You might have thought that the coefficient of grip couldn’t get any lower than that between a polished parquet floor and some cotton socks. It turns out it can. A Spanish road seeing its first rain for weeks develops the sort of surface sheen that makes it feels like you’ve turned up to Rally Sweden on slick tyres. The front end of the Suzuki Swift Sport is constantly sliding as we head up along a fantastically tight, twisting forest road and then steeply downhill towards Barcelona. Thankfully the front tyres let go in a very faithful, reassuring way, but it’s a relief that this new Swift Sport weighs only 15kg more than the old one, so there’s not too much momentum slithering across the tarmac Spring rates have been increased and there is noticeably less roll, which means you get a car that handles direction changes with a flatter stance and more precision than before, but you also lose a bit of adjustability at the rear. It’s still a hugely fun car, however, and it seems happiest being grabbed by the scruff and chucked around in true Early Learning hot-hatch fashion. This slightly more aggressive approach suits the steering too, as it lacks a bit of weight and feel around the straight-ahead but loads up encouragingly once you’ve got some lock on and the tyres working.
The engine rewards a committed attitude to the throttle as well. Give it a few miles to warm its fluids, then try not to let it dip under 4000rpm because below that it struggles, but above and all the way to the pillow-soft limiter just beyond 7()00rpm it is tremendously eager to spit out its 134bhp (up 11 bhp).
The downside of the Swift’s buzz attitude used to be that on the motorway it could feel like you were sitting inside a large beehive, such was the engine noise. This has been solved with the new six-speed gearbox, which lets the engine relax a little when cruising. The shift action retains the positive short-throw feeling of the old five-speeder, and it’s lost a little of the rubberizes of the old ’box too, although it doesn’t relish being rushed through the gate quite as much.
The one aspect that these Spanish roads don’t allow you to assess terribly easily is ride. I spend some time diverting onto side-roads in an attempt to find bumps, but there seems to be nothing that falls between farm tracks and motonvay-grade asphalt. Over the few imperfections that I do find, the Swift has a lovely, composed and rounded edge to its damping that should suit British roads perfectly as long as it can keep up with repeated hits as well as just single impacts.
The new driver’s seat is, then, a good (if still marginally lofty) place to be. Refinement is generally up a notch, because not only is it quieter but the equipment count has also improved, with climate control, Bluetooth, seven airbags and tinted rear glass all standard.