2012 SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Light hatch
Price: $25,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.1 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.9 l/100km
When the new Suzuki Swift Sport arrived in Australia three months ago, The Motor Report office was a-buzz with enthusiasm for this little hatch.
Here was a car that sacrificed none of the standard Swift’s practicality, but with a Sport badge that enhanced an already enticing handling package. We’d run it on both road and track and were happy to sing its praises. (See all Swift Sport reviews.)
At the time there were no automatic variants on hand.
With Suzuki predicting that 70 percent of Swift Sport buyers would opt for the automatic CVT (continuously variable transmission), we couldn’t help but wonder if everything we liked about the six-speed manual model would be present in the auto version.
Quality: Inside the Sport looks very familiar with the exception of sports seats and a new instrument cluster. Surfaces generally are well finished and high quality.
Solid assembly and tight shut lines help lift the score, but are played off against some scratch-prone plastics on the door pulls. You’d expect the firmed suspension of the Swift Sport to show up any errant trim rattles, but there were none.
Comfort: Front seats are grippy sports buckets with pronounced and firm bolsters. Being a little below the average male stature, I found them near spot-on (they may prove a little pinched if you’re of a larger frame).
In the rear headroom is fairly tight - odd considering the upright roof. Seating is fine for two in the back, but squeezy for three. Knee-room is moderate, but with a 6’2” front passenger it shrunk to a bare minimum for kids in the rear.
Equipment: The Swift Sport comes with a generous spec-sheet which includes proximity key, push-button starter, HID headlamps, foglamps, cruise control, Bluetooth audio and phone connectivity, single zone climate-control, a six-speaker audio system with USB input and iPod integration, and a trip computer.
There’s also a unique body kit, rear spoiler and flow-formed (instead of cast alloy, to save weight) 17-inch alloy wheels.
Storage: You’d best prepare to pack light in the Swift, cargo volume is only 210 litres and features a high loading-lip. There is a handy two-stage floor though that can be moved up and down as required.
The rear seats feature 60:40 split folding which opens up 900 litres of space.
Around the cabin there’s a bottle-holder in each door, but only one front cup-holder. There’s little in the way of covered storage, but a decent open space at the bottom of the console.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Put simply, this engine loves a rev. Peak power of 100kW arrives at 6900 rpm and maximum torque of 160Nm comes on at 4400 rpm - that’s all well and good but between the engine and the wheels is a transmission that refuses to play ball.
The revvy nature of this engine is constantly forced to battle a CVT that does all it can to keep revs low. You have to flick it into manual mode, and shuffle through the pre-set ratios using the paddle shifters, if you want to keep the engine on the boil.
Even in manual, gear shifts are still pretty sludgy and there’s no real engine braking effect if you pull back a few gears. While it is quicker and more alive than the standard Swift, it feels restrained - nobbled even - by the CVT.
You can hustle it along pretty quickly if given a bit of room, but we know this engine works much better when tied to the six-speed manual.
Refinement: While we’re not overwhelmed with the on-road performance of the Sport paired with the CVT, we’re happy to give kudos to an engine that revs as smoothly and cleanly as this little Swift.
And, despite the conservative and restrained character of its auto transmission, it is more refined than some and works ok in the cut-and-thrust of urban commuting.
Suspension: Suspension design is a revised version of the standard Swift. There’s a MacPherson front and torsion-beam rear system with front spring rates 15 percent stiffer, and 30 percent stiffer at the back (the rear torsion beam bushings are also stiffer).
Those changes amount to a ride that is noticeably firmer. Yet, even loaded up, the Swift Sport can deal with big hits and broken tarmac without too much cabin intrusion.
Better still, it’s pretty sharp around a corner. You can throw it into bends with verve, and, although the teering is a little over-assisted, the inherent good chassis balance makes up for this.
Braking: Braking is by ventilated front discs with solid discs in the rear (the Swift GLX is the only other model so share such a set-up).
There is a progressive feel to the pedal, and overall performance is good. The Sport has ample in reserve to complete multiple hard stops or tackle a sweeping downhill run without dropping its bundle.
ANCAP rating: 5 Stars
Safety features: Safety equipment includes seven airbags (front, side, curtain and driver’s knee), Vehicle Stability Control, ABS brakes with brake assist, hill-hold and and electronic brakeforce distribution, three-point seatbelts in all positions with load-limiting pretensioners and height-adjustable for front belts, height-adjustable head-restraints in all positions.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/100,000 km
Service costs: Service costs may vary, consult your dealer before purchase.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Kia Rio SLi ($21,990) - To be fair the Rio isn’t pushing hot-hatch credentials the way the Swift Sport does. But for the Rio you can factor in an engine with a touch more power and torque than the Swift Sport, plus 17-inch alloys and a six-speed auto that feels more connected than the Swift’s CVT.
There’s also money to be saved, so if you need to, why not use that on a suspension upgrade to make the Rio as keen as the Swift Sport? (see Rio reviews)
Volkswagen Polo GTI five-door ($28,990) - The asking price is higher, and the waiting list stretches for months, so the Polo GTI must be good? Well, it is quick - there’s plenty more power and torque for that - but doesn’t have the ‘brat-pack’ character of the Swift Sport.
Inside, the Polo has a superior premium feel, and the DSG transmission is more quick-witted as well. (see Polo reviews)
Hyundai Veloster ($25,990) - The Veloster is a curious beast to look at with a high bum and coupe-cum-hatch versatility. If that’s up your alley then you’ll find the richer equipment list a boon as well.
The engine is shared with the Rio, but the six-speed dual-clutch transmission is unique to the Veloster (for now). Like the Rio there’s also a weight disadvantage that makes the Hyundai’s wild coupe feel tamer than its looks suggest. (see Veloster reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Without being a rorty, snarling beast, the Swift Sport is a great little unit in the finest hot-hatch tradition. Low speed thrills are its forte, and with a sharp handling package and a keen love of corners, it can’t fail to impress.
Would we give this one - the auto - the nod of approval though? Not this time. We love the manual: it is a proper hoot when you need it to be, but the CVT drains the fun from the experience.
The Sport is a more powerful Swift - a GLX with a few extra toys and a tougher look. If you can shift your own gears, we suggest opting for the great-feeling six-speed manual. It’s a better package than the CVT and it’s $2000-cheaper.
- 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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