Swift Code : 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport & 1992 Suzuki Swift GTi Drive Review

By davidkhoo, 28 November 2021

Singapore - 'IYKYK' (or If You Know You Know) is a handy catch-all you can sagely dispense to counter chronic 'dunno-isms' and ignorance.

A lot of today's casual enthusiasts resolutely refuse to acknowledge the outliers because it's easier to seek solace in the familiar and predictable.

To these types, the Suzuki Swift Sport might as well be speaking in code, because they can't quite figure out where such a 'warm' sub-130hp hatch fits in today's world of fire-breathing, big-hp hot-hatches.

In fact, mention hot-hatch today and you'll be bombarded by the ubiquitous letters: AMG, GTI, RS/S or MPA (for M Performance Automobiles), because these rule the roads (and social media) with their combination of hype, horsepower and hoonability!

However, the folks who grew into their formative automotive years in the 1990s (and the hey-day of the Kallang Carpark Rallies) will appreciate cult classics like the Charade GTti (we drive it HERE) and Swift GTi, because these cheap-and-cheerful critters gave them a leg-up into the world of performance cars and grassroots motorsports.

In fact, you'd be surprised at the number of local motorsports luminaries who cut their teeth on the Swift GTi...

It's all about the Swift GTi's (and now the Swift Sport's) fun-to-drive factor, and in case you're wondering, fast isn't always fun. If you think there's a direct correlation between fast and fun, you probably aren't as big a petrolhead as you think you are.

Chasing straight-line acceleration and big-bigger-biggest horsepower ratings still preoccupy the mid-tier echelons and the Tesla brigade, because these are good for bragging rights and the 'Gram/TikTok/what-have-yous.

However, the more introspective sportscar brands further upstream have started (re)focusing on driving involvement.

Of course this isn't to say these brands are no longer pushing the limits of powertrain technology: there'll be the cutting-edge products with the bonkers outputs, but there'll also be the cars that engage the driver and stir the soul.

Serial sportscar upgraders can probably relate when we talk about how it's possible to feel numb inside even at the helm of the latest-fastest-shiniest sportscar. However, once the giggle of the standing-start launch dies-off after the first 30 or so occasions, it becomes just another fast car...

I guess that's why the petrolheads who have been-there-done-that are casting their eyes back at youngtimer JDM and Euro sportscars. In retrospect, these cult classics have big personalities and are the perfect, analogue blend of handling and horsepower.

SWIFT MOTION – Suzuki Swift GTi

There's a clean yet purposeful purity to the lines of the 1992 Swift GTi that is a refreshing change from many of today's cars and we like how this design ethos is mirrored in the latest Swift Sport.

The badging is discreet on the three-door pocket rocket, with a simple '1.3 GTi' on its rump and 'Twin Cam 16-Valve' on its flanks. It's no typo that the scarlet 'i' in GTi is in lowercase and this was intentionally done to avoid any unpleasantness with Volkswagen over its Golf GTI (all caps).

Long story short, it didn't stop VW from initiating an action in the mid-2000s against Suzuki, but this would eventually be dropped... almost a decade later.

The GTi we've borrowed has all the cool retro trappings of the 90s: SSR alloys, a Sebring back-box, an Antera three-spoke steering wheel and of course, white-faced instruments.

It's a tidy example, which is clean inside and out and this impression is further reinforced when you take a peek under the bonnet.

The condition attracted its fair share of ooohs and aaahs, especially from the enthusiasts of o̶u̶r̶ the car's vintage! Predictably, it doesn't have enough tech and mod-cons for the younger crowd.

We're huge fans of the kitschy-cool original period fabric of the era (and it's in fabulous condition here), and why buyers back then (and some now) prefer aftermarket faux leather in place of the factory fabric eludes us.

The seat bolsters are still firmly padded for great support and there's an airy ambience to the cockpit that affords great visibility out that allows you to place the car properly.

With the exception of the triple Defi meters and double-DIN head-unit, the GTi is carefully kept in stock condition.

When such 'special' cars reach a certain vintage, we feel the value is in keeping them as original as possible – of course, some period-correct mods are acceptable if the original parts are in storage.

Firing up the peppy 1.3-litre rekindled all sorts of nostalgic emotions in us. A late friend had one in the UK in the 1990s and we spent many memorable weekends razzing around B-roads, hitting the Yaohan department store in London for Sega Rally sessions and chasing Network Q rally stages.

The turbo'd Swift Sport MHEV may boast instant responses from a relatively low 2000rpm, but the Swift GTi is of an era where one has to work for performance. It doesn't offer the same 'ready credit' from low-down as its modern turbo'd counterpart, because the GTi thrives on revs.

It'll certainly respond with all the right sounds as you take her to the redline – these are the sort of noises that will make you blush in polite company, chiefly because there's a guilty pleasure to be enjoyed with the revvy, almost manic nat-asp engine.

In contrast to the current model's 127hp/235Nm, the nat-asp 1.3-litre's 101hp/113Nm seem almost modest, but proves a brisk instrument thanks to its sub-850kg kerbweight.

Like its styling, there's purity in the lovely analogue feel to its controls and a feelsome, engaging quality to its chassis that is unencumbered by modern electronic measures to mute driving feel.

The GTi may not be the fastest or sharpest hatch (not by a long shot), but it holds its own when it comes to unfiltered driving pleasure.

We can appreciate the back-to-basics driving feel offered by the GTi and it's heartening to note that such simple pleasures have been carried into the latest iteration of the car. 

A GOOD SPORT – 2021 Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 MHEV

In case you missed our spiel on the Suzuki Ignis (click HERE to read about it), Suzuki is a master of packaging small and quirky cars (Click HERE to read about the Jimny).

This means configuring them for space and storage (and in the case of the Swift Sport, sportiness), no mean feat if you're better used to having bigger 'real estate' to work with.

The compact and somewhat muscular Swift Sport is one of the few supermini hot-hatchbacks still available in the market and strategically slots into the Cat A COE with its sub-130hp output.

We think it's a fabulous starter car for a freshly-minted driver who wants to come to grips with a three-pedal, reasonably sporty car that is friendly on the wallet (not that the prevailing high COE is doing anybody any favours, of course! )

Like its predecessor from 1992, the latest car isn't flashy as it boasts simple cues and ID badges that will only be spotted by the keen-eyed enthusiast.

Compared to the standard Swift, the Swift Sport gets a more prominent front grille and bumper, roof spoiler and sporty black accents and black underspoilers at the back, sides and front.

Like the Ignis (and Baleno that Singapore doesn't get), the Swift is built on Suzuki's lightweight 'Heartect' platform that isn't just light, but also rigid – this flyweight tips the scales at 1025kg, which is staggering in this day and age of chronically overweight cars.

The Swift Sport has less than 130hp, but you'll happily surf the wave of its 235Nm of torque, which is available from just 2000rpm. You never have to stress the engine out and there's a slick quality to its shift quality that makes it a joy to up-/down-shift.

It may not be outright fast, but the Swift Sport is the sort of car that can carry plenty of speed into the corners, largely because of how deceptively it builds speed.

A 9.1secs 0-100km/h time tells only half the story, because there's decent in-gear punch to keep things entertaining and make you think you're driving harder than you really are. 

The 48V mild-hybrid system comprises a belt-driven ISG (Integrated Starter Generator) that acts as both generator, as well as starter motor to assist the engine when moving off from a standstill. It also includes a Torque-fill control for better response and Torque-boost for smoother acceleration.

The controls for steering, pedals and gear-shift require a firm, decisive touch, yet remain perfectly useable for daily-drive start-stop use and abuse. The semi-bucket seats offer good support during hard driving, but are comfortable enough to sit in for extended periods when you're stuck in traffic.

The damping is supple, never harsh and almost European in nature, yet boasts stellar body-control for when the going gets fast and winding. It may feel properly planted, but the tiny tyke is a live-wire that can also be chucked into corners with wild enthusiasm.

There's decent accommodation for three other pals in the Swift Sport, but unlike the three-door GTi, the Swift Sport's five-door form even lends it well for designated driver duties.

Tech toys abound in the smart cabin (smart in tech and quality), with plenty of razzmatazz to pander to the young'uns who need to stay constantly connected. However, what's even more impressive is the Swift Sport's staggering array of active/passive safety measures – big features in a small car.

Cars like the Swift Sport (and Swift GTi from before) are a good jumping-on point for new petrolheads.

It eases them into a moderately sporty, three-pedal hatchback that uses engaging dynamics as its 'secret code' to the cognoscenti, as opposed to more prosaic yardsticks like 0-100km/h times.

It's a great all-rounder with just enough performance and plenty of predictability to enjoy on the roads without worrying about losing one's license.

The fact that the Swift Sport is only lightly hybridised is a saving grace for us ICE die-hards to enjoy a perk-me-up in a tight, frisky package before everything succumbs to electrification.

Now talk about the Swift Sport being a 'good sport'!

PHOTOS Zotiq Visuals

SUZUKI SWIFT SPORT
Engine 1373cc, inline4, turbo, 48V MHEV, K14D
Power/rpm 129hp/5,500rpm
Torque/rpm 235Nm/2,000-3,000rpm
Transmission 6spd manual
0-100km/h 9.1secs
Top Speed 210km/h
Fuel Consumption 4.7l/100k
Kerbweight 1025kg

SUZUKI SWIFT II GTi
Engine 1298cc, inline4, nat-asp, G13B 
Power/rpm 101hp/6,450rpm
Torque/rpm 113Nm/4,950rpm
Transmission 5spd manual
0-100km/h 8.6secs
Top Speed 182km/h
Fuel Consumption 11.5l/100k
Kerbweight 815kg

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