First Drive: The Suzuki Swace arrives as the firm’s new hybrid estate car

Ted Welford, PA Motoring Reporter
·6-min read

What is it?

Suzuki Swace
The estate layout means the Swace will appeal to those who need more space


Looking at the Suzuki Swace and thinking ‘that looks familiar’, but the name isn’t ringing any bells? Well, you wouldn’t be alone.

And that’s because, while the Swace might be a new model for Suzuki, it’s essentially a Toyota Corolla Touring Sport (an estate to you and me) – meaning it shares that model’s tried-and-tested hybrid powertrain, and even rolls off the same manufacturing plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire.

But is there really room for Suzuki’s new model, or would you be better just buying the Toyota? Let’s find out.

What’s new?

Suzuki Swace
The front end features sharply designed headlights


If we have to be blunt, not a lot really. Granted, Suzuki has made sure that all the Toyota badges are covered over with its emblem, and there’s a new front-end – including a more prominent front grille and larger fog lights, helping it to look slightly more like a Suzuki.

But even inside, this is fundamentally just a Toyota – even down to the graphics and infotainment system being more-or-less identical. This, therefore, isn’t like the Volkswagen Group arrangement where models such as Seat Leon and Audi A3 share core parts but are very different in execution. Rather, the Swace really is a rebadged model.

What’s under the bonnet?

Suzuki Swace
The powertrain combines petrol and electric power


Though the Corolla gets the choice of two ‘self-charging’ powertrains, the Swace is only offered with the entry-level of the pair – a 1.8-litre petrol engine joined with a small electric motor. This type of setup is a first for Suzuki, and combined, the engine and motor produce 120bhp – allowing for a 0-60mph time of 10.9 seconds and a top speed of 112mph. A CVT automatic gearbox is also used, with power being sent to the front wheels.

But, really, the Swace isn’t a model that will be bought for its performance, but rather its efficiency. Suzuki claims it will return 64.2mpg on the combined cycle, while CO2 emissions of 99g/km also place it in a low 22 per cent company car tax band – a diesel Golf Estate sits at 27 per cent, for example – potentially unlocking this Suzuki’s appeal to the fleet sector.

What’s it like to drive?

Behind the wheel, it’s the Swace’s comfort and ease of driving that shine through. Sitting on small 16-inch alloy wheels (regardless of trim level), the ride is especially compliant – soaking up potholes with ease and generally being especially relaxing to travel in.

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The latest Corolla has also proven to handle quite sweetly, and the Swace retains that same trait – it’s never sporty, but is smooth, well-balanced and more joyful to hustle down a back road than you might expect. With the hybrid system, it’s also able to run for short bursts as an EV – especially around town – though you have to be feather-light with the throttle as otherwise the engine kicks into life.

In fact, the only real gripe here is the CVT gearbox, which seems to drain the hybrid system of its power, and sounds especially strained if you’re trying to accelerate quickly.

How does it look?

Suzuki Swace
The Swace’s sleek design is helped by a raked roofline


Though we could lambast Suzuki for not doing more to make its Swace stand out from Toyota’s effort, given the Corolla is a pretty appealing-looking option, there are worse cars to share a design with.

So, though the Swace is never going to make heads swivel (perhaps other than people wondering why someone’s put a Suzuki badge on a Toyota), it’s quite a neat design. Especially at the front, where the revised front end helps to give it more of an identity – with sharp LED headlights and a low front bumper making it look more purposeful.

What’s it like inside?

Suzuki Swace
The cabin features plenty of standard equipment


Hide the Suzuki badge on the steering wheel and you really are sitting in a Toyota, but there are worse places to reside. It’s not what you’d call ‘premium’ but is solidly built, with a strong focus on ergonomics. The clear instruments and an eight-inch media system also lack fuss and aren’t as distracting as other systems.

One strange oddity, though, the touchscreen has a ‘Map’ shortcut button, but click on it and it just says ‘not available’. It’s no big drama, though, as standard smartphone mirroring lets you use your probably superior navigation app anyway.

And few will be able to criticise the Swace when it comes to space, either. The rear seats offer great access and plenty of room for adults, while a 596-litre boot is a fantastic size. It’s not really surprising the Corolla has become such a hit with taxi and minicab drivers.

What’s the spec like?

Suzuki Swace
The small screen is easy to navigate


Two trim levels are available on the Swace – SZ-T and SZ5 – and you’re unlikely to be disappointed with the equipment levels.

That’s because the kit is very generous as standard, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, reversing camera and eight-inch touchscreen. Upgrading to the SZ5 brings keyless entry, park assist, blind spot monitoring and wireless smartphone charging.

Prices for the Swace start from £27,499, and that’s where our money would go, as at £29,299 the top-spec SZ5 begins to look a bit expensive, and you can easily live without its extras.

If you’re wondering how this contrasts to the Corolla, it’s quite difficult to tell as the Swace is a blend of different Toyota trim levels (probably deliberately so it can’t be compared), though as ‘lesser’ specs are on offer, the Corolla Touring Sports is available from £25,750. It’s safe to say a like-for-like Suzuki won’t be any cheaper.

Verdict

Judged as a separate car, the new Suzuki Swace is a very appealing option, especially where comfort, practicality and efficiency are concerned. It also drives well (CVT gearbox aside) and gets a long list of equipment as standard.

Should Suzuki have tried to do more to distinguish its own car? Perhaps, but when you have such a credible all-rounder from Toyota to begin with, this is a solid foundation and one that should help this Japanese carmaker to appeal to a new range of buyers.

  • Model: Suzuki Swace

  • Base price: £27,499

  • Model as tested: Swace SZ5

  • Price as tested: £29,899

  • Engine: 1.8-litre petrol-electric hybrid

  • Power: 120bhp

  • Torque: 142Nm (engine), 163Nm (Electric motor)

  • Max speed: 112mph

  • 0-60mph: 10.9 seconds

  • MPG: 64.2mpg

  • CO2 emissions: 99g/km