Sport lives up to the Swift name, hybrid makes it thrifty and yet…

You either love the little Suzuki Swift, or it’s not on your radar. It’s one of those cars that once you have tried it, driven it, lived with it a while, you’ll swear by it. The fourth generation Suzuki Swift has been around since 2017 and maintained the sheer charm, usability and fun drive that keeps the Swift’s loyal following intact and growing.

For those wanting a spicier sporty version of a car that’s actually already very engaging yet easy to drive even in standard form, there’s the Sport model. But for 2020 the updated Suzuki Swift Sport is now a Hybrid – don’t be alarmed though. There’s no need to run out the showroom and slam into a lamppost in horror at another ‘sporty car’ featuring an automatic gearbox – and even worse – potentially a CVT!

In fact only supercars have, of late, tended  to eschew the manual shifter for a pair of redundant paddles and some buttons – Suzuki is still very much firmly in the ‘shift-gears-yourself’ camp. So joy of joys, this little ‘hot hatchback’ has a 6-speed manual gearbox and clutch.

How is this possible in a hybrid? Because this is a mild hybrid with a 48-volt system and a battery pack snuck in under the front seats. The electrickery employed serves to aid power to the electronics to avoid them sapping energy from the engine, plus it aids in the smoother stop-start (saving fuel at the traffic lights)- and most crucially of all, it deploys additional torque to help with acceleration!

And you do feel a sprightly initial acceleration when first moving off, although the figures compared to the previous version might seem disappointing at first (a second down at 9.1 for the 0-62mph sprint), but while it has less horsepower (127bhp vs 138bhp) it’s up slightly on torque (173lb ft). Fuel economy improves by 3mpg to 50mpg and CO2 emissions fall from 135g/km to 127g/km.

Work the gears and clutch though, deploy the torque, and you can have the steering wheel kicking and writhing in your hands like an old-school delinquent street racer, but it’ll turn in sharp and grip when you want it to, leaving you to play with its attitude through the corner both with the throttle and the remarkably feelsome and engaging helm. It is FUN!

The ride is relatively mature for a small car, so it copes well with inner city churned up roads, and yet it remains a friendly motor to manoeuvre about town, compact and agile to take the traffic gaps and parking slots suddenly available to you. Plus you don’t have to be too precious with it, and it doesn’t generate as much unwanted attention as other hot hatch rivals.

Being small doesn’t detract from its usability either – it remains astonishingly practical with just about enough seating for four six-footers or a regular family of five and their monthly shopping. And then there’s that sensible economy and lower emissions to keep your conscience guilt-free.   

If not quite in the pocket rocket league, the Swift Sport Hybrid is certainly is a fun and lively little car to peddle – chuckable, tenacious, engaging – yet boasting big car features on longer runs – adaptive cruise control and auto-dipping high beam to name just two. And of course it retains all the charms of the Swift that endear it so much to owners – the compact but useable and user-friendly demeanour, plus decent build and proven reliability.

I did a lot of miles in this car, and spent a lot of time behind the wheel, making the most of its many attributes and totally falling in love with it. I really really want to recommend this car to you, I feel like it would be perfect for me – practical enough, satisfying to drive and the perfect size for Northwest London.

But there’s a big elephant in the room I haven’t addressed. The price has shot up to £22k, an increase of nearly four grand! I might still try to contend that it’s worth the money – it’s that good – but when you start to measure up the rivals at that price point, my argument won’t hold. Mainly because the same paisa will get you a Ford Fiesta ST – 200bhp and the current standard-bearer when it comes to pocket-rockets.

Having said that, keep your fingers crossed that enough people do buy this car – albeit those not as smart as you to have read my review of course – so that in six-18 months, the initial depreciation will have taken its toll and you’ll probably be able to pick one up for considerably less. And then it really will be worth it. I might even fight you for it!


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