Suzuki Swift Sport (2017 - 2020) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

The Suzuki Swift Sport has long been a car embraced by serious drivers who know a great handling hot hatch when they see it. Though not especially powerful, it's agile, responsive and brilliant fun for not a lot of money. Few potential buyers know this, so the idea with this third generation model back in 2017 was to widen its appeal with a smarter interior, lower running costs, a little more grunt and even sharper handling. Let's check the original version of this third generation Swift Sport design out as a used buy.

Models

5dr hatch (Petrol - 1.4 Boosterjet 140PS)

History

The Suzuki Swift Sport has always offered buyers a simple, light hot hatch formula. This third generation version, the first to be turbocharged, aimed to do that with a little more sophistication.

The two previous versions of this contender, launched respectively in 2006 and 2012, both used a high-revving normally aspirated 1.6-litre engine that was central to their appeal. So the decision in 2017 to finally replace that with a 1.4-litre turbo unit was one that loyal buyers had to get used to, particularly as the new Boosterjet powerplant had a very similar output to the outgoing 1.6, the 1.4 rated at 140PS. At launch, the media questioned Suzuki's decision to price this MK3 model so closely to the much pokier Fiesta ST and other models of that ilk.

In response, the Japanese brand was keen to reference the fact that this car was from launch the lightest - and therefore potentially the most agile - car in its class. And that the power it offered was more usable because the Boosterjet engine made it available low down in the rev range. Suzuki also made the point that this MK3 Swift Sport could offer a class-leadingly impressive equipment specification, including more standard camera-driven safety kit than any other model in the segment of this period could offer. The original version of this MK3 Swift Sport sold until Spring 2020, when it was replaced by a Hybrid version. It's the 2017-2020-era non-hybrid version of this MK3 model though, that we look at here.

What You Get

This car doesn't only show some other affordable small hot hatches how they should drive. It also, for us, offers a good template on how they should look. Muscular shoulders, blacked-out A-pillars and what Suzuki calls 'under-spoilers' all-round deliver a potently understated level of pavement presence but also a demeanour that's assertive enough to suggest you might be in for a bit of fun at the wheel. This MK3 Swift Sport is 50mm longer than a standard Swift model and sits 15mm lower to the ground than the previous generation version did. A little disappointingly, unlike that old MK2 model, there was no three-door body style option offered, but Suzuki sought to retain a three-door-like look by hiding the rear door handles in the trailing edge of the C-pillar.

Of course, as usual, what's more important is the stuff you can't see, namely this MK3 model's stiff, sophisticated 'TECT' platform, designed around what Suzuki calls 'Total Effective Control Technology'. This uses lots of high strength steel to make the structure very strong but also low in weight, which is the main reason why this Swift weighs so little, even by relatively light class standards.

You feel this model's light weight when you slam the driver's door shut, which isn't ideal, but otherwise, by supermini standards, the cabin feels quite nice, providing you're not expecting premium-quality fittings and acres of slush-moulded soft-touch plastic: you're not paying for that kind of thing here and you don't get it. What you do get is just enough interior differentiation to make you feel you're in a serious hot hatch. The grippy branded sports bucket seats are probably the highlight, proving to be supportive and surprisingly comfortable, providing your frame is narrow enough to fit into them. There's also a set of aluminium pedals, a chrome-accented gear knob with a red-stitched gaitor and emotive red flashings on the fascia and the centre stack.

This car remains one of the more compact models in the supermini hot hatch segment when it comes to rear seat space. Some might even find it a touch claustrophobic in the back. Still, thanks to that lengthened wheelbase and some extra room liberated from the engine compartment, there is now marginally more legroom on offer than there was in the old MK2 model.

Out back in the boot, the light tailgate raises to reveal a cargo area space that offers 25% more space than was available in the previous generation model. The 265-litre capacity isn't anything like enough to threaten the segment class leaders in this regard but it was at least enough to get this Suzuki back on a competitive footing.

What You Pay

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What to Look For

Not much goes wrong with a MK3 model Swift Sport. We came across an ESP failure. A few owners reported interior trim rattle. One pointed out how easy the wheels are to kerb. And a few pointed out that the tyres are very expensive due to their odd size. Otherwise, there shouldn't be too much to worry about. Look out for the usual scratched alloy wheels and signs of child damage in the back. And favour cars that have a properly stamped-up service history.

Replacement Parts

(approx prices based on a 2018 Swift Sport ex VAT) An oil filter costs around £5. A headlamp costs around £120; a tail lamp costs in the £71-£95 bracket. Wiper blades cost between £6 and £12.

On the Road

The Swift Sport formula has never been defined by outright power. What's always mattered more with this model line is light, chuckable agility, something this third generation car still specialises in thanks to its feather-light 970kg kerb weight. Which is important if, as we do, you embrace the Colin Chapman mantra that greater power makes you go faster in a straight line, but lighter weight makes you faster everywhere. This MK3 Swift Sport is certainly faster everywhere than its predecessor - but then you'd expect it would be. Though the power output on offer - 140PS - is much the same as that developed by the preceding MK2 model, it's kicked out in this MK3 version by a 1.4-litre turbocharged Boosterjet engine that has nearly 50% more torque than the previous 1.6-litre normally aspirated unit.

Despite the fact that you can access the 230Nm punch much lower down in the rev range - from just 2,500rpm - it's not a set-up geared towards victorious traffic light Grand Prix-style starts; rest to 62mph takes an unremarkable 8.1s on the way to 130mph. In the mid range where it matters though, there's a reason why this car feels a fair bit quicker than those figures suggest. Especially when the road gets twisty. Kart-like driving dynamics have always been a major attraction for Swift Sport buyers and they were further developed here by a stiffer front suspension system with Monroe shock absorbers front and rear. The sharply responsive variable ratio steering system helps too, plus the beefy brakes inspire confidence and there's a fruity soundtrack from the specially tuned exhaust. Which is all good - for those times you can drive this car as it was designed to be driven. For those times when you can't, this Swift Sport delivers a surprisingly absorbent ride and affordable running costs - 47.1mpg combined figure and 135g/km of CO2 on the WLPT cycle (both NEDC figures).

Overall

Over the years, we've begged Suzuki not to change their Swift Sport's simple, uncomplicated formula but with this third generation model, they did and, rather to our surprise back in 2017, we found ourselves to be rather enamoured by this end result. This third generation Swift Sport was quicker, more efficient and better equipped than its two predecessors, yet proves to be still as much fun as ever. Sure, other fast superminis offer greater levels of straight line performance for not a lot more, but they're mostly not as safe or as well equipped, they'll be less frugal to run and in most cases they'll be less pleasant to use over poorer surfaces.

Of course, none of these things will be compelling reasons for Swift Sport purchase - and they shouldn't be. What really matters here is that you get old-school GTi fun without old-school crudeness. Need convincing that power isn't everything in a performance car? If so, you need to drive this one. We guarantee it'll surprise you.

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