Suzuki Swift Sport 1.6-litre

The Suzuki Swift Sport's great to drive and good value, being the cheapest of the trio featured here

  • Impressive build quality, attractive styling, generously equipped, value price, entertaining handling, modern cabin design
  • Firm ride, short service intervals, no reach adjustment on steering wheel, can’t match rivals for performance, high CO2 emissions

With its improved quality and attractive design, the Swift was a huge step forward for Suzuki. But take a look at the black A-pillars, rounded, upright windscreen and sloping roof edges, and it’s clear the stylists got some inspiration from the MINI.

It’s undoubtedly an attractive machine – and the lowered stance and 17-inch wheels of the Sport model add to the appeal. There’s plenty of great detailing, too, with the gunmetal front bumper inserts and neat rear wing.

Inside, the Swift can’t match the special feel of the MINI, but the quality is impressive, while the design is clear and modern. The upmarket ambience belies the sub-£12,000 price, and the cabin is smarter than the Fiesta’s. The driver’s chair could do with adjusting a bit lower and there’s no reach movement on the wheel, but the Sport is comfort­able and the seats supportive. What’s more, there’s more rear head and legroom than in the MINI.

The driving experience is pure hot hatch – the Swift has stiff suspension, feels direct and is eager to turn in. Body roll is minimal and the plentiful grip inspires confidence. Although there isn’t as much feedback as in the Fiesta or MINI, all the controls are well weighted. Plus, with strong brakes and an eager nature, the Swift is great fun.

A firm ride means it’s not as relaxing as the Cooper on long trips, but it’s no noisier than the ST. And while the Suzuki trails both rivals for pace, it certainly feels fast on the road. The engine has to be worked hard, but it’s not too coarse. Take into account the price and generous standard equipment, and it remains a real performance bargain.

Details

Price: £11,499
Model tested: Suzuki Swift Sport 1.6-litre/123bhp
Chart position: 2
WHY: We are big fans of the Swift Sport; the Suzuki recently saw off the Citroen C2 VTS in a twin test (issue 930), and it’s our favourite bargain hot hatch. The price is a major part of the appeal, especially as the three-door-only Suzuki is so well equipped. It comes in metallic black, red or silver.

Economy

Economy isn’t a top priority for most hot hatch buyers, but the high price of fuel at the pumps means it’s still a factor. As with the MINI, we didn’t come close to matching the 39.2mpg combined figure in the Swift Sport; in our hands, the Suzuki returned 27.1mpg.

Residuals

Our depreciation experts were unable to provide us with figures for the Suzuki, either. However, we believe the Swift Sport will quickly gain a cult following with hot hatch fans. And because it doesn’t cost that much to buy in the first place, it’s unlikely to lose too much money.

Servicing

There are only 149 Suzuki main dealers in the UK – that’s small in this company, but the firm’s garages have a reputation for good customer service. The Swift Sport has to go into the garage every 9,000 miles, so it will need maintenance sooner than either rival.

Tax

The Suzuki emits 175g/km of CO2 – that’s 35g/km more than the MINI, and places it seven brackets higher. So, top-band owners can expect an annual tax bill of £1,012 – that’s £232 a year more than an owner of a MINI Cooper would hand to the Inland Revenue.

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