New Car Report; Swift new Swift
In a sea of small hatchbacks faithfully fulfilling their commuter duties day in, day out, it’s easy to forget the hot hatch, which despite its shared DNA with the humble shopping basket that Nana drives, has been a favourite with serious motor heads since the late 1970’s, when the GTi tag was applied to most of them.
Combining hatchback practicality with tweaked power-plants, firmer suspension, quicker steering, upsized road wheels, sporty bodywork enhancements and trick interiors, every manufacturer has gotten in on the act at some time or another, but Suzuki has consistently excelled at the art of hot hatching, starting with the Swift GTi over two decades ago.
The 2012 Suzuki Swift Sport is bigger than its predecessor in every vital statistic except height, which remains the same, although visually, unless the two cars are parked side by side, only the real train-spotters out there will notice the difference. Where styling is concerned, the old winning formula that made the previous Swift so popular was such a hit with customers that Suzuki took the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach.
Bigger and lighter, with better power to weight ratio
Thanks to extensive use of higher strength steels, the new car is 30kg lighter but considerably stronger. A revised front suspension setup has been adopted to provide more responsive handling and better yaw response. Stiffer front and rear suspension reduces body roll and improves high speed cornering stability.
Seven airbags including a driver’s knee bag, ESP and a raft of other passive and active safety features combine together, resulting in a 5 Star Euro NCAP rating.
Sharper acceleration and vastly improved fuel efficiency has been achieved, with engineers managing to squeeze another 8kW and 12Nm out of the existing 1,586cc 16 valve engine, now up to 100kW @ 6,900rpm and 160Nm @ 4,400rpm, with the peak torque being available at 400rpm lower than before.
A number of tweaks to the engine account for the improvements, including increased valve lift, revised intake and exhaust ports, a new variable intake system, improvements to the cooling system and last but not least, a greater volume muffler which not only improves exhaust gas flow, but introduces a more meaningful bark to the exhaust note.
A slick new six speed manual gearbox plays its part too, not only by providing efficiency and performance benefits, but enhancing the driving experience too. The combination of engine, gearbox and structural improvements has resulted in a saving of 1 litre of fuel per 100km and a reduction of CO2 emissions of 26 grams per kilometre, with quoted figures now at 6.5L/100km and 153g/km.
On road and track, it proved its worth
NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness) levels have been improved quite noticeably, and this was evident during our press launch drive around some lower North Island roads where the Swift Sport proved to be nimble, responsive and free from any overly intrusive road noise; something that can’t be said for many competitors, even in larger and more pricey sectors of the market.
Suzuki also took the opportunity to demonstrate some of the Swift Sport’s safety and handling capabilities by taking us to a private track where the braking, stability and traction features were highlighted in both wet and dry conditions. The little Swift Sport took everything thrown at it in its stride and proved that it’s more than worthy of wearing the Sport badge.
It’s loaded with goodies, with standard features including keyless entry and start, cruise control, climate air conditioning, auto-levelling HID headlamp with washers, Bluetooth, 17 inch alloys and front fog lights. Sport seats and stainless steel pedals add to the feel of sportiness in the cabin.
A two pedal version is also on offer, which will include hill hold control and steering wheel paddle shifters for those drivers wanting to manually select the CVT's seven stepped ratios.
Not that we’ve driven the CVT equipped car yet as only the manual had arrived on our shores at launch time, but while we applaud the fuel saving benefits of CVT autos, in our experience they’re not all that sporty, however, we’ll reserve judgement until we’ve had a go behind the wheel. In the six speed manual form that we drove, the 2012 Suzuki Swift Sport delivered everything expected of a hot hatch.
It’s priced at $27,500 drive-away for the manual and $28,990 drive-away for the CVT auto.