When it comes to sporting cars, what's more important than anything is attention to detail: the work a carmaker puts in to make a car feel so much more special than other run-of-the-mill machines.
Proper attention to detail you usually only find in high-priced performance cars. They're the ones that get the benefit of the right powertrain, chassis and (yes, this is important too) styling changes to really stand out from the crowd.
Oh, high-performance cars and the $27,500 Suzuki Swift Sport. No, really. While most of its supermini rivals are content to don a set of stripes and some nice alloys in order to try and sell you a sporty image, the flagship Swift is the real thing.
It's not fast in outright terms: 0-100km/h in 8.7 seconds. But it's quite a bit faster than the standard Swift because the engine has grown 200cc in capacity and now produces 100kW/160Nm (up from 70kW/130Nm).
It's not just the extra go, it's the hard-edged attitude you get in the last 2000rpm before the revcounter reaches its redline. This engine loves to spin fast and feels strong right through to the end. Nice six-speed manual gearbox, too. You might only be doing 80km/h, but you'll be having a ball.
The Swift Sport doesn't handle like a supercar. But it's a whole lot sharper than the standard car (which is pretty composed itself for a supermini) because it's been intelligently upgraded: Monroe shock absorbers, stiffer springs and larger (but still sensibly sized) 17-inch rims.
The new chassis package preserves an impressively compliant ride but also endows the little Swift with a cheeky handling character. It turns-in eagerly, grips enthusiastically and can even be steered on the throttle a little, like a grown-up hot-hatch: the Swift's wheelbase is short, but it's safe to play because the car telegraphs changes in attitude so accurately. Some cars that cost three times as much are only half the fun.
And while it's only a Swift, it does look special. The Sport wears a unique body kit, those intricate alloys and the rear bumper houses twin exhaust pipes. The interior features detail differences in trim, including embroidered logos on the seatbacks.
Probably all more cute than cool to be honest, but there's not a lot you can do to make a Swift look aggressive. But it's easy to pick from the cooking Swift, which is the point.
Besides, this is car that doesn't need to try too hard visually to convince you that it's sporty. That's what lesser superminis that are trying to hide deficiencies in other areas do.
The Swift Sport is good, honest fun. For the enthusiast, one of the best small-car buys on the market, with name that need not fear the Fair Trading Act.