Suzuki Swift Sport 2012 new car review

Does the sporty version of New Zealand’s best-selling small car live up to its moniker?

Darren Cottingham
Darren Cottingham
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

Does the sporty version of New Zealand’s best-selling small car live up to its moniker? Even with a six-speed manual and a slightly peppier engine it’s actually a pretty sedate and boring car around town; this is a car that gets much better when you are on the open road.

The good
  • Good driver’s car – dynamically excellent
  • Styling has been modernised without making it look worse
The not-so-good
  • Suzuki suggests you use 95 octane fuel
  • Interior storage options are scant and the boot is

The problem with being at the top of the pile is that there are always young upstarts trying to knock you off. To find out whether it’s still worthy of the top spot I took it from Auckland to Napier. The Napier-Taupo road has sections that are a good test for the car and a sunny Queen’s Birthday weekend meant nice, dry roads.

Inside and out

The last Swift Sport we drove was back in 2007. We liked it for its maneuverability, handling, price and economy. We didn’t like the internal storage options. The Swift Sport struck the perfect balance between design, performance and price when it was first introduced. It has left the formula largely unchanged, but that also means that it’s losing ground because you’ve now got cars like the dynamically excellent Ford Fiesta Zetec as an alternative.

The same issues apply with the 2012 Suzuki Swift – it’s got drivability in spades, but the boot is token (210 litres with the rear seats up and the trick boot floor removed) and cabin storage options are tiny.

Specification upgrades are 17-inch wheels, Bluetooth phone connectivity, iPod/MP3 player integration, keyless entry and start, and a number of improved safety features. I would have expected reversing sensors and/or automatic lights as these are becoming standard on cars in this price range.

On the road

The 1.6-litre engine is now 100kW and has 160Nm of torque. The kerb weight is around the same at 1060kg for the 6-speed manual. General efficiencies in engine and transmission give a much improved fuel economy (I managed 6.2l/100km with some spirited driving, compared to 7.5l/100km in the previous model), but Suzuki suggests you use 95 octane fuel.

The gearbox is pleasingly notchy but does feel slightly light. The power is adequate for overtaking and dealt well with the passing lanes and long hills across the mountains. Tight corners were no problem and it is willing to clip the apex exactly as instructed. Uprated Monroe shock absorbers plus the 195/45 R17 tyres inspired confidence.

Sports seats with red stitching hold you firm, but not too firm. With the driver’s seat height adjuster and the tilt/telescopic steering wheel adjustment it’s easy to get a good driving position. On the steering wheel are controls for the stereo, phone integration and cruise control. The stereo sounds alright – to be expected at this level – but the iPod integration was fiddly.

Safety constantly improves over a model’s life. This new Swift has seven airbags (front, side, curtain and driver’s knee), plus electronic stability program and ABS brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist.

Overall

The Swift Sport is a great little car, but it’s not alone in its greatness. The competition is better now than it has ever been. However, there’s a reason why the Swift has the top spot: if you don’t need to carry much stuff and you want a small, economical, dynamic car that looks great and is appealing to everyone from youth to elderly the formula is right.

Note: This was reviewed as a new vehicle.

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Darren Cottingham
Darren Cottingham
Expert reviewer | Auto Media Group

I've been obsessed with cars since crashing my toy cars together as a toddler. Since then I've worked on some of NZ's biggest automotive websites. I've been reviewing cars for ten years and am passionate about driving standards, training and education.

Opinions are my own and not those of Trade Me.