SUZUKI hit on a winner when they buddied-up with Toyota to bring us the Swace – a practical, frugal hybrid Estate which is well-equipped and also benefits from being extremely easy to live with.
The fact that it is a re-badged Toyota Corolla Touring Sports matters not a jot. If it means savings are made that can be passed onto the customer, then I’m all for it. Especially when the “badge-engineering” concerns great-quality motors. There is also the Suzuki Across, which is based on the Toyota RAV4; another quality vehicle.
The Swace is virtually identical to its Toyota twin – both outside and in – but there are some subtle differences at the front end. Other than that, it’s only the badge that is different.
Suzuki have chosen wisely to duplicate the most versatile and, arguably, the best-looking of the Corolla stable, and so the Swace is not only frugal – thanks to that tried-and-trusted hybrid powertrain – but it looks the part as well as being an incredibly practical family estate.
I got on very well with the original Swace, a couple of years back, finding it a welcome alternative to the all-conquering SUVs we appear to crave these days. Just as practical, better on fuel and a better driving package in almost any situation.
For 2023 the Suzuki Swace has had some updates – not that you’d notice from the outside. No, the changes are mostly to do with the engine and hybrid system which gets an overall boost from 122bhp to 140bhp – which is a healthy 15%. Fuel consumption and CO2 emissions remain largely the same at 62.7mpg and 102g/km.
Suzuki have also reduced the trim-levels down to just 2: ‘Motion’ and ‘Ultra’. Both get exactly the same drivetrain and, of course, the CVT automatic transmission.
The Motion starts at £29,555, while the model I’ve had on test for a week, is the Ultra – starting at £31,399.
Standard specification is higher than previously with the Motion model including Emergency Driving Stop system, LED rear lamps, Dual Zone automatic air conditioning, eight-inch LCD colour information screen, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto, rear parking camera, new digital instrument cluster with three display modes, type C USB port and Dynamic Radar Cruise control.
The Ultra grade adds updated Bi-LED projector headlights, Safe Exit Assist, Smart Door locking, Front and Rear Park distance sensors, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, interior ambient lighting and centre console tray with wireless charger.
A light and airy feel to the cabin is complimented by good visibility all around and a combination of soft padding and chrome or silver accents throughout the cabin highlights the overall quality of the interior which appears to be screwed together very well and includes plenty of soft-touch surfaces.
Finding a good driving position is easy with plenty of adjustment to both seat and steering wheel. It’s good to see that both models have driver lumber support fitted as standard – unusual on a car in this price bracket.
The 8-inch infotainment system is also a welcome update and along with the wireless Apple CarPlay, now boasts a much sharper image. The whole unit looks cleaner and more modern, with just the one button for volume and power. Neither Swace model comes with Sat Nav, so using Waze or Google Maps from your smartphone is essential if you need electronic guidance.
The climate controls also have physical dials and this is much preferred over having to navigate through screen menus. All in all, a very well-thought-out interior that is easy to use and should help reduce stress levels.
The feeling of spaciousness continues through to the rear passengers with a generous amount of leg room that trumps even the Skoda Octavia estate. Head room is good enough for those just over 6ft tall and if you’re carrying 3 in the back then the middle-seat occupant doesn’t have a large transmission tunnel to contend with. Smiles all around then.
Three children easily fit across the rear seats and the ISO-fix child-seat fittings are easily accessible. Just like in the front, there is plenty of storage available with decent-sized door pockets and room for both drinks and phones.
The 596-litre boot provides ample room for a variety of luggage – or the usual family jumble. The rear carpeted floorboard can be placed in a lower position to store taller objects and is also reversible with a resin backside that can be used for stowing wet or dirty items. The compartment can be easily expanded into a fully-flat space by using the remote folding lever to fold down the second-row seats which provides a whopping 1,606-litres of luggage space.
Out on the road, the Swace’s hybrid system provides a seamless driving feeling with decent acceleration as well as excellent fuel economy and low emissions. The hybrid system optimally drives the Swace with the motor, engine or both depending on driving conditions and I found the whole experience rather relaxing. The 0-62mph dash has been improved from over 11 seconds to under 10, thanks to the hike in power.
There is an air of serenity when zipping along in the Swace that is missing from many rivals and even with the 1.8 motor running it was relatively quiet, even at motorway speeds. Only harsh acceleration causes the CVT to whine loudly for a second or two, but once on the move the Swace is a pleasant place to be sat.
We took the Swace on a 110-mile round trip to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs on a beautiful, autumnal day and by the end of the trip my first thought was that the Swace was the perfect cruiser. Mrs. B said she would be happy to be sat in the Swace all day-long, if needed.
It really was a doddle to drive and cruising on quiet, single-lane A roads at around 60mph returned a staggering 76.3mpg – which I had to look at several times, to believe.
In EV drive mode, the vehicle is driven solely by its electric motor with power supplied from the battery. This mode can be used for driving short distances without having to worry about noise or emissions, especially in residential areas early in the morning and late at night.
The Suzuki Swace offers smooth driving comfort and is surprisingly responsive. Handling is decent thanks to a low centre of gravity and finely tuned suspension. The low bonnet line and location of the hybrid battery beneath the rear seats help give the car that low centre of gravity, reducing body roll around corners and improving stability.
The drive mode select function allows the driver to adjust the vehicle’s performance to suit driving conditions. The Swace is equipped with three modes: Normal, Eco and Sport. I tried all three and found the Sport setting did sharpen up throttle-response much more than on the previous model. Overtakes were a breeze.
However, I suspect most will leave the Swace in Normal mode as this provides ample acceleration, comfort and economy in any situation.
An already excellent family estate that has noticeably benefitted from a freshening up of the powertrain and also gets plenty of enhancements to safety and equipment, to boot. Make that a LARGE boot . . .
AT A GLANCE:
Suzuki Swace Ultra
OTR Price: £31,399
Engine: 1.8 Petrol, Electric Motor
Power: 140 bhp
Transmission: CVT Auto
0-62mph: 9.4 secs
Top Speed: 112 mph
Combined Economy: 62.7 mpg
C02: 102 g/km