, so I'll say it again. Apple carPlay and Android Auto is included for free. That means you don't pay extra for this tech. If that's not cool enough, it also features MirrorLink if you prefer to connect that way. Also inside is a unique leather and suede upholstery combination that looks way more premium than the price tag would suggest.
Then there's the powerplant, which was in my mind the only thing that counted against the previous Vitara. Well not for me personally, but the buying public. While the N/A 1.6 is nippy enough and the transmission features ratios that properly exploit the power, people want boost at altitude. With the new Boosterjet engine in play, there's a loss of 200cc down to a 1400 capacity, but with that little metal snail bolted on, power is up from 86kW to 103kW, and the torque rises to a healthy 220Nm from 156Nm. That's already a brilliant improvement, but the engineers tried hard for a Christmas bonus and so they chucked in a 6-speed manual transmission, and even went as far as millennialproofing the Vitara by also giving the option of a 6-speed auto, because it saves valuable energy which can rather be used for all the Instagram posing or whatever else influencers do. Basically what this new package equates to is eliminating any excuse not to buy a Vitara. The two things that were a concern to the people I recommended the Vitara to have been addressed, the infotainment has a touchscreen and there's now enough power to get you in proper trouble. The Vitara is also claimed to sip just 5.8l/100km in manual guise and 5.9l/100 in auto, and from my experience I can tell you the car will use even less in real world conditions with decent driving. The price tag remains favourable too, which in this current climate is almost unheard of.
Suzuki Swift Sport
When Suzuki announced the all-new Jimny and the all-new Swift Sport I lost my shit on an epic scale. I mean come on, two of my favourite cars having brand new models hit the market - can you blame me? So we (SA) got the Jimny pretty much as the model was launched internationally, even before some other world markets. This meant I could physically feel and touch one (don't judge) to make sure it was indeed a legit car and not some weird retro dream. Then there's this new Swift Sport that hit international shores sort of at the same time, but it's arrival in SA was delayed by about 119 years for something to do with fuels and things that don't make sense to me. This is both good and bad. Good because it builds the anticipation, and it gave me a chance to read every single online review ever written about the car, even finding basic driving impressions posted on Aussie Suzuki dealership blogs. Bad because all these reviews made the car sound like the Second Coming and that it is quite literally the best thing since, well, the last best thing. So hopes were high for it to be a cracker of a car that's much improved over the previous model.
When the new Swift shape launched, I was like "Hmmm, isss ok". I wasn't wowed by it, but it was all-new and an improvement over the previous model in every way possible. Good enough reason to like it as an overall package. Then the Sport version appeared, and again, it looked great but the previous generation is still rather pretty to me and so again I wasn't really sold. Jump forward 119 years to finally seeing one in the metal and things are very, very different. Photos simply don't do the shape justice, which is odd for a photographer to say but it's legit. The Sport features different styling cues to make sure onlookers know that it's the range-topper, all these things make this little hatchback rather desirable, and when added to a range of funky colours that help show off these changes, the Swift Sport rises to the top my Want-O-Meter. The little break in the C-pillar, the rear diffuser, and the side skirts that remain in black make the paint colours pop, but even the black option works. Visually, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is a clear winner for fans of hatchback. There is but one single complaint I have when it comes to the styling - SIXTEEN INCH WHEELS. What the actual fuck guys? There is no reason for anyone to ever use 16" wheels in 2019. They're kak, tyres are mad money for the size, they don't fill the arches enough, and they're also quite kak. They sit a little too tucked into the arches for my liking too, these teeny wheels make the SSS a candidate for spacers to bring the wheels flush with the arches. Of course things do look ok as an overall package, but slapping on the same 17" wheels that are available in other markets will take the new Swift Sport's look to an 11/10 for me. Maybe the bigger wheels will be available in the future, but until then I'm expecting to see new Swift Sport models queueing up at local wheel shops. Some JDM-style hoops along the lines of Volk's TE37s will be insanely wicked!
So like the Vitara, the new Swift also Sports (see what I did there) the same Boosterjet powerplant and it even makes the same power at 103kW, but it is 10Nm up at 230Nm. The outgoing 1600cc engine was rated at 103kW and 160Nm, and while those aren't big numbers they made the SSS a true hot hatch in the original sense of the phrase, and it was the last of the fun, high-revving sports cars available on the market before being retired. Many were worried that adding boost would change the dynamics of the car and affect the fun factor, but these are the kind of people you must ignore at braais because they're eedjits. Boost is ALWAYS better - it's even loosely referenced in the Bible. Nahum 3:2 reads: "The noise of the whip, the noise of the rattling of the wheel, galloping horses and bounding chariots!". If that doesn't describe boost kicking in, I dunno what does. As with the previous model, there a short-shift, close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission in play for the real drivers out there, and a 6-speed auto with flappy paddles for the Xbox generation - although there's no reset button. The men in white coats claim the all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can hit 100km/h in 8-seconds and it tops out at 205km/h. I think it's quicker if I'm to trust my butt dyno.
Of course adding boost was the easy part. Making the all-new Swift Sport a little bigger inside, a little fatter at the hips and and giving it a bigger boot capacity that measures at least two full Chelsy Pintos (if a little pretzeled up) all the while managing to shed a full 90kg of weight - that was the hard part. Actually, doing all of that and still having the car feel solidly built is quite impressive too. The doors close with a solid thunk, the fit and finish is tops and there's no rattles even at race pace on rumble strips. There's so many new things to mention in this all-new Suzuki Swift Sport, and they'll be attended to in detail when I do a full review. Right now I'm sure you just want to know how the little hatchback performs, so on to that then...
So the car is lighter and more powerful, and there's that sweet-ass turbocharged rush of power. I was given the opportunity to drive one in anger (which is hard to do with a Joker-like smile plastered on your face) on RedStar Raceway's small track and it took just a single lap to feel right at home. The cockpit of the SSS is great thanks to a proper sports steering wheel and some tasty high-bolstered tombstone-style race seats, along with a great looking speedo cluster. It was easy to find the perfect driving position, and once in, I headed on track. Firstly, if you don't have an amazing dental plan, be super gentle when applying brakes. I tramped on them in the pit lane to see their bite rate and almost ate the steering wheel. They're sharp, and amazingly, after around 40 journos thrashed the four cars used for the track session all day long, they showed zero signs of fade. That's in stock trim with OEM brake fluid, which is flipping amazing. I left the nanny filters on for my first lap, and the traction control knows you're driving with lap times in mind because even engaged it lets you spin the wheels out of the corners somewhat, although that's not how fast times are posted of course. The steering is tight and precise with the perfect amount of feedback, you know when you're on the limit and when traction is going to break. The rack ratio is just right too, lock to lock is short and makes tight turns and hairpins a breeze The suspension is brilliant, just brilliant. It's stiff enough to make spirited driving fun and competitive, yet it's pliable enough for a comfortable drive even on the worst of SA's roads. That new Boosterjet engine is awesome, it's responsive, sounds really good and even when the car is nailed all day long it sips fuel. The one I had on track was in the mid 8s per 100km, which is just mad. The 230Nm comes in between 2500rpm and 3500rpm, and that will see you kill tyres out of corners if you're a little too eager. The way the power comes on song is also great, the car even chirped into 3rd a few times. One thing I didn't like was the soft limiter that comes in at 6000rpm or so. Sure past that there's no power anyway, but I'd just prefer that it could rev a little higher and give me the choice of when to change, because at flat taps on track you reach the 2nd and 3rd gear limiter rather fast and when it kicks in it can kill your flow through the gears. It's not a trainsmash though, and after a day of driving I'd be used to how it behaves and adapt accordingly I'm sure. On my second session I tried a bit of lift-off oversteer to see how things behave, and you have to work to get the rear to step out, but when it does there's no snapping around, things are controllable and, well, FUN! This little turbocharged hatch is the perfect weekend racer, and I'm fully expecting to see these cars gaining popularity at the various club-level motorsport events I shoot. Check out the vid if you feel like watching someone else have loads of fun in a car for a few minutes.
After the track session it was time to try the car on a dry skidpad for bit of a gymkhana session. Here all the journos were let loose on a basic mirrored course and timed to see who could properly make use of the Swift Sport's brilliant handling. Again, a great steering ratio, sharp brakes and boost make for good fun and better times. For this session the cars were in Millennial Spec, and I must say that 6-speed auto is properly smooth and it doesn't change gears just because, it lets you rev high under full throttle conditions. It's not a dual clutch setup but it's smooth and fast. I would like to try it out on a longer road and in a daily driving scenario where I can use the steering-mounted flappy paddles, but first impressions are great. Anyway, back to the gymkhana... The Swift Sport is great, and it also boosts confidence for drivers and I can prove it. Once I could remember the damn route on the gymkhana, I managed to post the fastest time for day one of the launch. In other words, I kicked some ass!
This all-new Suzuki Swift Sport has all the hallmarks of a cult classic, this car is a game changer that's going to see fans of other brands cross over, I'm sure of it. It's priced great, it's quick, it's fun and it has a power to weight that makes a Polo GTi blush. I'm hoping this car makes people see what I've seen in the Suzuki brand for all these years. In a perfect world we'd see the Swift Sport in a single-make race series, but I think SA isn't ready for that much awesomeness. I am also fully expecting to start coming across Swift Sports at all aftermarket the shows I shoot too, it simply MUST happen.
Suzuki have knocked it out of the park yet again, they have the coolest lineup of funky cars now. The Swift Sport is accompanied by the retro-cool Jimny, the cute AF Ignis and the turbocharged Vitara. There are others in the lineup too of course, but they're just a little less funky. If you're in the market for a new car, you HAVE To check out these new models from Suzuki or you'll be doing yourself a mahoosive injustice.
The Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX 6MT is priced at R378 900 all in, while the 6AT can be had for R397 900, which is brilliant, especially considering what you get in that package. The all-new Suzuki Swift Sport can be had for just R315 900 with manual cog-swapping, and Millennial Spec is set at R335 900, which is also pretty damn decent. There's no other new car on the market that gives so much at this price point, nothing, nada, zero and zilch.
These new Suzuki cars come with Suzuki’s promotional 200 000km/5-year mechanical warranty, a 6-year/unlimited kilometre corrosion warranty, a 4-year/60 000km service plan and a 5-year unlimited kilometre roadside assistance plan.
Author: Chris Wall
A slightly tattooed motoring fanatic, photography nut and avid collector of knowledge. Use the search bar to navigate through the archives.