The SSS is the top rung of the Swift ladder, it’s the beefier, meatier performance model and it aimed at driving enthusiasts, not people simply wanting to get to a destination. It’s priced at (in South Africa) R241 900, a good R40 000 over the manual GLS, but what does that extra money get you? Quite a lot actually…
The Suzuki Swift Sport that’s in the press fleet has been given some visual loving in the form of some tastefully applied vinyl stickers in Suzuki racing colours (as seen on their GSXR superbikes) – and it looks great. Over the weekend that I was scheduled to drive the SSS (this is what fans of the car call it), Suzuki SA had a huge event on and I didn’t feel right having their branded car all to myself when it would be of better use on display at their event so I told them to rather keep it and let me have it at a later stage. Once again the car gods didn’t want me in the SSS. Two more weeks of waiting was the result, but as the saying goes some things are worth the wait.
It has all the same features as the GLS - Air con, MP3 audio CD tuner, Bluetooth, central locking, electric windows, fog lamps, a high-level brake light, cruise control, ABS, brake assist, EBD, keyless entry & go and a multi-function steering wheel. Airbag count is up from 2 to 6 though. There’s power steering too, but it’s been given different ratios, it’s a lot more precise with great feedback. The steering wheel is leather-bound with red stitching, which is something you’d expect in a model labeled as Sport. To go with this theme there’s also a black leather gear gaiter with red stitching, a brushed aluminium gear knob, dark clocks with brushed aluminium bezels and also brushed aluminium sports pedals with grippy rubber strips. That same brushed ally is found on the three spokes of the steering wheel and is splashed around key spots on the dash and doors. It really is a good-looking interior that’s been put together very well. It’s nice and solid and will last a lifetime. The seats are great, they’re in a breathable black cloth and they have the word Sport embroidered in them in red. The side bolsters have been raised to keep you firmly planted when chucking the car around bends – which is something you tend to do in the SSS. A lot.
Exterior differences are easily noticeable, the SSS rolls on 16-inch alloys that look good, although I suspect many owners will change to 17s as the rolling circumference is the same but tyres are much more affordable - well that's what I'd do to keep costs down because if I owned one of these little things I'd be on the track at every available opportunity and tyres would become a bi-monthly expense. The headlights are projector-style and have a dark backing as opposed to the silver backing found on the lesser models so they stand out a little more, no matter what body colour is chosen (choices include Ablaze Red Pearl, Boost Blue Metallic Pearl, Champion Yellow, Premium Silver Metallic, Snow White Pearl and super Black Pearl). The fog light surrounds are a lot more in your face, more sport-inspired if you will - they're finished off in a dark silver in colour. That silver is carried through to the centre of the bumper behind the number plate holder too, but it's easy to overlook thanks to the size of local number plates. Still up front, the bumper is a little different and the lower section incorporates a small lip spoiler. Side skirts are more pronounced when looking at the side profile which gives the illusion of a lower car, although it is still lower than the GLS due to the sports-tuned suspension. From the rear it's much easier to identify the Sport thanks to the dark silver diffuser in the lower, centre section of the rear bumper that is also a surround for the twin exit exhaust system. At the top of the tailgate there's now a spoiler that's just the right size to be tasteful while looking cool.
The engine in the SSS has 200cc more than the GLS and so comes in at 1600cc while the power has increased to an even 100kW with 160Nm. With today’s range of turbocharged hatchbacks those numbers aren’t that high, but with a car tipping the scales at a smidgen over a ton, it gives the SSS some great performance. The numbers say it hits 100km/h in 8-7-seconds and tops out at 195km/h but it honestly feels quicker. Suzuki has managed to make brilliant use of that 100kW with a short ratio, short throw 6-speed gearbox. It’s notchy, but in a good way. Slotting the lever into the required spot feels good, it almost sucks the lever into place. If you miss a gear in the SSS you’re quite the chop…
Peak power is at 6900rpm, which means you have to revs the tits off the SSS to get it to perform at it’s best – and for a fan of high-revving normally aspirated cars that equates to an absolute blast behind the wheel. The suspension is nice and firm, but not uncomfortably so. This means when you push the car it loads up great and is responsive with almost perfect feedback, yet on roads with corrugations and uneven surfaces it won’t mash your kidneys. I pushed the car hard, and the traction control only kicks in very late, it’s far from intrusive, although if you still want more control you can switch it off. This allows for a bit of lift-off oversteer and lets the rear of the car slide around a bit. This is a move that needs a bit of caution though, the wheelbase is short and if the rear steps out a little too much it will snap away from you. This is ok on a track, but not something to be experienced on public roads. The SSS comes alive after 4500rpm and really shines above 6000rpm – keeping the revs up there is easy thanks to the short ratios, the revs don’t drop by much between shifts and so the SSS stays on song. Straight line stuff is good, but it’s on the bends and the tight corners that you’ll start to get a smile cramp. Suzuki claim the SSS uses just 6.5-litres/100km and it does just that, even less actually, but if you do keep driving the car like you stole it, it averages out at around 7.1-litres/100km – which is still pretty damn good.
I make no bones about being a Suzuki fan, in fact I often get asked if I work for Suzuki, which I don’t of course. I just like the fact that they make good, honest cars at a good price. The Suzuki Swift Sport is now a firm favourite of mine alongside the Jimny. I mean yeah, sure, there are hot hatches that make more power and have better stats, but they come at a premium and in many cases aren’t nearly as fun to drive. Normally aspirated cars centered on performance are sadly a dying breed, and that alone makes the Swift Sport something quite special. It's like with the Toyota 86 and the new Mazda MX5 being touted as "driver's cars" as an excuse for lower power. Well the SSS can take up the front-wheel drive mantle as a driver's car - but don’t take my word for it, test drive one for yourself. It may not be a turbocharged hot hatch but it definitely subscribes to the original recipe for what makes a hot hatch, well, a hot hatch. This is the perfect car for the budding boy racer or the track day enthusiast who wants nothing more than to have fun and improve his or her driving skills without breaking the bank.
Well done Suzuki, well done.