It's neither the fastest nor the best but the Swift Sport offers a lot of bang for your buck.
The five-door hatch is a cracker and plants a huge smile on the dial. The test car was bright yellow with tinted glass. It looked the part and harks back to the days of the original hot hatches, such as the first Golf GTI.
It's not the quickest, but its light 1060kg kerb weight and well-sorted chassis gives it the ability to leap into and out of corners like an excitable Jack Russell puppy. One of the big joys of cars like this is that you can revel in their abilities in the most modest environments.
A deserted roundabout here, a quick corner there, roads like the Captain Cook Highway and the myriad roundabouts between Cairns and Palm Cove, the bendy bits to Port Douglas and the twisties on the Rex and Gillies ranges. It's easy to park and the potential for fun is there every time you turn the ignition on, or in this case, push the stop-start button on the dash.
The Sport is $26,990 drive away and naturally comes with a body kit, including a rear roof spoiler, sport seats and stainless steel pedals, exclusive multi-spoked 17-inch alloy wheels, bi-xenon headlamps and Electronic Stability Program (ESP) with traction control. There are seven airbags including driver's knee airbag, five-star crash safety rating, fully automatic climate control airconditioning, CD radio with MP3 capability, including Bluetooth and an USB port, and cruise control.
The sport seats have red stitching and a three-spoke multifunction leather steering wheel comes with steering wheel controls for cruise control and the radio. Swift includes the convenience of keyless entry and start, Bluetooth hands-free communications, six-speaker AM/FM/CD system with USB and a digital climate control airconditioning system.
The front sports a large grille, fog lamps and bi-xenon headlights. Black-painted A-and B-pillars and the alloy wheels give the Sport a distinctive appearance. There's an integrated roof spoiler, side skirts, dual exhaust tailpipes and a metallic diffuser. Deeply contoured and supportive front seats with seat cushions and backrests hold the driver better through corners.
Red contrasting stitching on the seats, steering wheel and shift knob create a sporty feel. The Sport is 3.89m long, 120mm longer than its predecessor and 40mm longer than the normal Swiftmodel. Apart from some cheap-looking hard plastics, the interior is a nice place, although there's lots of sombre black broken up with some matt silver trim.
The Sport is a looker, with a body kit that complements its stubby proportions and wheels that nicely fill the arches. Space is tight. Headroom is excellent, but rear legroom is not and there's not much space in the boot. The canary yellow paint offset by the dark tinted windows looked a treat on the car we drove.
The 1.6-litre M16A engine is an evolution from the previous model. The performance increase is achieved primarily through improved cylinder efficiency and an increased valve lift. The variable valve timing for the intake camshaft and a variable intake manifold also ensure improved airflow. The improved cylinder filling is achieved with smoother intake ports, revised variable valve opening times and a larger valve lift on the intake side, as well as a variable intake system.
At medium engine speeds, a valve closes in the intake. If the motor is working at a higher or lower part of the rev range, the valve remains open and the path to the inlet valves is shortened considerably. This function improves the available torque across the rev range. The net effect of these changes have increased peak output by 8kW to 100kW, while torque has increased from 148Nm to 160Nm.
The considerable weight saving, in tandem with advanced engine technologies, has reduced fuel consumption from 7.3 litres/100km to just 6.5, representing an 11 per cent improvement. There's a new CVT auto which will appeal to those who don't like changing gears although I prefer the six-speed manual. The colour palette adds to the appeal with bright colours including yellow, red, blue, white, silver andblack.
The Swift Sport is a lot of fun around the city and on tight winding roads. The electric steering is direct with sharp turn-in from the lovely leather-wrapped wheel. The gearbox is a bit notchy and I found it hard to find a comfortable driving position because of the uprightness of the cabin.
The car is well put together with almost no squeaks or rattles. The racing bucket seats are supportive and comfortable and visibility is great front and rear, courtesy of slim A-pillars and powerful headlights at night. The corners of the car at the front can't be seen though and care needs to be taken in tight parking spots.
The speedometer with its 30km/h increments is a pain, with its cluttered face making it hard to accurately gauge speed because 80km/h or 100km/h are not marked by numbers. It rides well, handles well and road noise is reasonable except on coarse bitumen. The light weight adds to the agility of this little rocket.
The small 1.6-litre 100kW naturally-aspirated unit is no firebrand, but is adequately zippy when kept on the boil. Nothing happens until you reach 4000rpm and then it whips into a frenzy and shrieks past 7000rpm. It enjoys being punted hard through roundabouts and on tight winding roads like the Gillies and the Rex ranges.
The Sport just loved the undulating sections of the Springmount Rd and could be driven with great zest and fun. The little car can also cruise quietly and comfortably on the open road. However, there appeared to be a problem with the trip computer on the test car. I started off with the reading at 15.4 litres/100km and it dropped noticeably into the low 10s after a lively stint up the Gillies Range.
As I settled into a 100km/h cruise from Mareeba to Mt Molloy the reading kept climbing into the 11s and 12s and when I returned the car it had recorded an average of 13.7L/100km. I did not believe the results as the official overall figure is 6.5 litres/100km and this is double. The technicians at Suzuki were to place the car on a diagnostic machine to see why the trip computer was returning abnormally high readings.
I love this little pocket rocket. It ticks all the boxes as a fun and fizzy drive in the city, on the open road and on winding hilly and country roads. It's a happy looking car and a happy car to drive. Ladies will love its compactness and the bright colour range. The boys will relish its sportiness and its agile handling. The chassis can certainly handle more poke. Small car motoring does not mean merely an A to B conveyance as the Swift Sport proves.
Suzuki Swift Sport
Price: from $26,990
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Safety rating: five star ANCAP
Engine: 1.6-litre 4-cyl petrol 100kW/160Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; FWD
Body: 3.9m (L); 1.7m (w); 1.5m (h)
Thirst: 6.5L/100km; 98 RON; 153g/km CO2