Why The Suzuki Swift Sport Is The Perfect Cheap “Starter” JDM Car

When it comes to Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars, the Suzuki Swift Sport stands out as an ideal choice for those seeking a blend of affordability, reliability, and fun. Known for its compact size and spirited performance, the Swift Sport has evolved through several generations, each refining the model’s unique appeal.

This article will explore the history of the Suzuki Swift Sport, its recent generations, and why it’s the perfect ‘starter’ JDM car for everyday use.

One important thing to note – in many markets (such as New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom) the Swift Sport was – and continues to be – sold ‘new’ so you can buy non-JDM examples. However, you can also find grey/ex-JDM imports, which can have different specification etc.

A Brief History of the Suzuki Swift Sport

The Suzuki Swift, a subcompact car, has been a staple in Suzuki’s lineup since the mid-1980s.

However, it was in the early 2000s that the Swift Sport variant emerged (in fact there had been a 1990s Swift Sport, but that is so old-hat now that it’s not really worth mentioning) capturing the hearts of enthusiasts with its sportier stance and enhanced performance.

The Swift Sport took the practical foundation of the standard Swift and injected it with a dose of excitement, creating a car that was both fun to drive and practical for daily use.

The Three Recent Generations

If you’re looking to buy a great cheap JDM starter car and are interested in the Suzuki Swift Sport, the good news is you’ve got three generations to choose from, with prices ranging from low four figures upwards.

First Generation (2005-2010)

The first generation Swift Sport, introduced in 2005, was a revelation in the hot hatch segment. It featured a naturally aspirated 1.6-liter engine producing around 125 hp, which was substantial for its lightweight chassis. This generation set the tone for what the Swift Sport would become: a car that delivers driving joy and accessible performance. If any Swift Sport is likely to become a future classic, it would probably be this one. 

Second Generation (2011-2017)

The second generation brought significant improvements, including a more refined 1.6-liter engine with higher output, sharper handling, and a more aggressive design. It retained the essence of a hot hatch while offering modern comforts and improved safety features, making it a well-rounded choice for enthusiasts.

Third Generation (2018-Present)

The latest generation introduced turbocharging to the Swift Sport, with a 1.4-liter Boosterjet turbo engine. This change meant more torque, better fuel efficiency, and an overall more engaging driving experience. The car also became lighter and more technologically advanced, with features like smartphone integration and advanced driver-assist systems.

Why It’s a Great Choice


One of the Swift Sport’s biggest draws is its affordability. It offers the thrills of a performance-oriented car without the hefty price tag often associated with such vehicles. Its low cost of entry makes it an attractive option for those new to the JDM scene or looking for a budget-friendly car.


Japanese cars are renowned for their reliability, and the Swift Sport is no exception. Its simple mechanical layout and Suzuki’s reputation for building durable vehicles mean owners can expect a hassle-free ownership experience with lower maintenance costs compared to more complex performance cars.

Fun Factor

Despite its modest power figures, the Swift Sport’s lightweight nature and responsive handling make it a joy to drive. It excels in urban environments and winding roads, offering an engaging driving experience that’s hard to find in other cars at this price point.

I actually owned a third generation Suzuki Swift sport for a couple of years (which I traded into a Hyundai i30N for practicality and ‘always wanted one’ purposes) and can say with absolute confidence that the Swift is hilariously good fun to drive, and also because it’s not too powerful you can really work it hard on back roads without going too fast. 

Practicality for Everyday Use

The Swift Sport doesn’t sacrifice practicality for performance. It’s a car you can drive to work, use for weekend getaways, and still enjoy on a spirited drive. Its compact size makes it easy to maneuver in tight spaces, while its hatchback design offers ample cargo space. 

If you’re driving mostly in urban environments and want something that is easy to dart in and out of traffic and park, you’d be hard pressed to do better than the Swift Sport. 

A Great Entry Point into JDM Culture

Ultimately, for those new to JDM cars, the Swift Sport is an excellent introduction. It embodies the core principles of JDM engineering – efficiency, innovation, and driving pleasure – in a package that’s accessible and uncomplicated. You’re not putting too much money on the line, and you’re still getting a great, everyday driver with a huge dose of added fun. 


The Suzuki Swift Sport represents a perfect blend of fun, affordability, and practicality, making it an ideal choice for those looking to enter the world of JDM cars.

Its evolution through the generations has stayed true to the ethos of providing an exhilarating driving experience in a compact, reliable, and cost-effective package.

Whether you’re a seasoned car enthusiast or a newcomer to the JDM scene, the Swift Sport is a car that promises to deliver joy in every drive, without breaking the bank. I should know, because I’ve owned one, and I think it’s the perfect cheap starter JDM car for anybody.


  • Sam

    Sam focuses mainly on researching and writing the growing database of Car Facts articles on Garage Dreams, as well as creating interesting list content. He is particularly enthusiastic about JDM cars, although has also owned numerous European vehicles in the past. Currently drives a 3rd generation Suzuki Swift Sport, and a Volkswagen Touareg (mainly kept for taking his border collie out to the hills to go walking)

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