Suzuki Swift Sport Mk1 vs Mk2

I’ve owned a 2008 Suzuki Swift Sport Mk1 for a year or so now, but lately have been doing a lot of motorway miles and the short gearing of the Mk1 is really starting to grate. In case you are not aware, at 70mph (GPS-verified rather than speedometer) the engine is pulling 4000rpm in 5th gear and is quite a noisy and unrefined place to be. It can get very wearing.

Today I test drove a 2015 Suzuki Swift Sport Mk2, and here are my thoughts on it.

First the good things:
It feels like it is in the next class up, with a much more contemporary interior, nicer seats, much better ergonomics, much higher level of equipment, and all altogether much nicer place to be. The leather steering wheel is a nice bit of tactile luxury. It also has a lower seating position which I liked a lot. It makes the Mk1 look and feel very dated, basic and cheap.
The 6th gear is a very welcome addition, as is the more comfortable ride and much better sound proofing. It is far quieter, more refined and more comfortable than the Mk1. When I took it out onto the motorway and set the cruise control, it felt like a car that could eat up the miles on my daily 100 mile round trip commute. Overall, a much more grown up car, and something you could use every day – far more so than the Mk1 which is extremely wearing on the motorway.

Now the bad things:
It has no character. All the fizz, vigour, vivaciousness and hooliganism of the Mk1 has been dialled back or lost altogether, and the Mk2 feels rather soulless and anodyne. The controls are way too light and lack the precision of the Mk1. Also completely gone is the way the Mk1 will pivot around you and put a smile on your face from doing something as trivial as a flick-flack through a mini-roundabout. It just all felt a little joyless in the Mk2. Furthermore, you forgive the lack of power in the Mk1 because it has such great throttle response, and because it is such fizzy fun. However, it’s much harder to forgive the Mk2 because, although it has more power and is lighter, the throttle response is much less sharp, there is more flywheel effect, there is less engine braking effect, and the whole thing feels more sluggish despite also feeling slightly more accelerative. I realise that this doesn’t really make much sense, but it’s palpable.

After I had finished the test drive and returned to the dealership, I realised that for the whole drive I had been trying to like the Mk2, and had been trying to convince myself that it would be ok if I bought it. There were rare fleeting glimpses of the Mk1 but they were mere echoes. When I left the dealership in my Mk1, it only took one mini-roundabout to get me grinning and thinking “God, I love the Mk1”. That pretty much said it all really. The clutch in the Mk1 felt really heavy after the Mk2 though, but the steering had so much more heft and precision, the gearbox was more snicketty, the brakes were more positive (although that might be down to the fact that I run EBC Yellow Stuff pads), and it just felt so much more alive.

Summary: (for those for whom the above is TL;DR)
The Swift Sport grew up and is a better daily driver for it. But also far less fun.

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About DataHamster

The Data Hamster stores facts and information in its capacious cheek pouches and regurgitates them from time to time.

14 Responses to Suzuki Swift Sport Mk1 vs Mk2

  1. VeeFource says:

    Today I test drove the mk2 and just like you wanted to like it more than anything. I’d hoped it would be like the mk1 but with a 6th gear and cruise, but I was so dissapointed at how light and uninvolving the steering was, how plasticy (and notchy – could be due to being so new) the gear change is, and how average the engine sounded. I’d read reviews beforehand saying how the mk2 had lost some of it’s soul and rawness, but non had prepared me for just how much of a disparity there is between the two models.

    The mk2 has been designed to appeal to the masses and as such is just another average hatch with some tame hints at sporting pretensions. It now no longer feels special unless right on the ragged edge unlike the old car which feels special by the time you get the end of the first street.

    Those after an old school 80’s GTI should look at the swift sport or failing that, elsewhere in my opinion (maybe a 182 clio or mk1 MX5). Alas it seems to me the spirit of this type of hot hatch (now passed off as a warm hatch, pah!) is unlikely to be something we’ll see the likes of again.

    • DataHamster says:

      Very well put. Yes, I completely agree – the Mk2 feels very much like just another average hatch. It’s a great shame.

    • veefource says:

      So contrary to my thoughts between the mk1 & mk2 above, I went for a second test drive and ended up buying a mk2. There were two reasons for this:

      1. The mk1 is a bit extreme for long distance journeys which I tend to do from time to time. By that I mean the fact that the engine is doing over 4k on the motorway, has no cruise and a light accelerator pedal which becomes very uncomfortable to use after an hour or so. It’s also very loud in the cabin from engine, road and wind noise. It also has a more upright seating position as the there’s no reach adjustment on the steering column and the seats aren’t quite as comfortable.

      2. I realised the mk2 had a lot of potential with a few choice modifications. The most important one being a rear anti roll bar which gives the car the cheeky handling traits of the mk1 with great balance, minimal roll and brilliant agility. The next is allowing the sound of the engine to be heard more which is a very cheap process involving removing the upper bulkhead sound insulation in the engine bay any removing a portion of bonnet sound insulation at the intake end (it became a bit boomy with the whole lot removed). And lastly a slightly fruitier exhaust such as the Milltek makes it sound more like the mk1 from the outside as the ridiculous Euro regulations mean that the mk2 is virtually silent.

      In my view the above to points make the mk2 a much more well rounded hot hatch which has just the right combination of rawness and useability for a daily driver. Yes the mk1 will be a tad more exciting on a B road still, but it really is a bit of an ordeal to do any kind of long distance work.

      If you’ve access to another car for doing cross country work then I’d recomend the mk1 as a local hoon machine, but otherwise it’s the mk2 hands down with the above 3 mods. Especially when you take into accound the uprated stereo (sound tiling the doors is VERY worth it too), HID headlights, electric retractible mirrors and on later cars, the excellent nav system.

  2. steve says:

    Have anyone got comparions between the mk1 gearbox shift, and the mk2? I find the mk1 shift superb, but researching on the internet, the gear shift on the mk2 may be problematic?

    • DataHamster says:

      Hi Steve. I confess that I don’t really recall much about the gearbox, good or bad, other than the fact that the 6th gear was a very welcome addition. Sorry!

  3. Steve says:

    Have you still got your mk1?
    I felt a bit similar to you when test driving the Mk2. I liked it, but felt it was a bit too refined. Mind you, I hadn’t been a previous Mk1 owner, or had even test driven one. I passed on the mk2, and test drove a Mk1 a month or so later (once I found a great condition one as a potential purchase). Superb car. Loved it instantaneously. Needless to say I bought it!

    • DataHamster says:

      Yes, I still own it. Lovely little car. Cheap as chips to run and puts a smile on my face whenever I drive it.

      However, as mentioned previously, it really isn’t suited to the motorway driving that I’m doing. I really ought to change it. But I love it too much. 🙂

  4. steve says:

    Thanks for your replies.
    I hope you don’t mind me asking a favour, but may I ask if you have quite a large rectangular ‘open’ region, above the rear registration plate, under the bumper ‘lip’ [kind of looking up above the rear reg plate].The open region houses the rear registration light bulbs etc? I ask as I noticed it for the first time today, and wondered if it was the same for all Mk 1 Sports. It seems odd to have a large open gap, and just ‘hope’ it’s not just on mine.
    Thanks again in advance.

    • DataHamster says:

      Hi Steve. Sorry for the delay in replying. I’ve actually recently sold the car, as I was just doing too many motorway miles and could see no end in sight for that either.
      I don’t recall seeing what you described. I’m sure that the area you describe was occupied by numberplate on my car! If you have an ‘open region’ that houses the registration light bulbs then that sounds like it should also house the registration plate too.

      • steve says:

        The gap is on all Mk1 swift sports (and MK1 normal swifts). I did my own research by looking at a few parked up Swift (and Sports) on my travels. Luckily no one saw me croutched down eyeing their car’s rear end suspiciously lol . It isn’t where the actual number plate is, but a few inches above it. Anyway, as stated, I’ve seen it on other people’s MK1s, so I could rest easily.
        What car have you ended up with?

        • DataHamster says:

          I went for a Mk7 Golf 2.0 TDI GT, Steve. A very different car and with none of the cheeky charm of the Mk1 Suzuki Swift Sport, but far more suited to the kind of driving that I am having to do at the moment.

          • steve says:

            Cool. Nice looking things and great reviews all round. Looks punchy for a diesel too, considering the stats. You of course pay through the roof, but if you can afford it, good on ya!
            The interesting thing is, in line with your review above, how you never considered the Mk2 S.Sport after that test drive. Of course, with the Golf, the mpg and overall car is a different league, but still it shows the difference between the Mk1 and Mk2 swift sport, that you never looked twice at it after you test drove the Mk2.
            It’s a shame Suzuki did this, as you’d think, as many have done, a Sport with a 6th gear and a bit better mpg was the natural progression. Shows there’s more to a car than just that.
            Mind you, they look to be going for a (1.4) turbo in the next generation of Swift Sports scheduled for ’17 time.

  5. steve says:

    I read on one of your Pistonhead posts that when you had the Swift Sport, you had Eagle F1s on them, and eventually changed to Yoko S drives (due to availability, or lack of)
    Q1: How did you find the Eagles on the Swift Sport? I read mixed reviews.
    Q2: How did you then find the S Drives?
    Q3: If you had a Swift Sport again, and Eagles where readily available (you can still get them, if you look around the Internet), would you get them in a shot for the Swift Sport, or was there not too much difference with the Yoko S drives?

    Excuse the barrage of questions!


    • DataHamster says:

      Eagle F1 was the original OEM fit, and I found them to be absolutely fine. I don’t recall there being a huge difference (positive or negative) with the Yokos, to be honest. It’s been a while since I sold the car now, so my memory is a little rusty! 🙂

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