It doesn’t matter what sphere of influence a car is from, changing regulations means that everyone has to play by the same rules. Everything from superminis to supercars are on an electrification journey – for better or worse – and that include thrill-seeking breed such as the hot hatchback. The Suzuki Swift Sport has always ranked highly for fun factor, but has going hybrid changed that?
The new Swift Sport Hybrid is actually something of a pioneer in its segment, being one of the first B-segment hatchbacks to adopt a 48-volt hybrid system. While the reason for its installation is CO2 related, it does come with a torque-filling performance advantage – more on that later.
The Suzuki Swift Sport Hybrid is almost indistinguishable from its non-hybrid predecessor. This design came into play with the fourth-generation Swift and features a funky and rather stylish design language. It’s not fussy or overly angular, instead presenting itself as rounded and friendly. It’s a good-looking car that can park next to a fashion conscious Mini and not appear out of place.
Sport models are distinguished by a more athletic front bumper, contrasting side skirts and a prominent set of dual exhaust pipes. It’s 17-inch alloy wheels are also a sporty treat exclusive to this car.
There are a few optional styling trinkets you can add to make your Swift Sport more unique. Things such as door stripes, vivid yellow wheel bolts, wheel decals, black door mirrors and more interesting kick plates are on the list. All of these options are very well priced, and for around £400 you could pick a handful that take your fancy.
For such a compact car, the interior is actually surprisingly spacious. Headroom in particular allows for all manner of tall hats to be worn by occupants. If a top hat forms part of your casual attire, I dare say that a Swift sport might be the only car in its class that will allow you to go about your day uninterrupted.
Front occupants are treated to a set of bolstered sports seats that have a rib-hugging capacity to hold you in place. Finished with red stitching and emblazoned with the word ‘Sport’, they are a standout feature inside this Swift. You’ll also find red details on armrests and the dashboard to inject some colour into an otherwise black interior.
The cabin itself has a hard and durable feel to it, however, the choice of materials is far from plush. Hard plastics cover most surfaces, and while harder wearing than softer options, it makes this space feel cheaper than equivalent rivals. It’s a bit of a shame because the rest of the interior is an ergonomic success and deserves praise for simplistic design.
Rear passengers have lots of headroom, and the outermost posts received good legroom for adults also. The middle passenger has just enough shoulder room, but does have to straddle a transmission hump in the floor.
Open the boot to reveal the same 264-litres as a non-hybrid Swift thanks to the batteries being positioned under the seats. It’s a good size of boot for this category of car, but there’s a sizeable load-lip that you’ll have to overcome when lifting heavy items into the boot. Redemption is to be found in its nice square opening.
There’s only one trim level with the Swift Sport Hybrid, and that means that all cars come with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. The software is a little simplistic in comparison with rivals, but it is responsive enough and easy to use. It is compatible with Apple CarPlay and so the somewhat basic interface can be switched for a slicker operating system by plugging in your phone.
This car is packed with safety systems and tech that can help the driver. There’s stuff like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and traffic sign recognition. For a small car it’s clear that safety is high on its priorities.
The 48-volt hybrid system supplements the same 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine as before. Together they produce 127bhp and 235Nm of torque, which is modest, but punchy enough. Swift Sport fans amongst you might have noticed that power is down by some 11bhp when compared with the non-hybrid car, however torque is upped as a form of appeasement. 0-62mph takes a second longer than before at 9.1 seconds.
Let’s throw the Top Trumps cards away for a moment, because these sorts of cars have never been about performance figures. Hitting a delicious slice of undulating British countryside, the Swift Sport Hybrid is an absolute hoot! The hybrid system serves to plug the torque gap below 2,000rpm as the turbo spools, and it does a sterling job. Its combination of strong throttle response and the close ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox make you feel like you’re zipping along far faster than its 0-62mph time suggests. The car enthusiastically revs before you grab another cog via the short-throw leaver.
The chassis is delightfully agile, enabling the car to positively leap from bend to bend. There is some body rolls when driven with vigour, but it’s not excessive and can be used to help inform the driver of the weight transferring around the car. There’s not bags of grip, especially in wet greasy conditions, but the car is easily trimmed via the throttle through sweeping bends. Its steering is direct and predictable, but we wished it supplied a bit more feedback to the driver.
The other side of the performance hatchback coin is that it won’t be driven on its door handles every day of the week. Around town the car is perfectly pleasant and actually rides pretty well. The suspension is supple enough to take the edge off road imperfections, although the 17-inch alloys can produce quite a thud. Visibility is good all around and the light steering makes parking this compact car in a tight space easy. On faster roads the Swift Sport Hybrid is more than happy to keep pace with the traffic, however, the building of wind and road noice requires the radio to be turned up a few notches.
The Suzuki Swift Sport Hybrid remains a wonderfully playful car that will no doubt put a grin on your face. Its addition of a battery has not taken away from this hatchback’s eagerness, and its CO2 saving over the space of a year highlights how the system is beneficial beyond being a precursor to the turbo.
A very enjoyable car indeed, but there is a sizeable elephant in the room that we have been tiptoeing around. This car starts at £21,820 and whatever way you frame it, that makes this Swift costly. Suzuki are keen to say that it isn’t a full-blooded hot hatchback – the Sport’s performance figures back that up – but the price tag means that it must be compared with cars such as the Ford Fiesta ST. This is not to say that the Swift Sport is bad in any way, but more just how good cars at this price point are. An ST costs from £21,950 and is arguably the best B-segment hot hatchback out there, not to mention 70bhp more potent.
The Swift Sport Hybrid is a good car, a fun car, but also an expensive car.
Model tested: Suzuki Swift Sport Hybrid
Engine: 1.4-litre turbo + 48-volt hybrid
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Power / Torque: 127bhp / 235Nm
0-62mph: 9.1 seconds
Top speed: 130mph
Boot space: 264-litres