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Can the £18k Suzuki Swift beat a Ford Fiesta?

The sporty Fiesta ST-line EcoBoost takes on TG's nippy Suzuki. Poor Suzuki

Nothing too taxing for the Swift Sport this month then. Just a battle on road and on paper with the best-selling car in Britain, and Top Gear’s 2017 Supermini of the Year. The Ford Fiesta is the quintessential ‘all things to all people’ kinda car. This ST-line (sporty-looking) X (with posh kit) Ecoboost 140 (fastest one before you get to the Fiesta ST) is even more things to petrolheads. And with 138bhp, a 0-62mph of 9.0 seconds and finance deals beaming it to your driveway for a mere tenner a month more than the Swift Sport, it couldn’t be a more direct rival for Suzuki’s range-topping Swift. On paper.

Unfortunately for Suzuki, we don’t drive on paper. The new Fiesta is easily the most fun-to-drive supermini money can buy, and this ST-line, thanks to slightly firmer suspension, is even sharper, keener, more agile, but with the edges rounded off the full-fat ST’s boisterous ride. Not a lot of steering summons an instant change of direction, so fast is the steering, and it grips like it’s on slicks.

Even though it’s 170kg lighter, the Swift oddly struggles to match the Fiesta’s sheer verve. Its narrow Continentals relinquish grip sooner – particularly at the front, and it feels more top-heavy in direction-changes. The overbearingly heavy steering is more numb, the gearchange baggier, and it’s got the least charismatic engine ever in a hot-ish hatch. A three-cylinder would’ve suited the switch to turbo much better, for my money.

Ah, money. It rears its shiny head again, because while the Fiesta has got the Swift Sport on toast as a fun car, as a GT car, and simply as a product, an item to be inside, the Swift Sport Mk3’s ace in the hole is its equipment. Now, I’ve already said I’d do without its haphazard radar cruise control and lane-keep assist, and bin off the cheapo DAB-CarPlay touchscreen. In fact, the main gadget I get along with is the keyless entry and start.

But this Fiesta ST-line X only has its own – superior – alternatives on-board for comparison because they’re options. In fact, this red car’s been heaped with them, adding a heated steering wheel and heated seats, pop-out door edge protectors and 18-inch rims. As tested, it’s a £22,665 car, up from £19,715, and Ford still wants £670 for five doors.

This one would set you back £350 a month (which is ‘proper’ ST money), and even rowed back to match the SSS exactly on toy-for-toys, it’s a £300 per month. Both average 38-43mpg. First year’s tax for both is £165. The Ford is considerably cheaper to insure (group 15 plays 35). Told you they were closely matched.

So, to a conclusion. Buy the Swift Sport and bag an extra fifty quid a month in my pocket – a tank of petrol, in other words – or stump up three hundred and tiptoe my Fiesta to Farmfoods for the weekly shop?

For me, it’d be the Ford. The upgrade it offers in tech, build quality, space and – importantly for me, I have to admit – fizzy handling, is worth every penny. I want to like the Swift more. I want to applaud its astounding featherweight construction, and its no-bull approach to optioning up a car. But in a fight with the most popular car in the entire country, it comes off second-best.

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