Suzuki Swift Sport v Volkswagen Up GTI: lightweights go head to head

Suzuki Swift Sport v Volkswagen Up GTI: lightweights go head to head
Suzuki Swift Sport v Volkswagen Up GTI: lightweights go head to head

The new and more expensive Swift Sport comes up against the £4k cheaper Volkswagen Up GTI

The Suzuki Swift Sport has always been about decent power in a lightish car with accessible pricing. So, the old one had 123bhp from its non-turbo (but very willing) 1.6-litre engine, which was enough to make it one of the best mini-hot hatches for your money.

Harsher emissions regs have meant a change of engine for this new Mk 3 Swift Sport. Now it has the same turbocharged 1.4-litre motor as the bigger Vitara and S-Cross models, modified in the Sport to generate 138bhp and 170lb ft in a car weighing under a tonne.

Read more: 2018 Ford Fiesta ST review: the complete package

It also has a dramatically inflated price: £17,999, which is Ford Fiesta ST money. Even Suzuki realises that puts it in dangerous waters and were offering a £1500 discount on it until the end of June.

Meanwhile, over at VW, the go-faster GTI dust has been sprinkled on the Up, slotting it neatly into the space previously occupied by the old Swift Sport.

Suzuki Swift Sport v Volkswagen Up GTI

Suzuki Swift Sport

Price: £17,999
Engine: 4 cyls, 1373cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 138bhp
Torque: 170lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 975kg
0-62mph: 8.1sec
Top speed: 130mph
Economy: 50.4mpg
CO2 tax band: 125g/km, 26%

The Up GTI’s statistics would seem to put it at a major disadvantage. Its 999cc 113bhp three-cylinder unit only makes 147lb ft of torque compared to the Swift Sport’s 170lb ft, and it’s nearly 100kg heavier than the 975kg Suzuki.

But numbers don’t always tell the full story. The Suzuki’s sport seats and driving position certainly suggest that sports motoring is the goal, whereas the Up GTI feels much more closely related to lesser Up models. Its sports seats are quite flat and not so obviously supportive as the Swift’s. Its pedals are quite high compared to the Suzuki’s heel-and-toe-friendly setup.

When you fire up the VW’s three-cylinder engine, things start to look up. It’s not spine-tinglingly exciting, but it does have character and there is decent muscle thanks to the early 2000rpm arrival of its maximum torque. In such a small car, the 8-second 0-60 time and 122mph top speed give a pleasing illusion of speed – and the VW is an engaging drive at any speed.

The Suzuki feels much more reserved, mainly due to the uninspiring note emitted by its four-cylinder engine, so you don’t really notice the reality of its superior performance. Its 2500rpm peak torque point encourages you to make more use of the accurate six-speed manual gearbox.

Suzuki Swift Sport v Volkswagen Up GTI

Volkswagen Up GTI

Price: £13,750
Engine: 3 cyls, 999cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 113bhp
Torque: 147lb ft
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1070kg
0-62mph: 8.8sec
Top speed: 122mph
Economy: 58.9mpg
CO2 tax band: 110g/km, 23%

In hard corners, both cars roll quite noticeably, generating a slightly top-heavy sensation. There’s no real shortage of grip, though, and both are happy for an enthusiastic driver to play with the chassis balance at non-licence-endangering speeds, even if neither of them are blessed with especially magical steering. There’s artificial weight in the Swift’s rack, but precious little feel.

eighting on the Up’s wheel is more natural, but again there’s not much information coming through the rim.

In terms of practicality, the bigger Swift unsurprisingly has more rear passenger and boot space, but the Up will take two adults in the back for short trips and its 251-litre boot is only 14 litres smaller than the Suzuki’s.

Read more:

Twist and shout: driving the VW Up GTI on the Amalfi Coast

Suzuki Swift Sport review: lightweight and fun-packed

So, decision time. In a nutshell, the Swift is quicker, but the Volkswagen is perkier. The Swift feels more like a hot hatch from behind the wheel, but the Up sounds better once you’re rolling. They’re both good fun through the twisties, but neither car’s steering inspires.

So far, so close. Until we get to the matter of price. VW wants £13,750 for its Up GTI. The Suzuki has a genuine infotainment system rather than the rudimentary 5.0in screen and a smartphone connection you get in the VW, and it has adaptive cruise control too, but even with those pluses it’s tough to accept its £4249 premium. Especially when it’s not quite as much fun to drive as the Up.

1st – Volkswagen Up GTI  – titchy Up GTI neatly demonstrates the principle of fun for not a lot of money
2nd – Suzuki Swift Sport  – it does the business on the road but the price is crazy

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