FIRST DRIVE | Punchy new 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport and Vitara Turbo

Swift Sport and Vitara join the turbocharged league with small but spicy Boosterjet engine, writes Phuti Mpyane

08 August 2019 - 07:57 By Phuti Mpyane
New Swift Sport is lighter and faster than previous iteration. Picture: SUPPLIED
New Swift Sport is lighter and faster than previous iteration.  Picture: SUPPLIED

Suzuki’s performance tot has become popular in the eyes of enthusiasts who’ve always cherished its engaging driveability, if not big horsepower.

The driving texture of the all-new Swift Sport, which has just gone on sale in SA, is indeed a credible leap forward from its forebears. The basic concept has always been to capitalise on its small weight and dimensions, and link them to small capacity four-cylinder engines to unearth good thrust and fuel consumption.

Incremental decline in mass began with the 1,105kg first generation car, decreasing to 1,060kg in the follow-up model. At 970kg, the latest Swift Sport is a featherweight and the biggest change is a move away from natural aspiration in favour of a new turbocharged 1.4l four-cylinder Boosterjet engine.

It produces 103kW and 240Nm to make it the most powerful Swift Sport to date, and thanks to the sub one-ton weight the car has been elevated to the exalted position of the few cars that produce the magical 100 horsepower (75kW) per ton.

And while that is still modest power, there’s a lot to smile about. Driven at the Red Star Raceway at its launch event, it’s still really good fun, especially in bends where the enhanced chassis is felt with its eagerness to change direction and an accuracy to place it anywhere on a track.

There are customised Monroe shocks and thicker anti-roll bars fitted at the rear axle now, and greater toe and camber rigidity has also been factored into the suspension. Also fitted is a trailing arm designed for better tracking between the front and rear wheels.

Stopping ability has been enhanced by 10% over the outgoing model through an increase in size and thickness of the ventilated front discs. It’s also equipped with more durable rear brakes.

The torque arrives earlier at the front wheels than in the rev-happy, naturally-aspirated engine that powered the previous Swift Sport. This calls for earlier up-shifts on the transmission whether you opt for the short-shifting six-speed manual transmission or six-speed auto.

The algorithms in the self-shifter also see it snatch up-shifts timely. But ultimately, the bigger torque figure dramatically changes how you stoke this new engine.

Visually, the Swift Sport has differently designed and angled maw to the regular Swift. The larger, more prominent air dam helps draw more air for internal cooling purposes. 

The car also gets LED daytime running lights in front and LED tail lamps, a front splitter with faux carbon-fibre strips on the side skirts, and 16-inch alloy wheels shod with 195/50 R16 low-profile rubber.

Darkened privacy glass for the rear windows and a completely redesigned rear bumper with a pair of big bore chromed exhaust pipes poking out on either side finish the sportier look.

Swift Sport is available in seven exterior colours: Burning Red, Speedy Blue, Pure White, Super Black, Premium Silver, Mineral Grey and Champion Yellow.

At 3,890mm long, 1,735mm wide and 1,495mm high, it sits lower, wider and longer than its predecessor. The cabin is a fairly roomy place to be. Once inside you will find the colour red as stitching on the gear lever, steering wheel and seats. It also gets stainless steel sport pedals and semi-bucket seats owing to its sports outlook.

Luxuries that befit its top line status include a 7-inch touch screen multi-information LCD colour display, automatic climate control, speed-sensitive power steering, electrically foldable rear-view mirrors and windows, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, a reverse camera, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, and steering mounted controls and cruise control.

Safety is covered by six airbags, electronic stability control and ABS braking with emergency brake assistance.

It’s been a long wait and the result is a super-mini done right. It may have lost that “grab it by the scruff of its neck” driving style of old pocket-rockets, but its added power and refined chassis will make it effortless to drive up steep inclines and on curved roads.

Vitara Turbo

It’s not only the Swift Sport that boasts the new turbocharged 1.4l engine in the Suzuki harem. It also makes its way into a new top-line model added to the Vitara range.

Turbocharging elevates the Vitara’s ability to keep up on the highways or scramble up rural obstacles. Picture: SUPPLIED
Turbocharging elevates the Vitara’s ability to keep up on the highways or scramble up rural obstacles. Picture: SUPPLIED

It’s an effective power band that gifts this compact SUV with a confidently brisker performance while doing its niche specific applications like hauling a family of four to five, stuffing it with ample luggage or anything else you can get up to with a front-wheel drive crossover vehicle. 

The Boosterjet engine in the new Vitara Turbo model makes 103kW and a lower 220Nm in comparison with the Swift Sport. It can be had in six-speed manual or six-speed automatic with steering-mounted shift paddles behind a multi-function steering wheel.

Being at the top of the range, it boasts a long list of amenities that includes front and rear park distance control, automatic rain-sensing wipers, automatic climate control, a full colour binnacle display, and touchscreen infotainment system with smartphone connectivity to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

A reverse camera function also beams through this screen. The cabin is appointed with a model specific leather and suede upholstery combination, while the headlamps are automatic with LED tech for the main beams and daytime running lights.


Suzuki Swift Sport  1.4 Turbo manual - R315,900

Suzuki Swift Sport  1.4 Turbo auto - R335,900

Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX manual - R378,900

Suzuki Vitara 1.4 Turbo GLX auto - R397,900

Prices include a 5-year/200,000km vehicle warranty and
4-year/60,000km service plan.