Suzuki Sport Swift: new turbo hot-hatch flexes its muscles in NZ
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More muscle with less hustle headlines the key changes for the new Suzuki Swift Sport, which goes on sale this week.
Torqued-up with the 1.4-litre BoosterJet direct-injected turbo engine — already a familiar treat in the latest Vitara — there are fresh character traits for what is New Zealand’s most accessible car with genuine sporting capability.
For 2018 the revvy 1.6-litre normally aspirated engine has been replaced by the smaller turbo unit. There is a touch more power (up 3kW) and a swag of extra torque that’s on tap from significantly lower revs.
On paper it suggests a less frantic driving experience and that’s how it pans out. No surprise because there has been a three-quarter scale preview of this car with the Swift RS launched last year – it’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder BoosterJet engine having 160Nm of torque to match the output of the old Swift Sport.
The new Sport essentially adds one more cylinder and 375cc of displacement to the lively RS recipe. The four-cylinder 1373cc K14C BoosterJet develops 103kW at 5500rpm while peak torque is a muscular 230Nm between 2500-3500rpm.
Fuel consumption is rated at 6.1L/100km for manual and auto versions and the turbo engine requires 95 octane petrol.
The Swift Sport has always found its element on tight, twisty roads — and here the new car delivers more punch while making reduced effort.
Fewer gearshifts are required whether you are pedalling the manual model with its new short-throw shift mechanism or finger-tipping the new paddle-shifted six-speed auto.
There’s a lot more flexibility if you are caught one gear too high while the fifth and sixth gear highway cruising at light throttle, overtaking response and ability to maintain uphill momentum without resorting to more frantic revs is like no previous hot-hatch Swift.
The increase in power has been accompanied by larger diameter and thicker front brake discs, revised valving for the Monroe dampers and changes to the rear trailing arm design and suspension mountings that enhance camber and toe control.
In common with mainstream Swift models, the new Sport is the same length as its predecessor, but lighter — by 90kg with the manual gearbox and 80kg for the auto. Body width and track measurements increase by 40mm and the wheelbase grows by 20mm.
Those changes and the move to 17-inch alloy wheels and 195/45 R17 Continental ContiSportContact tyres are all part of planting a bigger footprint on the road and communicating a more substantial feel while retaining lightweight agility.
Busy summer tourist traffic through the twists and hairpins of the Crown Range road near Queenstown last week offered little chance to hurry the Swift Sport.
Initial impressions are based on 100km/h highway running between Cromwell and Wanaka with a few bursts of corner-to-corner acceleration to sample the new turbo urgency and promising early signals from grip levels, steering feel and chassis response.
The new Sport also delivers the top level of Swift equipment content with keyless entry and start, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, six-speaker audio with hands-free smart phone connectivity, Apple Car Play and Android Auto functions.
The instrument layout has multi-info display with turbo boost, oil temperature and performance screens.
Also, standard are power windows and mirrors, single-zone climate air conditioning and LED projector headlights plus LED daytime running lights.
The Swift Sport has the pronounced front seat bolsters, highlight stitching accents, metal pedals and leather-trimmed D-shaped sports steering wheel to meet hot-hatch expectations.
The exterior is dressed up with bold five-hole 17-inch alloy wheels, a honeycomb grille, dual exhausts housed in a rear diffuser, rear spoiler and body kit with carbon highlights.
The safety roster ticks all boxes available in the new Swift family with lane departure warning (above 60km/h), weaving alert (fatigue warning), adaptive cruise control with forward collision warning and automatic braking, a reversing camera, auto high beam assist and six airbags.
Cabin space duplicates the other Swift models apart from the hatch volume. Rated at 265 litres it’s larger than any standard Swift because the Sport has discarded a spare wheel and carries an emergency inflator kit.
The Swift Sport doesn’t follow normal market trends with the role it plays for Suzuki New Zealand.
The closest rivals in size and price are more expensive cars such as the Ford Fiesta ST, Renault Clio RS and Volkswagen Polo GTI – cars that sell in niche numbers and that tend to have an early sales spike but less sales longevity.
The Sport has been a full-time part of the Swift line-up since the original launched in 2006 and is much more than a niche volume seller or short-term favourite.
Suzuki New Zealand’s goal is to break through 7000 new car sales in 2018 (it set a record of 6983 units last year). And the target is for Swift Sport to also better its previous best year (914 units in the first 12 months following the introduction of the second generation in 2011) and contribute 1000 annual sales.
Competitive pricing is critical to that target and while Suzuki has fully modernised the Swift Sport formula, the car still sits in the sub-$30K category to achieve unrivalled hot-hatch value and accessibility.
On sale from February 2, the six-speed manual is $28,500 and the six-speed auto model is $29,990.