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Office fight: the Suzuki Swift Sport

The TG Garage Swift is loved by some, loathed by others. Time for frank discussion

Stephen Dobie: I’ve just spent the weekend in this Suzuki Swift Sport you moan so incessantly about. I really like it. In fact I think it’s pretty mega.

Ollie Kew: Are you feeling alright? What exactly was it about the character vacuum engine, clunky gearchange, saggy yet brittle damping and steering inspired by an Alfa Romeo 4C on remoulds that did it for you?

Stephen: Wrong on every count, Kew. It doesn’t suffer engine character or steering feel issues any more readily than the bulk of its contemporary rivals. And I can only assume you’re benchmarking the gearshift against a Honda S2000… or an open-gate Ferrari F355 Challenge. There’s nowt wrong with it.

Ollie: Drive the Swift Sport back to back with a boggo Fiesta Zetec S or Mazda 2 and tell me the Suzuki’s control weights aren’t all over the place. It totally misses the ‘sharper than the sum of its mundane parts’ factor that oozed from the first two SSSs. I tried to grab it by the scruff and use the ‘drive it like you stole it’ approach. In the dry, it lolloped from corner to corner and I got so fed up with the lumpy gearshift I left it in third and let the turbo do the heavy breathing. In the wet it’s all over the place.

Stephen: The control weights definitely aren’t perfect but I do think it becomes more than the sum of its parts the harder it’s driven, and when you’re braking or steering with enough um, heft, neither component feels sub-standard. Back to back with the old car it would probably feel a bit limp, but I’d peg it among the less disastrous nat-asp to turbo evolutions. I feel like it’s still a car best driven like you’re in a Bourne Identity chase, one that relishes a bit of rough treatment. Only it’s now quiet enough to listen to podcasts or have actual phone calls at motorway speeds.

Ollie: Full disclosure, I hold the SSS to very high standard because the last two were such finely judged examples of Baby’s First Hot Hatch, some of the first performance cars I ever drove, and this new one falls between two stools, for me. Not sorted enough a driver’s car to cost £250 a month, and yay, woohoo, you can now use a smartphone in it, but if sophistication was your priority, you’d be in an Ibiza for the same money. Or a Fiesta for a happy compromise.

Stephen: Bringing the old Swift into this is mildly troubling because which modern car, having undergone its necessary switch to turbos and connectivity to respectively please the regulators and the yoofs, isn’t softer or less satisfying as a result? I think there’s more depth here too: not to detract from the old car’s legend, because it was ace, but it wasn’t a car you’d keep for years and constantly discover new dynamic facets of. This one’s less immediately endearing, but feels like it might have longer term, more slow-burn appeal. Though clearly not for you.

Ollie: I’d love to drive this legendary SSS of which you speak, but after six months and over 6,500 miles in all weathers on all types of roads, I never found it. At whatever speed and in whatever conditions, I couldn’t get past the mismatched, haphazard controls of the thing. And I’ve not driven an old SSS in years. So I’m coming at the new one in isolation, not from thrashing a nat-asp hero every other weekend.

Stephen: Alright, actual money on the line, I wouldn’t buy one. But then I wouldn’t buy a new car. A last-gen Clio 200 Cup or Fiesta ST are so much better at the teeny budget hatch thing. I just want to rally against the sudden and downright unfair villainisation of the Swift, seemingly because the thing it followed was so loved and respected. Let’s call it David Moyes Syndrome. It’s nowhere near that bad…

Ollie: I like light cars, small cars, and uncomplicated cars. I give the SSS big credit for only weighing 975kg and having no mode buttons or adaptive settings. Doesn’t stop it being a honking disappointment. There is no situation in which I wouldn’t pick a Fiesta 1.0 over this thing. It’s not even proved to be desperately economical, despite being 200kg lighter than its rivals. Middling 30s to the gallon, massively pricey to insure, and no longer a bargain to buy. I loved the SSS on paper, but on the road, and in my life, it’s been a stain. Suzuki must’ve been too busy with the Jimny not to phone this in.

Specification:

1,373cc, 4cyl turbo petrol, FWD, 134bhp, 170lb ft
47.1mpg, 135g/km CO2 (WLTP)
0-62mph in 8.1secs, 130mph
975kg

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