Before the Swift Sport, there was the GTI

GTI! You thought of Volkswagen Golf there didn’t you?

The German brand’s popular hatchback is known the world over and its performance version, the GTI, even more so.

Suzuki also had a GTI

Other brands like Nissan and Peugeot also have their very own GTI-specced model derivative but there is another Japanese brand that also used to grace the heralded three-lettered name many years ago.

READ | Thank you Suzuki for turbocharging the Swift Sport

Suzuki and its compact Swift hatchback has become an instant hit in South Africa, enjoying monumental sales successes for the last number of years. Not too long ago Suzuki added a punchier version of the Swift, the Swift Sport, to the range. With its introduction, it became the brand’s first Swift Sport to make use of forced induction.

Image: Pinterest/Panoramio

Suzuki first introduced the Sport derivative with the second-generation Swift but quite some time before that, back in the mid to late 80’s, they had a GTI. Yes, you read right.

Introducing the ‘original’

Back in the 80’s and early 90’s Japanese manufacturers had a thing for developing smaller ‘Kei’ cars. It was a small city car with an engine displacement of no more than 1 300cc. Toyota had the Starlet, Daihatsu had the Midget and Suzuki’s was the Cultus or also known as the Swift GTI.

Image: Pinterest

The 2-door GTI was first introduced in 1986 as the performance version of the first generation Cultus, launched three years prior. Under its bonnet was a fuel-injected 1.3-litre engine that pushed out as much as 85kW and 110Nm in a body that weighed virtually nothing by today’s standards – 910kg to be exact.

That power to weight ratio, together with a short ratio gearbox, meant it was no slouch off the line and could run from 0-100km/h in under 9-seconds with a top speed of 180km/h.

We know it as the Celerio

It also looked the part and boasted a number of sporty additions like the rally-esque larger fog lights, side skirts as well as beefier 13-inch wheels On the inside it featured sport seats and a steering wheel, a tachometer and power mirrors. You’d expect nothing less of a top-of-the-range model.

Image: Motorpress

It was exported to countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, badged under different names. The age of Japanese cars was just dawning at the time and these markets got a glimpse of what was cooking in its cauldron.

The Cultus name is still used up to this day in the Pakistan market only. The South Africa version of it is known as the Celerio, a day and night difference of what the car once was.

Up until today, Suzuki is known for producing small, affordable city cars for the masses

The Swift Sport might be holding Suzuki’s mantle as its current performance option but they have the GTI to thank for breaking the mould and getting the ball rolling.