Forget fast and furious, the new Suzuki Swift Sport is efficient and practical
Swift grown up and mellowed The new Suzuki Swift offers extra space at no expense to performance and economy -- PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN, SUZUKI

It is natural for every new car in a sporty lineage to be compared with its predecessors, especially if a particular predecessor stood out.

In the case of the Suzuki Swift Sport, references will invariably be made to the Swift GTi of the early 1990s.

The Swift GTi was a 1.3-litre three- door that weighed less than 800kg. It was the veritable Japanese pocket rocket, winning trophy after trophy at carpark rallies.

The latest Swift Sport is quite a different kettle of fish, even if its relatively high-revving 1.6-litre engine allows it to match the GTi's top speed and century sprint timing.

For starters, it is obviously a far bigger car, with five doors and seating for five. It is long and tall too, unlike the chilli padi GTi's compact, squat stance.

Therefore, you can imagine how the driving dynamics of the two cars differ.

Perhaps it is pointless to compare the new Swift Sport to its illustrious forebear.

Just as it is futile to recall how small, light and simple the first Volkswagen Golf GTI was.

Cars like that are just not made anymore. They will not pass crash tests today and they certainly will not accommodate today's generation of well-fed drivers comfortably.

To its credit, though, the latest Swift Sport fares well against its immediate predecessor - a car pretty much its shape and size.

Despite being slightly bigger all round, it is a tad lighter.

On this front, occupants get to enjoy more space at no expense to performance and economy.

Its 1.6-litre engine is appreciably more powerful, with 134bhp on tap versus 124bhp previously. Torque has also been raised to 160Nm, from 148Nm.

The engine is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox, compared with a five-speeder before. There is also a continuously variable transmission variant.

At the wheel, the new Swift Sport is not quite hot hatch material in the way it behaves, even if it resists roll admirably when chucked around corners, and its wheels display a creditable level of grip.

It still lacks intimacy, spontaneity and groundedness.

Not surprising for such a tall vehicle. Its wider tracks mitigate this physical encumbrance somewhat, but not completely.

Its steering also betrays a tinge of vagueness and stickiness.

On a more positive note, the engine is revvy and the gearbox makes quick changes pretty easy.

Power is delivered in a more linear fashion and each gear ratio offers a good balance between flexibility and grunt.

As before, the engine and exhaust do not make noises you would write home about. Instead, you get a clean and environmentally unintrusive aural response each time you pile on the revs.

The drivetrain is in fact uncharacteristically quiet for something with a 'Sport' badge.

When idling, it almost matches the eerie stillness of a hybrid, if not for the faint vibration coming through the seat and pedals.

The Swift Sport is nearly as thrifty with fuel as some hybrids, managing an impressive 7.1 litres/100km even when driven without frugality in mind. That is actually not far from its declared value of 6.5 litres/100km.

Indeed, no car I have driven in recent years comes as close to delivering rated fuel economy as this Suzie.

So, what you have on hand is a politically correct lukewarm hatch that is adequately nippy but lacks all the frilly accoutrements that are so important to boy-racers.

Its styling, even if a tad more aggressive than the ordinary Swift, is still relatively subdued.

Perhaps the grown-up car is aimed at a more mature crowd. This group of motoring enthusiasts presumably want a fairly quick and efficient car that offers the excitement and involvement of a stick shift, but is at the same time practical and responsible.

That means having decent interior space and having no propensity to rile the neighbours when driven in the dead of night.

Unfortunately, most of the folks in this crowd will recall the Swift GTi. With fondness.

SPECS

SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT

Price: $111,500 with COE

Engine: 1,586cc 16-valve inline-4

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Power: 134bhp at 6,900rpm

Torque: 160Nm at 4,400rpm

0-100kmh: 8.7 seconds

Top speed: 195kmh

Fuel consumption: 6.5 litres/100km

Agent: Champion Motors