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Suzuki Swift 1.6 Sport

Click to view picture gallery“You don’t have to travel far to know
  that the second-generation Swift
  Sport is every bit as much fun to drive
  as the original. Improved in every
  way, it
s satisfying whether youre
  seriously pressing on or just taking
  your mother to the garden centre
...”

EXTERNALLY THIS LATEST version is very slightly larger (you'll need a tape measure to verify the 10mm longer, 5mm wider and 10mm taller body) but retains the distinctive wraparound-style windscreen while the subtle bodykit adds a dash more polish to the three-door bodyshell's already fluent design.

Under the bodywork there's a comprehensively upgraded suspension set-up for better cornering and straight line stability; at each corner are new snappy-looking 17-inch alloys (each around a kilo lighter than those fitted to the previous Sport); a more positive six-speeder replaces the previous five-speed manual 'box; and a revised twin-tailpipe exhaust adds a sportier note to the proceedings.

Approach the Sport and you don't need a key to unlock either door — just press the small black button on the door handle. Drop into the comfortably-bolstered, figure-hugging sports seat and you still won't need a key — just press the Start button. Keyless entry, locking and starting are all done with the key in your pocket or handbag.

“Drop into the
comfortably-bolstered,
figure-hugging sports
seat and you won’t
need a key — just press
the Start button.
Keyless entry, locking
and starting are all done
with the key in your
pocket or handbag
...”
Look around and you'll quickly see that while the Sport is a user-friendly hot-hatch, it lacks for little when it comes to creature comforts.

Standard kit includes electric windows, front sports seats, cruise control, keyless entry and push button start, automatic air conditioning with pollen filter, powerfold heated door mirrors, Bluetooth integrated audio with voice activation and music streaming, MP3-compatible radio/CD with USB port and 6 speakers, multifunction steering wheel, tinted glass, rear privacy glass, auto lights, and high intensity discharge projector headlamps with power headlight wash.

Seven airbags (including a driver's knee airbag) are also standard, as too is an electronic stability programme to keep the Sport's nose pointing in the right direction.

Upholstered in a smart black fabric, the supportive sports seats are perfect for long, short and spirited journeys. An excellent driving position can be set in seconds and the steering wheel feels great in your hands. The cabin is a refreshingly bling-free zone. Highlights are minimal but effective: red contrast stitching to the perforated leather steering wheel rim and the seats; well-considered chrome detailing; and a set of alloy pedals.

Apart from changing gear, you rarely need to take your hands off the wheel thanks to remote controls for cruise, trip, voice, phone and audio, all of which are mounted on the spokes. Five interlinked dials are dead ahead and easy to read at a glance. The automatic air conditioning serves up hot and cold air efficiently on demand, and the driver's front electric window (it's a three door bodyshell so the rear panes are fixed) has auto one-shot down operation.

In the front, room is generous with lots of headroom and more to spare around your feet, shins and knees as well as for your elbows and shoulders. Flip either front seatback forward and slide the base and you have easy access to the actually very comfy rear seats, where there's ample room for taller passengers.

You'll also find plenty of foot room under the front seats, the outer rear armrests are a good size and recessed into the side panels, and the rear headrests rise up high enough to properly support your head.

On winding, challenging
roads the Sport really
shows what it’s made of.
Easy to place, feeling
well-planted and
composed, it whips into
corners, powering
through with minimal
body roll...”
Two belts and two headrests limit the number of rear passengers to two. Despite tapering towards the tail, the side windows are deep and keep the cabin airy wherever you sit.

Luggage? Yes, the Sport has room for that too — with the rear seats in use the deep boot offers 211 litres, but drop the 60:40 seatbacks (they fold almost flat although there's a step-up from the boot floor) and this goes up to 512 litres, making the Sport a handy, as well as a hot, hatch.

While we're talking about the Sport's tail, it's worth mentioning that, thanks to the good rear visibility, you can manage without parking sensors. Apparently an astonishing 65% of all drivers (male and female) have problems with parking and reversing — but not in the Swift Sport they won't!

The new gearbox gains a new taller (overdrive) top gear that makes for a quiet and easy motorway pace: the legal limit calls for a steady 3,000rpm. It also cuts emissions (down from 165 to 147g/km) and improves fuel economy (up from 39.8 to 44.1mpg). The six-speeder's first five ratios are well stacked and well-matched to the 1.6-litre's powerband and a lighter change action sees the lever switch slots fast and cleanly — exactly what's needed to keep up with the rev-happy engine.

The Sport's 1.6-litre four-cylinder twin-cam features dual variable valve timing and has received a useful 12bhp power boost — it now pumps out 134bhp and 118lb ft of torque. While it may appear relatively out-gunned given today's 184bhp MINIs and 231bhp Golf GTIs, you need to remember that the one-tonne Swift Sport (1,045kg) is significantly lighter than, say, the 1,420kg Golf GTI.

So forget the other guys because the Swift Sport easily manages to serve up real fun from its 134bhp. Plant your right foot flat on the accelerator and, as the needle races round the Sport's rev-counter to the red-line, the speedometer shows zero to sixty-two miles-per-hour coming up in 8.7 seconds. Maximum speed is 121mph.

In the real world the
Sport proved to be even
better than the official
figures suggest —
our test week returned
an average figure
of 48.7mpg!
Yes, we had to check it
twice, but it really is
that economical...”
On paper the Sport is an economical machine; 44.1mpg for the combined cycle, 33.6 for the urban and 54.3mpg for the extra-urban. In the real world it proved to be even better than the official figures suggest: our test week returned an average figure of 48.7mpg! Yes, we had to check it twice, but it really is that economical. Amazingly good for something so lively.

However, the Swift Sport's not about speed per se — it's on winding, challenging roads that the Sport really shows what it's made of. Easy to place, feeling well-planted and composed, it whips into corners, powering through with minimal body roll, while the quick, accurate and direct steering gives you the confidence to really sling it around in traditional hot hatch style.

Push it cruelly and it will do nothing worse than set a smile on your face. Grip both from the chassis and the 195/45 Continental rubber keeps it shipshape and the good chassis balance means it handles direction changes confidently. The brakes are strong and progressive and, should you overstep the limit, there's an electronic stability system ready and waiting to assist.

The first-generation Swift Sport was fun to drive — the new one is real fun. It's also easier to live with thanks to its better ride comfort. In fact, this new Sport feels as if it was made specifically for British tarmac (broken or smooth). And with a 13,499 sticker price, Suzuki has delivered yet another winner. — MotorBar

Suzuki Swift 1.6 Sport | 13,499
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Overall test MPG: 48.7mpg
Power: 134bhp | Torque: 118lb ft | CO2 147g/km