How good is Australia’s cheapest sportscar the Suzuki Swift Sport?
At around $24,000 driveaway the Suzuki Swift Sport is about the least expensive way to get a new sportscar in your garage.
CAN SUCH A CHEAP car even be worthy of consideration as a sportscar? There’s not much competition at this end of the market, with only Holden Barina RS matching the Swift Sport. Once you get to a budget of around $30k there’s more options such as the excellent Fiesta ST, Toyota 86 and Polo GTi, but while that’s “only” another $5-$7k, that’s a fair bit of percentage increase.
The question we have is whether the Sport is actually worthy of the name, and the specifications do not augur well. There’s a mere 100kW of power, front wheel drive with no trick differential, and semi-independent torsion beam suspension. There is no dictionary full of electronic driving aids, no turbo, no flat-bottomed steering wheel, no big-name race driver to laud it, no laptimer and no G-meter.
But there is one specification not mentioned, perhaps the most important of all, one that has immediate effects on acceleration, braking, handling, agility and indeed every possible aspect of vehicle performance. That would be weight, and I make no apology for focusing on vehicle weight when it comes to performance cars.
If the car is light, then you don’t need lots of expensive technology to fix problems like body roll or extra power to accelerate or super grippy tyres to maintain cornering speed. The Swift manual weighs 1060kg, which for a modern car is absolutely featherweight. To compare, Mazda’s much-vaunted MX-5, the one they focused on making lightweight, weighs 1030kg. And that’s a smaller vehicle with only two doors and two seats.
Yet as ever, car specifications are only the most general guide to real-world performance. The standard Swift is a 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto and runs a 70kW / 130Nm 1.4L engine, whereas the Sport has 1.6L 100kW / 160Nm, a significant increase, and offers a CVT. The lower spec Swifts run drum brakes on the rear, the Sport has disc brakes at the back. The Sport also gets quality performance tyres – Bridgestone Potenza RE050As – in a size of 195/45/17 tyres, so that’s both wider and lower profile than the base model’s 185/55/16. Ground clearance is 140mm for the standard Swift and 10mm lower at 130mm for the Sport.
Even the gearing is different. The base Swift is 5 speed and the Sport 6, but the Sport has a taller first gear and its top gear (6th) is only just taller than the base’s 5th gear. That means the Sport has six ratios in a smaller spread than the base’s 5, so it’s better able to keep the engine in its most effective rev bands.
Those are just the key specifications readily available which would make a difference to handling – I’d speculate there are more differences in suspension tune, perhaps larger front brakes, quicker electric steering. And Suzuki are noted for sharp handling small cars – read our long-term Vitara test – so it’ll be interesting to see what they can do with a car that really is oriented towards the driver.
Anyway, all of that is an academic discussion. We’ve got the Swift for the next couple of weeks and by the time it is returned to its home we’ll have decided whether it deserves its “Sport” suffix or not. And just for a contrast, we might well have Australia’s most expensive hot hatch to compare it against…