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Suzuki Swift Sport 3 DR

 

It’s one of those rare machines where everything seems just-so and excess in any one area might spoil the balance.

Base price: $25,990.

Powertrain and performance: 1.6-litre petrol four, 100kW160Nm, 6-speed manual, front-drive, Combined economy 6.4 litres per 100km, 0-100km/h 8.7 seconds.

Vital statistics: 3890mm long, 1510mm high, kerb weight 1045kg, luggage capacity 211/512 litres, fuel tank 42 litres, 17-inch wheels on 195/45 tyres.

We like: A real driver’s car, sharp styling in three-door format.

We don’t like: Cheap cabin materials, not much else.

How it rates: 9/10

 

WHAT DO I NEED TO KNOW?

Suzuki New Zealand now offers a three-door version of the popular Swift Sport. Same size, same power, same chassis, same equipment. That’s it.

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO DRIVE?

The Swift Sport is a pint-sized sensation if you’re a real car enthusiast. Don’t be distracted by the fact that so many carmakers simply slap a Sport badge on a mainstream model with some stripes and alloys: the Swift Sport is the real deal, made by people who care.

It has a different engine, gearbox (close-ratio of course) and suspension setup to regular Swifts. It’s a small-package that just feels really well sorted and will put a smile on your face at any speed.

Fast? No, that’s not the point. A 0-100km/h time of 8.7 seconds is respectable but you’ll still be hard pressed to beat a family sedan away from the lights.

The Swift’s entertainment value comes in its steering, slick gearbox and brilliant chassis. Even a drive to the corner dairy becomes a verve-and-swerve exercise. On the open road or at a track day (where the Swift would be a hoot, as long as you’re expecting to set any lap records), the Sport is a delight: it’s light at just over a tonne, the wheel has a nice, progressive turn-in action, the chunky tyres have lots of grip but not at the expense of steer-by-throttle adjustability, and really the whole package just makes you remember why you like driving.

With such modest performance, you might be pressed to call the Swift Sport a hot hatch. But if driver entertainment is any measure (and it should be the only measure) then it certainly qualifies.

IS IT EASY TO LIVE WITH?

The Swift is less than four metres long and surprisingly tall, so it’s the perfect city car. Given that it’ll fit into spaces where other cars dare not go, radar would be useful, but it’s hardly a deal-breaker.

Automatic? You can have a continuously variable transmission in the five-door Sport, but not in this one – which is another plus, frankly. A driver-focused car like this deserves a manual gearbox, even if you’re only driving it around the city.

Naturally, the three-door body shape compromises practicality a bit, although it has the same room in the back as the five-door. Which is to say not much. Swift has always been more of a spacious two-plus-two than a proper family car, so a relative lack of practicality is not a major minus with the three-door – unless you’re lifting small children in and out.

There is one thing that drags the Swift Sport experience down though, and that’s the quality of the interior trim. It’s cleanly styled and the panel fit is excellent, but the plastics are hard and shiny. The steering wheel has a leather rim and the Sport gets special front seats, but the rest of the cabin feels a bit low rent.

The Swift Sport is such a tactile machine in other respects, it’s a shame the cabin isn’t a bit nicer to touch.

SHOULD I BUY ONE?

Should you what. You’ll have to be an enthusiast for sure, as the Sport is a busy little thing to pilot. But if you qualify, you’ll find the Swift a constant source of delight.

More straight-line speed would be a bonus, but perhaps the car is better as it is: it’s one of those rare machines where everything seems just-so and excess in any one area might spoil the balance.

It’s remarkable that Suzuki can introduce such an edge to an utterly mainstream model and keep the price in check. At $25,990 the Sport three-door is $1510 cheaper than the five-door. Not that it needed to be: it’s sure to be a limited-volume model and the sporting statement of a three-door body shape means that less is more appealing in this case. Enjoy.


EQUIPMENT CHECKLIST

Air conditioning: Climate

Audio: CD, iPod compatible

Automatic lights/wipers: Yes/No

Blind spot warning: No

Bluetooth: Yes

Cruise control: Yes

Driver footrest: Yes

Gas discharge headlights: No

Head-up display: No

Heated/ventilated seats: No

Keyless entry/start: No/Yes

Lane guidance: No

Leather upholstery: No

Parking radar: No

Power boot or tailgate: No

Power seat adjustment/memory: No

Remote audio controls: Yes

Satellite navigation: No

Seat height adjustment: Yes

Self-parking technology: No

Split/folding rear seats: 60/40

Steering reach adjustment: Yes

Stop-start: No

Trip computer: Yes

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