UK Drive: Hybrid power joins the Suzuki Swift Sport range, but at a premium
Suzuki’s Swift Sport has been hybridised as part of measures included across the firm’s range. Ted Welford finds out what it’s like.
What is it?
This is Suzuki’s pocket-rocket – the Swift Sport. It’s a fun little hatchback that blurs the boundaries between a regular hatchback and a hot hatch, so for the sake of argument let’s call it ‘warm’.
When a Sport version first launched with the second-generation Swift supermini, it was famed for being a three-door and using a naturally-aspirated petrol engine – two things that have both changed two generations later. So, the latest model now uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and now comes in a five-door format only. We’ve been behind the wheel of this latest version to see what it’s like.
The current Swift Sport arrived onto the scene in 2018 and continued to impress with its fun drive, low weight and racey looks. But Suzuki is under increasing pressure to reduce its CO2 emissions to meet targets, and with no PHEVs or EVs in its range, it’s quite the challenge.
So an easy way for Suzuki to do this is to electrify its entire line-up. From the funky Ignis city car to the Vitara 4×4, all Suzukis now come with new mild-hybrid systems, and the Swift Sport hasn’t escaped this either.
So with a little ‘Hybrid’ badge on the boot and a tweaked powertrain, this is the new Swift Sport for 2020. But has electrification sapped the fun out of this sporty hatch?
What’s under the bonnet?
It’s the same 1.4-litre petrol engine found pre-electrification in this latest Swift Sport, but it’s now mated to a 48-volt system. It’s essentially a mild-hybrid powertrain with the electricity helping to power the car’s ancillaries and provide extra assistance to the engine.
In total, the updated unit produces 127bhp and 235Nm of torque – that’s 11bhp down on power compared to before, but ever so slightly more torquey thanks to the hybrid system. But less power means less performance, with 0-60mph taking 0.7 seconds longer than before (now 8.9 seconds), though the 130mph top speed is unchanged.
The hybrid system, while adding only a small amount of weight, brings noticeable improvements to running costs, meaning the Swift can reach 50mpg in real-world conditions, with CO2 emissions of 127g/km.
What’s it like to drive?
The Swift Sport’s always been known for its fun, no-nonsense driving experience, and that absolutely remains the case. Despite a modest power output (mid-spec Clios can come with more power), the fact this Suzuki weighs just a little over a tonne makes up for that – feeling much quicker than the performance figures suggest.
It also handles well, can change direction at the drop of a hat and features a brilliant six-speed manual gearbox. So, while down on power, behind the wheel you’d be hard-pressed to tell.
In fact, the only real giveaway that this is a ‘hybrid’ from the driving seat is a bit of light regenerative braking when you take your foot off the accelerator, which charges the car’s small battery.
How does it look?
The Swift Sport does a sterling job of making itself look a lot more powerful than it is, with its muscular bodykit, aggressive front and large dual-exit exhaust making it look very hot indeed. Large 17-inch alloy wheels and carbon-effect trim that runs along the lower part of the car are also great touches.
Looks-wise, just about nothing has changed when it comes to this latest Swift Sport, aside from a small ‘Hybrid’ badge on the boot. Indeed, this is definitely an electrified model that you could quite easily drive around and never realise the hybrid aspect to it – no bad thing at all, especially in a fun little hatchback like this.
What’s it like inside?
It’s a really mixed bag when it comes to the Swift Sport’s interior. Let’s start with the good, where you have brilliant supportive sports seats, a cool gloss black and perforated leather steering wheel and red trim that runs throughout the cabin. Tick, tick, tick.
But the issue is that all these sporty features are surrounded by a wash of hard and scratchy plastics. Sure, this is a car at the cheaper end of the spectrum, but an attempt to give it a few higher-quality touches wouldn’t hurt.
And while not being the largest supermini in this class, it’s quite roomy for what it is – two adults should have no trouble fitting in the back seats, though the 268-litre boot is small compared to rivals.
What’s the spec like?
Before the latest-generation Swift Sport arrived in 2018, this warm hatch always cost around the £15,000 mark, so there was outcry when it jumped to £18,000 two years ago.
It doesn’t bode well then that this Suzuki’s price has now jumped to £21,570 – a mix of the cost of the hybrid system and current prices to import the model from Japan both being to blame for this steep increase.
While too expensive for what it is, it’s worth noting that the Swift Sport does come especially well-equipped. Along with the big alloys, sports seats, reversing camera and a touchscreen with smartphone mirroring and satellite navigation, it gets a host of driver assistance tech. Adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are all included.
Hybrid or not, the Swift Sport remains a huge amount of fun to drive. It’s arguably one of the closest cars to remain true to the classic hot hatch formula – lightness, not too much power and a driving experience that will bring a big grin to your face, even well within the speed limit.
This Suzuki also looks cool, and comes laden with equipment, while the unintrusive mild-hybrid system also makes the Swift impressively efficient, even if you’re not driving with economy on your mind.
Yet while the hybrid element certainly hasn’t diminished the Swift Sport’s fun factor, it’s brought with it quite a hefty price increase that makes this Swift not quite as easy to recommend as it once was.
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