Suzuki Swift

For drivers who like their hatchbacks a little more exciting, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is big news. With its sights set firmly on entry-level MINI buyers, the car faces a tough task. So has it got the pace to match its name?

Suzuki has managed to add drama to the already capable Swift. The sharp bodykit looks the part and the lively handling, alongside punchy per-formance, should make it a big hit with buyers who want budget fun. If bosses price it wisely, the Sport could emerge as a hot hatch bargain.

For drivers who like their hatchbacks a little more exciting, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is big news. With its sights set firmly on entry-level MINI buyers, the car faces a tough task. So has it got the pace to match its name?

The first test for any hot hatch is styling. The Japanese firm's designers have fitted striking alloy wheels and a deeper front bumper, along with a roof spoiler, side skirts and beefy twin exhausts, to create an impressive-looking vehicle.

However, inside they appear to have run out of steam, only adding some silver trim and leather to the Swift's cabin. Thankfully, the driving experience offers more excitement.

A 0-60mph time has yet to be recorded, but the high-revving 1.6-litre petrol engine means the Sport feels as fast as rivals. Yet the unit needs to be worked to make rapid progress. Peak power of 123bhp fails to arrive until 6,800rpm, while at 4,800rpm the maximum torque is hardly any more accessible.

Even in standard form, the car handles well, but Suzuki has tried to provide a thrilling edge. With its well weighted steering, the Sport begs to be driven hard, although carry too much speed into a corner and the standard-fit ESP will need to step in and bring the tail back into line. The lively chassis will not suit everyone, yet it is more involving than Citroen hot hatches, offering a taste of the Renaultsport Clio 182's dynamics in a more modern package.

Prices have yet to be announced, but the newcomer is tipped to cost about £9,750. At that level, Suzuki could have buyers making a Swift exit from MINI dealerships.

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