Five ways the new Suzuki Swift Sport is better than the old one
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The hot hatch game isn't just about the Civic Type Rs, RS3s, and Focus RSs of the world. It's also about the stuff at the bottom end of the food chain that arguably represents the cheapest way for you and I to get our bodies behind the wheel of a performance car.
And the Suzuki Swift Sport is one of New Zealand's favourites. We recently picked up the newest one — the first all-new Swift Sport since the first one hit Aotearoa back in 2005.
And for a lovely little throwback, we paired it with the outgoing model (a rare New Zealand new two-door edition) for our photoshoot.
The two cars are clearly relations, both in appearance and in terms of experience behind the wheel. But, there are differences too, particularly a few where the new car builds on the old one's foundations. Here's five.
This is the obvious one.
The old Swift Sport was powered by a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre that loved a rev, contributed a hearty amount of character to the mix, and had pretty much no torque whatsoever.
Now, it's powered by a turbocharged 1.4-litre "Boosterjet" unit, and the addition of a turbo has made a wealth of difference to the way it drives. This is particularly true for torque numbers; 230Nm in the new car plays and beats the 160Nm in the old car.
Not only does this make it faster and better on fuel ... it also quite simply makes it much easier to live with. There's no constant need to fish for gears for the upcoming hill or a pass on the motorway; the turbo is very usable and easy to lean on.
Adaptive Cruise Control, Automatic high beams, Dual Sensor Brake Support, Lane Departure Assist, a 7-inch touch screen with GPS, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto ... there's plenty of safety and tech on show here.
The Swift used to be lumped in with the 'cheap and simple motoring' set — something in itself that's always been bit of a negative connotation with cars in this segment.
But in 2018, the story has changed, and the Swift has 'gotten with the times' so to speak. Note that most of these fixtures are available on lower trims, too.
Most models bloat over time. This became particularly apparent following the turn of the century, when fresh safety regulations required manufacturers to place much more emphasis on structural safety.
In that sense, the previous Swift and Swift Sport were already plenty impressive; tipping the scales at just over a tonne. But, the new car betters that still with a feather-weight figure of 970kg (an automatic transmission adds another 10kg). This weight watching is the result of the car's new HEARTECT platform, which is based on more tensile materials, helping it bend logic to be both lighter and stronger than what it replaces.
That's insane, because this isn't a sleek two-seat sports car built in quiet quantities. It's a mass-market car built for young families, for grand parents, for teenagers wanting a safe first car. Ironically many of these buyers will never realise just how impressive the weight of their pint-sized car is.
The Swift has always been a solid player for interior space (often at the expense of boot space, shhh). And that's been the secret weapon of many a classic small Suzuki — just look back at some of the old Alto and Wagon R models and how versatile they could be.
But the interior of the last car wasn't without its weaknesses. Namely rear passengers would struggle a little for head and leg room.
No such issues here; so long as the driver and front passenger aren't playing Yao Ming with their seat positions, there's plenty of room in the back for two adults. A third adult could go in the middle too, if you're a bit of a sadist.
Yes, the first and second generation Swift Sports — as fun and charming as they are — never felt too determined to take themselves too seriously.
In isolation they were sharply penned units, but next to the competition (and lobbed in with the 'grandma car' label Swifts have long been connected to) they've struggled to gather the same enthusiast recognition as products from Ford, Volkswagen, and the rest.
The new Sport looks like an angry teenager, with its squinted eyes and elongated brow. Its proportions are chunky, but more chiselled and deliberate than Swifts of old.
In its base model and RS model trim, it's a look that didn't quite click when I drove it last August. In Sport trim? It looks brilliant — it looks like how it performs.
Be on the look out for Driven's full road test of the 2018 Suzuki Swift Sport, coming soon!