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Shed of the Week | Suzuki Swift Sport

Another Shed debutant, as the first - and some might say the best - Swift Sport drops below that magic threhold

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, September 06, 2019

Relatively happy times in the Shed household just now. They've bought a carpet.

Not a new carpet. A carpet. It's their first. Up to now Shed has always resisted the cosy allure of shag pile. Mrs Shed's eating habits are such that, for really fast and efficient room cleaning, vacuum finishes a long way behind water pumped in at very high pressure.

However, advancing years and the increasing porosity of the brick flooring have brought a change of heart. With a strict promise from Mrs Shed that she will only eat standing up in the utility room from now on, Shed has agreed to the installation of a knockoff Axminster remnant in the lounge. Now he will grudgingly admit that he is enjoying the feeling of warm fibrous tufts between his toes, rather than the usual squelch of a mushy pea or the irritating grind of a sesame seed bun crumb.

Mainly, though, he's enjoying the novelty of something new and different. He gets a similar jolt of joy whenever a new car pops up on his Shed of the Week radar, like this Suzuki Swift Sport.

The Sport was launched in 2005 as a rorted-up version of the gen-two (2004-10) Swift. Grossly overpaid footballist Christiano Ronaldo pretended he liked it in this German telly ad, but the car actually didn't need any grubby selling tactics. It sold itself through positive road tests, which quickly revealed that Suzuki had neatly leveraged its move into WRC by creating a properly sorted supermini. With 123hp from the zingy 7,000rpm 1.6 VVT motor, uprated clutch, sharpened gearchange, steering and throttle, 0-60 in the eights, stiffer Monroe dampers and springs, 17in alloys, beancan zorsts, bumper-car body kit and a tough contrast-stiched interior, it was the sort of thing ordinary punters might have made for themselves if it hadn't turned up in the showroom.

Obviously the Sport was a good bit down on power against something like a Renaultsport Clio 197, and the combination of low gearing (4,000rpm/70mph) and a long trek up the tacho for peak power (6,800rpm) meant that it wouldn't be your first choice for long motorway drones, but on smaller roads the 1105kg Sport did a more than passable impersonation of a 106 GTI, albeit without the real or imagined flimsiness of the French motor.

Subsequent models have progressively lost the up-and-at-'em Jack Russell charm of that first Sport. Gentrification and currency fluctuations have hiked the prices too, so a clean-looking example of what some consider to be the seminal Sport for just £1,200 has plenty of appeal.

Our one seems to have a small tear on the driver's seat bolster, but that's the only flaw that Shed can see. There's no mention of any service history, and the MOT isn't that long, but there's nothing on the MOT record to suggest any serious problems either now or in the past. It failed last November on an illuminated engine management light, but that was rectified. Some front suspension wear was noted as an advisory, along with a worn rear tyre. Oddly, the car doesn't seem to have done any mileage since that test pass, which would certainly warrant a polite inquiry if you're thinking of taking the plunge.

If you do reawaken this little Suzuki from its slumbers, what foibles might you encounter? Well, they are a bit famous for developing squeaks and rattles, which seems to be almost a rite of passage for many firmly-suspended small cars. Windows, exhaust heat shields, suspension components and in particular the dash are known for making their presence felt. Fixing the dash may well require a complete stripdown and reassembly with new clips. Rattling windows might be nothing more than a loose bolt, but again it's a time-consumer to sort. If you're slightly deaf or you drive everywhere at 6,000rpm and above then none of this will be an issue.

The M16A 1.6 engine runs its cams by chain rather than belt, which is potentially good, but Swift transmissions and clutches aren't up there with the best in terms of reliability or ease of use. The Sport box's input shaft is a weak point and can cost upwards of £700 to put right. The handbrake mechanism isn't that clever either and can uncalibrate itself. Even after the factory recall they never worked that well. Paintwork can seem a bit thin and small bumps can be very expensive to repair if you want to restore panels (especially the big wraparound bumpers) to pristine condition. The front tyres will wear away quite quickly, and some owners recommend posh petrol for smooth running.

All that apart, the Swift Sport is a game little chappie that will make you smile when you walk up to it in the mornings. At £1,200, this one looks like real value to Shed. He paid more than that for his new carpet - and according to the last line of the ad, this car comes with its own front passenger. Anything has to be an improvement on the one he's got at the moment.


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