the staff of Motorsport Marketing
the staff of Motorsport Marketing Writer
7/8/14 10:54 a.m.

Story by Alan Cesar

Suzuki’s North American operations just rang their death knell. The producer of many a widow-making sportbike never could quite get its four-wheeled vehicles to gain as much recognition in the broader American market. Its last significant effort was the stylish, mid-sized Kizashi sedan. There hasn’t been much in the brand for car enthusiasts to latch onto.

We’d say it’s not for lack of trying, but really, it is. While the Samurai has its own cult following in the off-road community, Suzuki only brought one pavement performer to the U.S. in recent memory—something small enough that maybe it didn’t seem too foreign to its sportbike people. It was the Suzuki Swift GTi, sold from 1989 to 1994.

You’ve seen its sibling around, usually in the hands of a hypermiler or merely being neglected. The Swift GT—known as the GTi for only the first year, thanks to VW’s trademark lawyers—is the Geo Metro’s faster brother. That’s a low bar to leap, but that doesn’t make the GTi a poor performer.

The Swift is swift because it’s light. A cool hundred horsepower come out of its high-revving, 1.3-liter engine, and there are just under 1800 pounds to move around. Unassisted steering means more power to the ground.

It’s one of the champions of the drive-a-slow-car-fast ethos (but it can make tons of power—see the tips on the next page). It’s tiny. It’ll squeeze anywhere in traffic, it revs to the skies, and it’s a hoot to wail on, even if all that wailing means you’re still side by side with that minivan you just drag-raced from the stoplight. Keep the revs up; this engine has a sportbike’s spirit and a 7500-rpm rev limit. Stiffer springs and four-wheel disc brakes round out the chassis package.

It’s unique from the Metro in cosmetic ways, too: Flush aero headlights and different bumpers give it a sporty look. Suzuki tried to make this a significantly nicer car than the Metro, so it has better—and heavier—interior materials and racier bucket seats.

If you’re looking for the nicest one in the States, $5000 is about the top of the market. Decent runners can go for $1000 or less, but the sweet spot appears to be about $2000 to $3000.

Buy the nicest one you care to afford, and put a little effort into keeping it looking good. The community will thank you for not letting another one of these little toys descend into disrepair, and maybe you’ll earn some good karma for keeping the four-wheeled Suzuki torch burning after the brand departs our shores.

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