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Suzuki Swift 2012 Review

EXPERT RATING
8

There are pretenders in life and cars are no different - some have the looks but no talent to back it up. The Swift Sport is not one of these charlatans and just because the Sport dwells below $30,000 doesn't mean there's no fun to be had.

Suzuki's updated Swift Sport follows a well-worn hot-hatch formula that in some ways the brand was key in creating  - little car, slightly bigger engine - to provide plenty of frugal fun.

VALUE

The Swift is not quite Suzuki's bargain basement model (there's the Alto below it) but it has always carried a sharp pricetag and for what you get the Sport is no different. It's great value, sporting a subtle bodykit and sports interior trim to differentiate it from the cooking models.

The features list also includes Bluetooth phone link as well as music streaming, a USB input for the six-speaker sound system, a leather-wrapped reach'n'rake adjustable sports steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, sports pedals, a trip computer, bi-xenon headlights, single-zone climate control, fog lights and 17in allow wheels, but no spare tyre, rain-sensing wipers or automatic headlights.

TECHNOLOGY

Neither car is at the cutting edge of the automotive technology envelope, but the powerplant is not an old boat anchor either. The little 100kW/160Nm 1.6-litre four-cylinder - a development of the superseded engine - has variable intake valve timing and lift, as well as a variable intake manifold set-up.

The Sport's powerplant also boasts smoother intake ports, revised variable valve opening times and a larger valve lift on the intake side, as well as a variable intake system. It is teamed with a six-speed manual (as fitted to the test car) or a continuously-variable transmission with a seven-speed sport mode.

The claimed fuel use - it needs 95RON PULP - is 6.5l/100km for the manual or 6.1 for the CVT, but according to the trip computer we matched the CVT's figure in the six-speed manual during our time in the car.

DESIGN

The exterior is evolutionary - there's no chance of it being mistaken for anything other than a Swift - and that's not a bad thing. This little car has an honest charm about it, with a sporting theme supplied by the neat but low-key bodykit.

The overall length is up 120mm to 3890mm, with 50mm of that addition in wheelbase growth, and wider front and rear tracks, but with 30kg lopped from the kerb weight. At 1510mm it's quite tall for a baby hatch, which explains why it's easier at 191cm for me to get comfy behind the wheel, although getting in and out is a little tighter than first expected.

Cabin space is enough for two adults and two kids to get from A to B without complaint, although the boot isn't huge. It does have a split-level hidden section, which is handy in some ways but it's easy to forget you've stashed something there. In its least-voluminous guise, the boot claims just 210 litres of space, rising to 900 litres if you drop the rear seat backrests and load it up.

SAFETY

It might be little but the Swift Sport does have a solid feel to it, as well as packing a safety features list that boasts traction and stability control. There's also anti-lock brakes and seven airbags (dual front, side, curtain and a driver's knee) - enough for it to wear a five-star ANCAP crash testing rating.

DRIVING

An honest little performer, this hot hatch is a diligent worker and an eager corner-carver. The drivetrain has some flexbility to run in a higher gear but pile on some engine revs and it's willing and useable. The six-speed manual is a nice gearbox, made easier to use by a reasonable driving position, even for taller drivers.

The design is conservative but not harsh on the eyes and it's a good kid-carter, provided none of the occupants is too long of leg. The bootspace means you have to be a bit selective on how much you can pile into the back, but rip the false floor out and leave it at home, otherwise you're bound to forget something. 

It's firm on the road but the suspension boffins at Suzuki have managed to dial in enough compliance to keep fillings in teeth - it is certainly a less brittle ride than you might expect from a dedicated Sport model. Divest yourself of offspring and life-partner and the Sport is an amusing machine on the right back road.

It turns in with much more enthusiasm than its shopping-trolley origins would suggest, feeling light, agile and entertaining. The Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming set-up is overly complex and doesn't always hook up automatically once paired - if you pair up the Bluetooth phone link on an iPhone 4, for example, the music player function on the phone is left out in the cold and vice versa.

VERDICT

Technology issues aside, the Swift Sport is a great little car - if you are in the market for a small car and still like to drive, this is the value for money choice.

Suzuki Swift Sport

Price: from $23,990
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km
Resale:  48 per cent (Source: Glass's Guide)
Service interval: 15,000km/12 months
Safety rating: five star
Spare: mobility kit
Engine: 1.6-litre 16-valve four-cylinder, 100kW/160Nm
Transmission: 6-speed manual; FWD
Body: 3.9m (L); 1.7m (w); 1.5m (h)
Weight: 1060kg
Thirst: 6.51/100km, on test 6.1, 95RON, tank 42 litres; 153g/km CO2

Pricing guides

$11,990
Based on 77 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$3,990
Highest Price
$17,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GA 1.4L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $6,710 – 9,460 2012 Suzuki Swift 2012 GA Pricing and Specs
GL 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,500 – 7,700 2012 Suzuki Swift 2012 GL Pricing and Specs
GA RE.1 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,060 – 7,480 2012 Suzuki Swift 2012 GA RE.1 Pricing and Specs
Extreme 1.4L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $5,060 – 7,480 2012 Suzuki Swift 2012 Extreme Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist

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