Suzuki Swift Sport
'A pocket rocket that's too pricey for boy racers '
Engine capacity: 1.6 litres
Power output (hp @ rpm): 136 @ 6,900
Max torque (Nm @ rpm): 160 @ 4,400
Top speed (mph): 121
0-62 mph (seconds): 8.7
Fuel economy (mpg): 44.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 147
Hot hatches have become expensive. Gone are the days when you could pick up a turbo-charged version of a forecourt favourite such as the Renault Clio for a little more than the price of the basic family model and a souped-up Vauxhall Nova just won't cut the mustard at the Saturday night boy-racer meeting at your local Tesco car park any more.
Thankfully, though, for the more mature driver who wants a bit of punt with their practicality, there's the new Swift Sport from Suzuki. Available as a three-door version of the more sedate standard Swift – a favourite with cash and insurance-group conscious young drivers – it boasts up-rated suspension and a nippy 136bhp 1.6 litre engine.
Compared to many of its rivals, the Swift Sport doesn't have buckets of power, but its 8.7 seconds 0-62mph time and top speed of 121mph are more than enough to worry the nation's insurance adjusters and put the Swift Sport out of reach for most of Britain's young boy and girl racers. For the rest of us, it's a little pocket rocket which, though bristling in the bends, is refined enough in town, returning improved fuel and emissions figures compared to the old model it replaces.
What's not to like then? It's cheaper than its bigger rival, the Twingo Renault Sport, only a little slower, greener and a joy to throw around. What is more, unlike the Twingo (reviewed here last year: ind.pn/Twingo) and other rivals, its ride isn't so brutal to make it almost unbearable on all but the smoothest roads. True, its gruff little engine note is never quite satisfying enough and the steering isn't exactly fit for a track day, but there's plenty of punt to throw at corners and just enough understeer for some bursts of B-road fun. While its not as comfortable on the motorway as some hot hatches – its more like sitting in a tin can on a tuna chunks production line in overdrive – it is still refined enough for everyday use.
Outside it's stylish and the added sports body kit is firm enough, but it's let down by a rather drab interior. Yes, there is some sporty red stitching, a leather steering wheel, funky dials and front sports seats, but there's still plenty of cheap, hard plastic that feels more budget super mini than king of the road. It is, however, packed with more kit than many rivals, including cruise control, Bluetooth, an easy-to-use USB connection for your iPod, air conditioning and electric mirrors.
Looking beyond its immediate strengths and weaknesses, though, the Swift Sport still feels a little lost. Is it a fully-fledged hot hatch or a runaround with a bit of poke? It never quite compromises practicality enough for performance and that will disappoint some. And with the standard Swift available until the end of March on a VAT free offer for a little as £8,888, it seems like an extravagant choice. Put in that perspective – and I really loved pushing the Swift Sport around – I'm just not sure if it's worth another £4k for car-park bragging rights.
The Competition: The Swift Sport's biggest rival is the Renault Sport Twingo, which has more style but less kit for much the same price. It's also worth considering a second-hand Ford Fiesta Zetec S – which is warm rather than hot – but will leave you with more change from your £14k.
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