Suzuki Swift Sport vs Renault Clio Gordini

Which top-value hot hatch serves up more fun per pound? We pit the new Swift Sport against the Clio Gordini to find out

Suzuki Swift Sport vs Renault Clio Gordini

To describe the new Suzuki Swift Sport as eagerly anticipated would be a major understatement. The previous model provided the kind of driving thrills we’ve come to expect from hot MINIs, only without the premium price tag.

The all-new Swift arrived last year, and run-of-the-mill models have already tasted road test victory by beating a variety of value-for-money superminis.

But the Sport has a very different focus. Its 1.6-litre petrol engine produces 134bhp, the car costs £13,499 and the emphasis is firmly on fun. Yet if you thought that combination would prove hard to match, there are plenty of other affordable, go-faster superminis to choose from.

The Renault Clio Gordini 128 is at the head of the queue. It sits below the storming Renaultsport Clio 200 in the company’s hot line-up, and looks well placed to give the Suzuki a run for its money.

Featuring a 126bhp 1.6-litre engine, it pushes the Swift close for power and, at £14,000, it’s only £500 more expensive.

So the stage is set for a very tight contest. Does the in-your-face Renault take the plaudits, or will it be defeated by the considerable talents of the new Swift Sport?

Verdict

Fun and value are top of the agenda here and these two cars provide both – but they do so in quite different ways. Memories of the Suzuki will invariably be dominated by its engine, which fizzes with energy and is full of character. It makes the Swift Sport more engaging than the Clio for more of the time, and lays the foundations for victory.

We think the Clio has a more engaging chassis, but its subtle appeal is undone by its relative lack of pace and those in-your-face styling additions, which give the Gordini a brazen boy-racer appearance.

The Swift also makes sense in other ways. Its competitive price, superior fuel economy and high-quality cabin all impressed our testers. Plus, it comes with stability control as standard. The Clio doesn’t – which we think is unforgivable on a car that’s so clearly aimed at younger motorists. Worse still, fitting it as an option to the Renault only increases the price gap between the two cars.

It’s not all bad news for the Gordini, because all Renaults now come with the company’s new aftersales package, which includes a four-year/ 100,000-mile warranty, plus four years’ free roadside assistance and servicing. But that’s not enough to take the win here.

WinnerSuzuki Swift Sport ★★★★ Another classy effort from Suzuki. The Swift excels as a cut-price hot hatch that’s fun to drive and sensible to own. If you can live with its small boot and cramped rear seats, it’s a fine choice. We only wish it had more of its predecessor’s dynamic appeal. It’s a more grown-up car than before, but not quite as entertaining as it used to be.

2ndRenault Clio Gordini ★★★★ We're not sure about all the styling additions and the Clio is neither as fast nor as classy as the Swift. But if you could get the Gordini chassis under the Swift Sport, you’d have a five-star hot hatch on your hands. The more engaging set-up is one of the few areas where the Renault trumps the Suzuki. The other is space – it’s much bigger inside and out.

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