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Tony O'Kane | Feb 22, 2012 | 10 Comments

2012 SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT REVIEW

At first glance, it looks like not much has changed with Suzuki’s Swift Sport. It’s still powered by a naturally-aspirated 1.6 litre engine, still front-wheel-drive only and still dressed in a retina-searing yellow.

But delve a little deeper, and the changes become more apparent - and more significant.

That 1.6 litre petrol four-pot is a new design, and produces 100kW and 160Nm - 8kW and 12Nm more than the old motor.

It doesn’t sound like much, but the new ZC32S Swift Sport is also 30kg lighter than the car it replaces. That boosts its power-to-weight ratio from 11.8kg/kW to 10.6kg/kW - a respectable improvement.

The outgoing car’s five-speed manual has also been replaced with a six-speed, and, for the first time ever, the Swift Sport will soon be available with an automatic - a CVT with seven ‘virtual’ ratios and paddle shifters.

There’s also an enhanced standard equipment list, not to mention greatly improved interior quality.

At $23,990, the 2012 Swift Sport is the same price as the superseded model, and $1000 cheaper than its predecessor when it was launched here in 2006.

Given the extra standard equipment, the new Sport is substantially better value. It is also, as we found out at the local launch this week, a lot of fun at the wheel.

 

Interior

The dashboard, door cards and headliner are shared with the Swift GLX, but the Sport gets its own unique instrument cluster, alloy pedals, red-stitched leather steering wheel and heavily-bolstered front sports seats.

For a slim gentleman like myself, the thick side bolsters are perfect. The seats hug the torso and provide excellent lateral support, which is ideal for a chuckable little hatchback like the Swift Sport.

Finding a comfortable driving position is easy thanks to the tilting and telescoping steering column, but the ratchet recliner would be better replaced by a conventional wheel to give a finer range of backrest adjustment.

Like all Swift variants, the back seats are a little on the small side, with limited knee and headroom for adult passengers.

 

Features

The Swift Sport is specced quite well, and comes standard with a proximity key, push-button starter, HID headlamps, foglamps, cruise control, Bluetooth, climate control, a six-speaker audio system with a USB input and iPod integration, and a trip computer.

In order to save weight, the space saver spare wheel of the regular Swift has been swapped for an inflator kit.

 

The Drive

The new M16A engine might be small, but it’s got a rev-happy personality and a reasonably strong mid range.

It features variable valve-timing and a variable-length inlet manifold, and the function of both is to fatten the torque curve without compromising top-end power.

They definitely work; the Sport picks up cleanly from low rpm and sings all the way to a 7000rpm redline. You can feel the effect of the variable-length manifold between 4000 and 4500rpm, but aside from that little ‘step’ the power delivery is very linear.

The six-speed gearbox has closely-spaced ratios to help make the most of the engine’s 100kW and 160Nm, and the clutch is light and the shifter-throw not too long.

The gate into fourth can be a bit notchy sometimes, but it’s a minor complaint.

A CVT automatic will be available within the next month; it will be the first time Suzuki has offered a self-shifting transmission in its flagship ‘hot hatch’. (None available at launch though, due to a supply delay for Australia-bound cars).

The launch route started in Victoria’s Yarra Valley and wound its way along a variety of sinuous mountain roads to Broadford.

Twisty rural backroads are the Swift Sport’s natural environment, and the new Sport absolutely eats them up.

On the road, the combination of a close-ratio gearbox and revvy engine is a delight. The Swift Sport loves to be driven hard, and provided you keep the revs above 4500rpm, hills are no problem.

The suspension is similar to that of the regular Swift, but with front and rear spring-rates 15 and and 30 percent higher respectively. The Monroe shock absorbers feature unique valving for the Sport model.

The rear torsion-beam axle is also slightly changed, with a stronger design and stiffer bushings providing minimal alignment changes when under load. Larger wheel bearings also offer improved durability .

It must be said that the suspension is firm, but not to the extent that it’ll rattle your fillings loose. On the lumpy country roads of the launch route the Sport had a well-damped ride, and traction was never an issue.

We also like the standard 17inch Bridgestone RE50s; they contribute a lot to the Sport’s sticky roadholding, yet aren’t too noisy on coarse tarmac.

Power steering is electrically-assisted; although accurate and responsive, the wheel is light and doesn’t transmit quite as much feedback to the driver as some might prefer.

We didn’t have an opportunity to drive the Sport in an urban setting at the launch, so around-town ride comfort has yet to be assessed.

 

First Drive Verdict

The 2012 Suzuki Swift Sport is a solid and appealing all-rounder - it’s the ideal size for commuting to work, it’s well-equipped and tremendous fun when driven hard.

Negatives? It doesn’t sound as sporty as it should, with a very quiet idle and not much in the way of exhaust or induction noise at full throttle.

That’s about it, really. It’s not exactly muscle-bound, but it makes up for it with exceptional handling. The Swift Sport is a car that doesn’t need to go fast to make you feel good, and in this age of speed cameras and escalating fuel prices that’s definitely a good thing.

Suzuki expects to sell 200 Swift Sports a month, with a roughly 30-70 percent split between manual and CVT. We have no doubt Suzuki will hit that target, and wouldn’t be surprised if they sold a lot more.

Watch out for our full review.

  • 2012 Swift Sport - Six-speed Manual - $23,990
  • 2012 Swift Sport - CVT Automatic - $25,990
    Note: prices are Manufacturer's List Price and do not include dealer deliver or on-road costs.

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