After all, coming from me and my manual-swapped Suzuki Swift, a hot hatch is not complete without the stick shift.
Can the automatic ZC33S Swift Sport justify itself against its manual sibling? Let’s dive in and find out.
Exterior – Subtly Sporty
At this point of time, given that Naza Eastern Motor only sells the ZC33S Swift Sport and not the regular Swift. It was a bit different with the last two generations of the Swift Sport, when then-distributor Suzuki Malaysia Automobile offered both the regular Swift and Swift Sport concurrently.
As such, there’s no mistaking the ZC33S Swift Sport from the non-Sport variant.
But does it actually look good?
At a glance, the ZC33S Swift Sport looks rather unremarkable, especially when decked with these puny 16-inch alloy wheels and pearl white body colour. For that full-fat Swift Sport street cred, the Champion Yellow body colour and larger wheels are a must.
If we were to nit-pick, we think that the faux carbon fibre bodykit is a tad bit overdone. The earlier generations of the Swift Sport either had body-coloured or gunmetal-finished bodykit, which we reckon looks better than the faux carbon fibre finishing.
Interior – Far from the fanciest, but gets the job done
Admittedly, much of the ZC33S Swift Sport’s interior is carried over from the regular non-Sport variant, so don’t expect soft touch materials or fancy ambient lighting.
Hard plastics adorn the dashboard, with the only hint of it being a more potent model are a dash of red trim and stitching. We wished that Suzuki fitted the rear door trim with the same red trim and inserts, which it curiously lacks.
Being a hot hatch, where it truly matters is the driving amenities and that’s where it delivers. The front gets a pair of tight-fitting semi-bucket seats and a flat-bottom steering wheel replete with paddle shifters.
In terms of build and material quality, let’s face it – it’s not a RM 140k interior at all. While build quality is solid, material choices are on the budget side of things.
With that said, we expect this cabin to remain trouble-free over the years, given that the WapCar.my team has two Swifts, with one unit well over the 10-year mark.
Ask any Swift Sport owner and boot space is never a highlight, but Suzuki has also done some witchcraft to the ZC33S Swift Sport’s boot, which is actually usable enough for a quick weekend getaway. Compared to the older ZC32S Swift Sport and its 210-litre boot, the ZC33S Swift Sport offers 50 litres more, coming in at 265 litres.
Driving Experience – How good is the 6AT?
The burning question on everyone reading this review right now is: has Naza screwed up by offering the ZC33S Swift Sport only with a six-speed automatic?
Well, the answer isn’t so straightforward, let us explain a bit.
From the angle of a stick shift-driving enthusiast, the 6AT isn’t all that great. In slow-moving traffic, it can get a tad bit jerky and difficult to modulate. It’s nowhere as sharp or as fast as a slick Mazda 6AT found in recent models.
But stepping out of the stereotypical 'enthusiast' - who is unlikely to buy a new Swift Sport anyway, preferring used or recond examples - and stepping into the shoes of a casual driver looking for a fun car that's easy to live with, the 6AT is perfectly fine. Casual enthusiasts are less likely to notice the ZC33S’s quirky 6AT. And even if they do, they are more willing to overlook that, given that it is an automatic transmission and not a manual.
Sure, #SaveTheManuals is a thing, but where are the buyers? Used or recond car buyers don't count.
The ZC33S Swift Sport is also the first model in the lineage to drop the high-revving, naturally-aspirated engine in favour of forced-induction.
While the ZC33S Swift Sport lacks the highly-additive, high-revving engine note, it makes up for that by offering way more torque. 70 Nm more, to be precise, available from a low 2,500 rpm.
Effortless is the best way to describe the power delivery. Gently squeeze the throttle and you’re off; none of the drama like the predecessor models. Quicker, it certainly is, but the predecessor models definitely felt more engaging.
That said, the one aspect that Suzuki remains undisputed is the Swift Sport’s handling. With the ZC33S’s kerb weight barely touching the 1-tonne mark, it is remarkably nimble on its toes. Couple that with its quick steering rack, throwing the little Swift Sport into corners has never been more fun – which has been its hallmark since the very beginning.
If the ZC33S starts pushing wide in corners, all you need to do is ease off the throttle and the tyres will bite again – its that forgiving. None of that lift-off oversteer to deal with, as it’s a very predictable hatchback.
One small nit-pick with the ZC33S Swift Sport’s handling aspect are the seats. While they seem supportive from photos, the lack of proper shoulder support makes it a bit tiresome in corners, as you’ll need to keep yourself upright.
In terms of NVH, at 110 km/h, the ZC33S Swift Sport averaged 70 dB. That's on par with the Toyota Vios GR-Sport, though a tad bit worse than the newly-launched Proton Iriz, which managed 69 dB.
Ride Comfort – What were you expecting?
For a Japanese marque, the ZC33S Swift Sport’s suspension tuning is surprisingly Euro-biased, offering a pliant and comfortable ride. It can get a bit crashy on some bumps, but not to the extent of being uncomfortable.
Over a distance of 125.7 km, the Swift Sport consumed 8.48 litres of RON 95 fuel, translating into an average fuel consumption of 6.7-litre/100 km – a rather impressive figure given that the car was subjected to our regular tests, as well as crawling in traffic.
Conclusion – 6AT still does wonders for the general buyers
For the manual-loving hot hatch enthusiasts, the Naza-imported ZC33S Suzuki Swift Sport isn’t for them.
A reconditioned Japanese ZC33S Swift Sport makes more sense for those who wants a manual transmission. After all, these enthusiasts will also end up modifying their cars, so the lack of a factory warranty isn’t too much of a concern for them.
The appeal of the Naza-imported ZC33S Swift Sport is for casual enthusiasts that wants a hot hatch to share with their significant other but still want some practicality, the officially-imported ZC33S Swift Sport ticks all the right boxes.
Personally, I’d go for a reconditioned unit with the all-important manual transmission. I know what I am getting myself into and there’s little to no chance that the car will be left stock – there’s just too much tuning potential to be explored in the ZC33S Swift Sport. For everyone else (i.e. saner individuals with better financial discipline), there's the factory warranty-covered brand-new ZC33S Swift Sport.