2004 Suzuki Swift Sport

Ain't your regular ol'Swift!

Published on 30 Jan 2022

The search for a used hot hatch in Sri Lanka is always a tricky one. After swimming through the sea of modified Toyota Starlet GTs, options are somewhat limited, particularly if you don’t want to spend exorbitant amounts just on badge value. My criteria was to find something that would fly under the radar, yet to have well sorted mechanicals and fun to drive. Chirpy engine, low weight, originality and of course budget were the first priorities to be ticked.

During many months of countless searches on Ikman and Riyasewana, an unorthodox option popped up, an original first generation 2004 cherry-red Swift Sport (Also sometimes called the Ignis Sport, this being the Euro spec name). Being very familiar with the second and third generation models and almost coming close to buying one of those some time back, I didn’t know much about this particular generation, only knowing of a banana yellow coloured specimen that was raced on Sri Lankan tracks once and that was probably the only one I’ve seen on the roads here.

A few phone calls to local experts and a thorough internet search later, I realized this particular model has quite the cult following globally and only about five in existence in Sri Lanka. A quick test drive proved that this ticked all the criteria I had set and surprisingly, it was one of the most underrated vehicles I’ve driven!

After the success of the Cultus GTi, Suzuki decided to get serious about motorsport and decided to go rallying in the JWRC with the first generation Swift. In order to do that, they had to build a homologation car and the Swift Sport was born.

The Sport had a few important upgrades over the normal base model which made quite the difference. Whilst the base model came in either garden-variety 1.3L (HT51) or 1.5L (HT81), the Sport has a 1.5L high compression (11.0:1 ratio) powerplant with variable valve technology, putting out around 118hp as a result, a close ratio gearbox, disc brakes all around with vented discs at the front and stiffer suspension, all from the factory.

Cosmetically the first-gen Sport only came as a 2 door version and it had a different front grille, wide-body kit, sought after yellow fish-net Recaro seats in the front and a white instrument cluster. This model which was test driven retains all these factory upgrades in original OEM form.

The car is an absolute hoot to drive. The engine pulls linearly up to it’s redline of 7,000 rpm, with the second cam kicking in at around 3,500. The close ratio gearbox makes the experience even more enjoyable, with a text-book rifle bolt slotting of gears. The short wide track combined with the low weight makes it instantly chuckable around corners and the stiffened suspension keeps it on the ground.

The stiff ride makes the little Swift hop over bumps which make the experience even more unique! The compact size makes it a great daily driver in the city, making slotting in and out of traffic a treat. At 930kg, the power to weight ratio helps the off the line speed, hitting 0-100kmph a touch over 8 seconds.

Since the vehicle has a boxy shape with a high roofline (earning it the Sport ‘Jeep’ model moniker here in Lanka) the interior is quite spacious and practical. The rear seats fold flat, transforming it to a dog-mobile instantly. Other than that the interior is spartan as it gets, except the basic necessities such as power windows, mirrors etc. 

During my ownership the Swift got a total engine overhaul, few missing pieces fitted to bring it back to OEM status and, of course, colour matched rally mud flaps as a nod to its rallying roots.

It’s always fun to see people catching a glimpse and trying very hard to figure out what it is, most of the time mistaking it for a normal Swift but the two doors and body kit leaving them bewildered!

Driving Tharindra’s Swift

Right from the outset you can notice that this isn’t the typical ‘Jeep’ model Swift. The two doors, instead of four would be the dead giveaway, plus the body kit and the disc brakes at the rear if you’re really paying attention. OK then, let’s see what it’s all about. Driving position is pretty conventional, although I feel the Recaro seats are a touch narrow for my portly frame, subtly reminding me to get in shape. Once off, it drives like a regular Swift, albeit Swifter. The engine revs linearly and you really notice the effect of the short gearing, making it a bit like a mosquito in nature. Dart here, dart there, duck, swerve, stop, go, it’s all part of car’s personality that seamlessly takes you over the moment you turn the key. Braking is a surefooted affair that gives you the confidence to brake later and later, and when you do chuck it around a corner, it stays pretty flat and controllable. However, that flat stance also translates into a firm ride, one that means you will be nicely shaken and stirred by uneven manhole covers, sudden bumps and dips that a regular car would just sail over. Nevertheless, it all adds to the fun, and being a solidly-built Japanese car, you know that it won’t just shake itself to smithereens!

Ashraaq Wahab

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