Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spot the Sport

It was a dark and stormy night. The rear lights of the cars travelling in the fast lane seemed to glow brighter as I neared the one directly in front of me.

I had easily made my way past the others who now trailed behind – motorists seemingly unclear on the concept of the overtaking lane in a three-lane, dual-carriage highway.
Of course, this meant I had to use the middle lane to zip past the inconsiderate road hogs. On some of the more twisty sections of the perpetually traffic-heavy highway, this was not an entirely risk-free manoeuvre, more so when travelling at considerable speed.

It required a fair measure of intestinal fortitude, especially since the road was wet. But I was not about to let a little water stop me, primarily because I was having so much fun.

And while the wife – my co-driver that night – periodically reminded me to be careful, what was there to worry about (much), since I was driving the new Suzuki Swift Sport?

After having read some very positive things about the car, I jumped at the offer of a test drive.
I had initially planned to ease myself into it, savouring the Swift portion of the car before giving the Sport a bit of a workout.

But as it turned out, I could only car get my hands on the car several hours later than scheduled, hence the need to quickly jump into the business end of the test drive.

It became clear pretty quickly that you would not do the Swift Sport justice if you were to use it largely to potter along to the sundry shop for some groceries. Not that there's anything to stop you if you were so inclined, but this is not your sister's standard Suzuki Swift.

For starters, the Sport sports a larger engine – a 1.6l twin-cam that churns out 125hp at 6,800rpm, compared with the standard 1.5l with 101hp at 6,000rpm.

It’s a sweet one, matched to a smooth, four-speed auto transmission. The engine is remarkably responsive and is just itching to be unleashed.

You can pull away pretty quickly when you need to in this, and once you get going, there’s no holding back.

The morning after my MRR2 night run, I woke up early and took the Sport for a spin along the Sungai Buloh-Kuala Selangor trunk road, a nice stretch with several interesting twist and turns.
The Sport did not disappoint. The Bridgestone tyres, wrapped around 16-inch wheels, provided great feel. Coupled with the stiffened suspension, the car stood firm on the bends, which I approached with relish, the semi-bucket seats keeping me firmly planted.

When you need them, the disc brakes are there to quickly rein in any over-enthusiasm.
The Sport is easy to drive, and set up the way it is, the car gives you the confidence to push a bit more if you’re looking for some extra excitement.

Appearance-wise, there’s little to fault, at least on the outside.

The Sport looks the business, with the main external differences compared to the standard Swift being its front bumper, side skirt, rear bumper, and twin chromed exhaust tips, not to mention the cool-looking 16-inch wheels.

Inside, it’s a different matter. Given the built-for-speed external styling cues, I found the interior much less exciting, even with the Recaro seats.

It’s got a solid steering wheel that’s integral to the tremendously enjoyable drive experience, plus there’s the keyless entry (you push buttons on the door handles) and start system (you twist a knob), but other than that, things seem positively ordinary.

Still, the overall quality of the interior is good, and this is after all supposed to be an affordable hot hatch.

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