AA Driven Micro/Light Car of the Year: Suzuki Swift Sport still the best
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It might be bordering on being two-years-old, but the Suzuki Swift Sport still represents a benchmark in its class — as underlined by its victory last night as the AA Driven New Zealand Car of the Year Micro/Light Car winner.
The Swift Sport has more up-to-date competition these days than it did when we first got our hot little hands on it last February. The new Volkswagen Polo GTI is a pint-sized monster, and the updated Ford Fiesta ST (which officially lands early next year) is a thruming, characterful charmer.
But while both of those contenders will show the little Suzuki a set of tail-lights in a race, neither is quite as comprehensive as the Swift. For one, they're both much more expensive than the Swift and its humble $28,500 base price. They're also slightly harder to live with than the practical, well equipped Suzuki. Remember, along with being a fun little hot hatch the Swift Sport is also one of the cheapest cars you can buy that comes standard with radar cruise control and autonomous emergency braking.
The public vote with their feet, too. Think about how many Swift Sports you see on Kiwi roads, and compare that to the amount of GTIs and STs.
Indeed, to earn the award for this year the Swift scored more votes among Driven's panel of expert judges than the other two podium-getters in class; the Audi A1 and Volkswagen Polo.
It copped a little bit of criticism from me in initial testing for trading its buzzy naturally aspirated engine for a 103kW/230Nm 1.4-litre turbocharged BoosterJet four-cylinder unit yanked from the Vitara (“It’s huge fun, an instant classic. But with almost no reason to rev it out to its maximum and all the boogie coming on so soon, it simply isn’t as fun as its forefathers”), but numerous laps of Pukekohe Park swayed that view somewhat during last year's COTY testing.
“The enthusiastic “like a go-kart“ methodology of the old car is maximised by wheels closer to the corners and steering that, though electric, offers a surprising amount of morse code communication from the front wheels,” the review added. “It’s incredibly impressive, and incredibly quick. And priced at $28,500 for the manual variant, it’s by a mile the most fun you can have for under 30 grand ... even 40.”
While the Swift Sport didn't receive much in the way of change for 2019, it did gain a new niche performance variant called the Track Edition [pictured]. We sampled it back in April, and were impressed with how good it was as a platform for the modified market.
“In many ways the Swift Sport Track Edition feels like a binary opposite of the $38,490 Volkswagen Polo GTI — raw, light and loud compared to the German ace’s big-engine torque and quiet refinement,” we said.
“While there’s still no need to use the upper echelons of the Swift’s rev range (peak power comes at 4000rpm), the Track Edition nonetheless rushes to redline with an inflated sense of urgency. It feels incredibly quick, with its stiff platform and 968kg mass helping underline one of the best power-to-weight ratios in the business.”