It’s been almost eight years since Suzuki left the U.S. market, and although the declining sales and a weak economy at the time were blamed for its departure, the brand sill had some good products in its lineup. Despite the growing trend of SUVs and crossovers, Suzuki’s core vehicles—save for the Jimny—are still small cars, and during the development of the new Swift, the automaker shifted resources to add some spice to its hatch. During a recent trip to Mexico City, I had the chance to drive the 2019 Suzuki Swift Sport, and there’s no denying this is real forbidden fruit for us Yanks.
Backed by a 1.4-liter turbo-four engine, this small hot hatch takes on winding roads with attitude. Mated to a six-speed manual, the engine produces only 138 hp and 170 lb-ft of torque, but that’s enough to make the small hatch feel punchy and fun. Step on the gas, and you’ll feel the engine’s peppiness almost immediately. There’s virtually no turbo lag, and the short-throw transmission feels adequate for this hot hatch.
On the highway, the Swift Sport is eager to deliver. Whether you’re climbing the hills surrounding Mexico City or simply cruising down flat terrain, it’s honest and happy to keep going. You’ll also be entertained by the small TFT display on the instrument cluster that lets you know how much power and torque is going to the wheels.
The place where the Swift was most comfortable seemed to be the curvy highways, where it leaned into the turns nicely and showed low body roll. But its torsion beam suspension kept the rear end a bit loose, especially when the pavement wasn’t in good condition—which is a lot of the roads in Mexico.
Inside, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto dominates the dash. The lack of a volume knob reminded me of the pre-refreshed Honda cars, but thankfully the D-shaped leather-wrapped steering wheel incorporates volume controls. Sit in the front, and you’ll notice the red trim on the door panels, center console, and dashboard, which matches the red stitching and “Sport” embroidery on the seats.
Although the Swift Sport is targeting those who are looking to buy their first new car (or maybe first new fun car), there are a few details inside that could be improved. The lack of an armrest was quite annoying during my drive, and there’s virtually no center console or cubbies to put your belongings in—a couple of cupholders is all you can find. There’s also only one USB port in the entire cabin, which is weird to see in a new car today. However, I was surprised to see a push-button start and automatic climate control, which you usually don’t see in subcompacts like these (at least in Mexico).
Size-wise, the Swift is about 7 inches shorter than a Kia Rio hatchback, so that means there’s just enough space for four adults. And depending on how tall you are, you might have some trouble with the headroom. My 6-foot frame, however, had just enough legroom.
The Suzuki Swift Sport was revealed at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, and although it has a different fascia, grille, and rear spoiler to distinguish it from the non-Sport models, I’d love to see a bit more aggressiveness in its design.
Overall, the Swift Sport is a subcompact hatch that offers a fun driving experience for a low price. The fact that we don’t have anything close to it in the U.S. (the Ford Fiesta ST came closest) makes us miss Suzuki on this side of the border.