Driving thrills on a tight budget
The recently arrived Suzuki Swift Sport Series II boasts improved safety and more equipment.
Lightweight, fun and relatively affordable at $29,990 drive-away (manual) and $31,990 (auto), this sharp-looker is an ideal starting point for those people looking for a "proper" driver's car.
IAIN: Back when we were young and beautiful a Suzuki Swift was the first new car we bought.
JULES: We couldn't afford the spritely Sport sadly, so I've got a soft spot for the model.
IAIN: I reckon this Swift Sport looks a bit more grown-up than the one from last decade. No giant roof spoiler or mad multi-spoke alloys. It doesn't differentiate itself from a standard Swift as much as I'd like.
JULES: This new one's extrovert enough. The rims are classily sporty, there's a hint of a rooftop spoiler and I like the twin exhaust exits through the black bumper.
IAIN: Jazzy colour too. Flame orange with a black roof, though this adds $1095 to our auto version's $31,990 drive-away price.
JULES: It stands out, but for a hero colour it should be more vibrant. It's quite a muddy orange.
IAIN: The Swift's always been a cute-looking thing. The Sport's LED headlights, 17-inch alloys and black exterior trim add the required aggression to appeal to boy and girl racers of all ages.
THE LIVING SPACE
JULES: I forgot how cosy it is in a Swift.
IAIN: It's small inside, but pretty well laid out. It has sporty touches including red stitching for the seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, red dash dials and a boost gauge.
JULES: Sorry, it feels a bit aftermarket-add-on in here. The faux metallic red trim looks cheap, and there's lots of hard plastic.
IAIN: I don't care. When it comes to warm or hot hatches, I want manufacturers to focus on improving performance, handling, steering and braking, not add luxury features making it too expensive. More power please, less leather.
JULES: I remember our 2006 Swift having a cleaner cabin design.
IAIN: That's because there was nothing in it except a steering wheel and AM radio.
JULES: The front seats are well sculpted and supportive, but quite narrow.
IAIN: You wouldn't want to be big of bum in these seats. It's for the more svelte warm hatch pilot.
JULES: I loved it in town. The Swift is made for city life, and once the engine is firing it's got so much zip.
IAIN: Agreed. Really manoeuvrable too. It's not the best for regular highway kilometres as wind noise isn't kept out as well as some rivals, but I'll forgive the Swift Sport as it weighs just under a tonne. And lightweight equals fun.
JULES: It has some decent kit: Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, built-in sat nav, a digital speedo and adaptive cruise control.
IAIN: The safety suite includes a forward collision warning which I found too sensitive. I could be going around a corner and a parked car would set off alerts.
JULES: Much like me, the car probably thinks you're about to crash most of the time.
IAIN: It's a warm hatch, it should expect some spirited driving!
JULES: It's a tiny yet deep boot, but as most owners won't use the rear seats, just fold them for more cargo space.
IAIN: It's a flash looking thing in Coles carpark too - it attracts plenty of attention. It could hold its own on a fancy boutique shopping strip.
JULES: Hard to bingle too with parking sensors and rear camera, although the resolution is pretty crummy by today's standards.
IAIN: I have to say it. If you spend an extra $2000 on an auto gearbox you're massively missing out. If ever a car was crying out for a nice, short-throw six-speed manual, the Swift Sport is it.
JULES: Stop it grandad. Most youngsters these days can't drive a manual. It's excellent an auto's offered when rivals such as the Ford Fiesta ST are three-pedals only.
IAIN: As it should be. I only grumble because manuals add so much driver involvement and reward. The Swift Sport's handling and steering are delightful and you change direction with such speed due to its 995kg kerb weight. Brilliant grip too.
JULES: It is a funster. And if you use the steering wheel paddles you get similar control over the gearbox as you would in a manual.
IAIN: Tiny paddles aren't they? It helps to have long fingers to reach them. As it's a four-cylinder turbo - other Swifts use a three-cylinder - you don't need to red-line the whole time. There's plenty of low-down torque to pull this pocket rocket along.
JULES: Our kids are young enough to be comfy in the back seats, but adults were cramped in the back. No vents or USB either.
IAIN: The family budget won't be stretched too much. Service costs aren't high as long as you travel less than 10,000km per year. It used just 7L/100km on our trip despite the twisty road fun we had. It needs pricier 95 fuel, though.
JULES: It does well for safety kit too. A blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert are appreciated by this mum.
IAIN: The Swift Sport is well equipped and bags of fun, but for me, it's only worth the money with a manual gearbox.
JULES: I love its looks and zippiness, but for the money I'd want a classier interior - I guess you can't have everything.
Originally published as Driving thrills on a tight budget