Hats off, Suzuki! You’ve outdone yourself with the Swift Sport

What exactly is a “hot hatch” measured by? Is it the amount of power the engine pushes out or simply how it performs on the surface it is put on? The term originated back in the 1980s and has since been used regularly in the motoring fraternity to describe models like the VW Golf/Polo GTI, Renault Clio/Megane RS and Ford Fiesta/Focus ST.

Those examples are considered the ‘heavy hitters’ and have two things in common – it is fast in a straight line and makes use of a turbocharged 2.0-litre engine. Then you get a different type of hot hatch like the Suzuki Swift Sport, that does not make bucket loads of power – 103kW and 230Nm to be precise – but emphasises hot hatch in a different way.

More often than not, faster is better where high-performance cars are concerned and automakers are pushing the envelope in such a way that 180kW is now seen as an ‘entry-level’ power figure. Suzuki’s automotive division has never been much for outright performance – with the exception of motorbikes – though (local) petrolheads were given a taste of Hamamatsu power when the first-generation Swift Sport launched in 2005.

The diminutive hatch served as an option for those that didn’t want to spend big on something more premium, but had more than enough spice under the bonnet with all the basic features. There are three generations in total and the first two models was powered by naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre engines with figures of 92kW and 148Nm and 100kW and 160Nm, respectively. Third time’s a charm they say – in Suzuki’s case it was because they made the Swift Sport better than it ever was before.

Turbo? Yes please and thank you

In order for me to make that statement, I got behind the wheel of all three generations that were all in relatively stock trim. Despite the double digit power figures of the earlier models, the NA units were pretty nippy between gears but lacked that extra bit of spice a turbocharger would have offered and the subconscious mind would rear its ugly head ever so often and then the question of 'what if it had a turbo' will creep into ones thoughts.

The late Colin Chapman once said that adding power makes you faster in the straights, but subtracting weight makes you faster everywhere. This is what the engineers at Suzuki applied to the latest Swift Sport. For starters, it weighs a mere 970kg - 90kg lighter than its predecessor - and even though it makes just 3kW more than the model it replaces, the torque takes a massive 70Nm jump and that is largely thanks to the use of forced induction.

Under the bonnet is a 1.4-litre BoosterJet engine that generates 103kW and 230Nm. Chuck that into a car that weighs under a tonne and you're left with a car that has nimble handling, progressive power and good mechanical feedback. According to engineers, everything on the car like the 16-inch diamondcut alloy wheels, the pendulum-style engine mounting system and suspension system directly contributes to acceleration and overall rigidity.

The feel behind the wheel is one to behold. Boost comes in as early as 2 500rpm and from there on it's a case of hold onto your tombstones (the nickname for the sports seats). Because it's such a small displacement engine, all the power is below the 5 000rpm range so it basically runs out of steam higher in the rev range - which is where rivals will most likely make up the lost ground, but who cares!

The interior is nothing fancy and is kitted with basic bits like a 7-inch touch screen with Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, a reverse camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, steering mounted controls and cruise control. That's the thing with the Swift Sport - it's not meant to emulate a GTI or i30 N in any department because for R362 900, you get what you pay for and what you get is a fiery pocket rocket in either of the 7 body colours and two, two-tone options. If you're looking at the Swift Sport, or any other third gen model, it looks like a two-door but upon closer inspection, there are window-mounted door handles for the rear passengers to open the door(s).

From a sales perspective, it also bodes well that the Swift is Suzuki's top-seller, selling a total of 1 058 Swift 1.2 and 11 Swift Sport models during the month of January, according to Naamsa monthly sales figures. The Swift Sport carves out its own niche following and serves a great left-field choice for those not wanting to drive what everyone else is *cough cough* GTI.

Now that you’ve got the knowledge, it’s time to shop! Head to gumtree.co.za or your Gumtree app (click for Apple & Android) and don’t forget to use your location settings to find local service information close to home.

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