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Bargain basement Z3 performed gallantly;

but brakes wilted after half an hour.

Current Suzuki Swift Sport 1.4 litre

was the speedy surprise of the day.

Photos: © Jeff Bloxham

or the past five years the Guild of Motoring Writers (GOMW) has run its Big Day Out event for members to participate with their own cars (for a change!), plus a few brave automotive backers who even allow their latest showroom shiny demonstrators out on track or local roads.

Webmaster Osborne and contributor Walton have naturally been avid supporters of anything that involves squealing rubber, so we took along our MG TF and BMW Z3 respectively, and Walton blagged a drive in the astonishing 2019 Suzuki Swift.


Previous Swifts were always value for money, but their normally aspirated, high-rpm 16-valve motors were always a bit short of ultimate puff in today’s mega hatch world. Suzuki decided to forget the motorcycle non-turbo route and added a turbocharger to a diminutive (1373cc) 16-valve motor within a bounteously equipped 5-door hatch. The result, a £17,499 package pitched at Suzuki's proven max. value and accessible speed recipe.

If you measure value by the standard equipment list—as per Vauxhall’s current TV advertising boast on a considerably less able vehicle—Suzuki do an outstanding job. Into a lightweight 975 kg they pack an almighty amount of kit, including SatNav, cruise control and a rear camera to aid parking.

Electrical operation of mirrors and windows, along with excellent sound and phone connectivity might be expected, but climate controlled air conditioning and generous 17-inch diameter alloy wheels join the standard deal: the only absent item Walton wanted could be a sunroof.

So the brochure is a good read. Faced with a hard used track demonstrator in a startling Champion Yellow, how does it step up to the dry tarmac of unforgiving Castle Combe race track?

Magnificently, in a word, and it’ll probably be an even finer experience as an amiable, handy, public road companion.

The massive change is that boosted engine, now delivering maximum torque from just 2500 rpm and punching up to 140 horsepower at 5500. That means it has a broad and civilized power delivery. A peppy, yet smooth revving character is a welcome reminder of previous Swifts. As a bonus, the 6-speed gearbox slots swiftly (sorry) through ratios designed to ensure fourth through sixth ratios deliver road manners that are unexpectedly relaxed between 60 and 90 mph.

Brakes and steering are sharply responsive. I think the Sport has lost a little of the brio it exhibited in handling and driver feedback, but the pace around the track was astounding. Definitely, this Sport has matured in ride comfort, noise insulation and rewarding pace in the move to turbo power.

Our MG TF joins an eclectic queue to join the trackTrying (unsuccessfully) to keep up with Chris Rees in his raucously  fast Alfa Romeo SZAt least we look fast in this Jeff Bloxham photoWalton talks Cobra with Philip d'ArchimbeaudOlly Sanders' muscular MGB GTJeff Stow's glorious Aston Martin DBR1 with ex-F1 pilote Mike Wilds passengering"It's only done 80 miles since rebuild, I'll just be running it in." said Andrew Morland before taking his MG P Type out on the track<>I opened the track day with two 15-minute sessions in my Z3, which had 141,600 pleasurable miles displayed. I was not expecting much from 150 horsepower in more than 300 kg over the Suzuki, or the herd of MX-5s gathered for the occasion; but it did manage to outpace an elderly Porsche 911.

I was pleased that, despite the low cost of purchase and maintenance since it was bought almost 11 months ago, it performed with considerably more durability than either my previous 1958 Frogeye Sprite or 1999 Lotus Elise Sport. Racetrack or public road record, the Z3 has proved durable with widely praised 86dB soundtrack.

In short the Z3 has been a happy surprise, covering a lot of open top miles with only the blunt handling and rough ride a notable downside on my previous 2-seat sports cars. More when we update our running reports, meanwhile GOMW became a fun day out in these tense times, my thanks to those who made it all happen at Castle Combe.

Jeremy Walton

Osborne's MG TF ahead of

Chris Manning's Mazda MX-5


Photo: © Jeff Bloxham