By Samuel Ee
As one of the defining models of the Suzuki brand since the 1980s, the Swift story was interrupted when it morphed into the Ignis about a dozen years ago. Suddenly, the reliable small hatchback formula that had won fans here disappeared along with the name.
Suzuki eventually reverted to the Swift nameplate with a better car although it was lacking in some areas. But now, there is a brand new Suzuki Swift Sport and it is finally a credible product worthy of the original Swift spirit.
Building on its strengths and addressing its weak points, the 2012 Swift is substantially improved. Although the new Swift looks much like the previous generation model, it has a new platform that is longer and slightly wider, with its wheelbase extended by 50 mm to 2,430 mm.
More interestingly, kerb weight has fallen - by 30 kg for the manual transmission to 1,070 kg, and by 25 kg for the CVT at 1,085 kg - even as the 1.6-litre engine's power and torque have increased - up 10 hp to 134 hp and up 12 Nm to 160 Nm. The front wheels are driven using either a seven-step continuously variable transmission or a six-speed manual gearbox.
For a small engine, its performance is impressive, especially with the CVT. This transmission helps with the good low-end torque because of its directness, unlike most power-sapping, belt-slipping continuously variable transmissions that tend to have a rubber band-like characteristic. The usual CVT whine is virtually absent too.
In fact, the Swift Sport is so nippy and nimble that you don't have to work the steering wheel-mounted shift paddles for optimum performance; the CVT is that responsive.
Throw it into a fast corner and the Swift Sport will hang on until the front wheels slowly lose traction in a controlled drift.
What raises the fun factor further is that the driving position has improved tremendously for taller drivers, with steering that is well-weighted and vice-free.
|Suzuki Swift Sport
|Price: $114,500 / $111,500 (with COE)
Transmission: 7-step CVT / 6-speed manual transmission
Max Power: 134 hp @ 6,900 rpm
Max Torque: 160 Nm @ 4,400 rpm
0-100kmh: 8.7 secs
Top speed: 185 kmh / 195 kmh
Fuel consumption: 7.7 l/100 km (combined)
CO2 emission: 144 g/km / 153 g/km (combined)
Distributor: Champion Motors
Tel: 6631 1118
At 3,890 mm long, the new Swift is still a diminutive hatchback but the increase in wheelbase has expanded rear legroom vastly. The cabin materials are mainly made of hard plastic but its colour and the use of textured surfaces make the new dashboard and centre console almost classy.
Everything is just so well put together.
In design and quality, the new Swift Sport displays a level of maturity that small Suzukis did not show in the past. The boot is still a joke but otherwise, the interior space and layout are top notch for this second-line brand. It looks like the Swift Sport will continue driving sales for Suzuki here for a long time yet.
This article was first published in The Business Times.