Suzuki Swace estate review
The Suzuki Swace is a practical and affordable family estate but it’s hard to see why you would buy one over the Corolla on which it’s based
- Low running costs
- Easy to live with
- Big boot
- Shorter warranty than Corolla
- Struggles as higher speeds
- Lack of choice
The Suzuki Swace is a hybrid family estate that's almost a carbon copy of the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, thanks to an alliance between the Japanese manufacturers. It's a rival to models like the Ford Focus Estate, SEAT Leon Estate and Skoda Octavia Estate, offering the low running costs of a hatchback but with extra space created by the elongated boot.
Exterior changes for the Swace-badged car are minor, with the front bumper and grille getting a new look to make them more Suzuki-like. Elsewhere it's the definition of a rebadging exercise, with the same wheels as the Corolla but with Suzuki logos in the middle and a badge on the boot that almost looks as if it’s been pasted over the Toyota logo.
It's a similar story inside, where the dashboard, instruments and infotainment have been transplanted almost entirely. Of course, there's a Suzuki logo on the steering wheel, and the transfer from Toyota isn't exactly a bad thing anyway; the manufacturer is renowned for its hard-wearing cars. There are fewer trims for the Swace, with the entry-level SZ-T getting a heated steering wheel and seats, as well as the eight-inch touchscreen. The SZ5 probably won't be necessary for most buyers but adds handy features like all-round parking sensors, a wireless smartphone charging tray and tech to help prevent dings while reversing.
Space in the back will be fine for most but taller passengers may find there's a lack of headroom. The boot is a useful step up from a hatchback, offering 596 litres of room, compared with around 380 litres for a regular Volkswagen Golf. It should, therefore, swallow sports gear and bulky items more easily, and the boot floor even has a waterproof side to help fend off damage.
Just one hybrid powertrain is offered in the Swace, which is the same tried and trusted 1.8-litre hybrid setup found in the Toyota Prius, as well as the Corolla. Here it’s economical, returning well over 60mpg, and ideally suited to town driving. While the car handles pretty well, the CVT automatic gearbox blunts its suitability for driving quickly on twisty roads.
The Swace is slightly cheaper than the Corolla but it feels it, and the price difference on paper probably isn’t big enough for us to recommend buying the Suzuki-badged version over the Toyota, especially when you consider Toyota provides a longer warranty. Haggle with your Suzuki dealer to reach a lower price and the Swace becomes more worthy of consideration.
MPG, running costs & CO2
While the Corolla Touring Sports is available with two hybrid powertrains, Suzuki has opted to keep it simple and affordable by only offering the 1.8-litre version. This is a well-proven setup that's known for its efficiency; it's even shared with the Toyota Prius - the world's best-known hybrid model.
Here, the combination of a 1.8-litre petrol engine, electric motor and small battery gives the Swace fuel economy of up to 64.2mpg, along with CO2 emissions of 103g/km. This is on a par with the figures you'd normally associate with an efficient diesel engine but because the Swace doesn’t have one, it also boasts lower NOx emissions and doesn't require any AdBlue top ups.
Business drivers will find the Swace sits in a lower Benefit-in-Kind band than most purely petrol and diesel models - you'd really need a plug-in hybrid or fully-electric car to get much lower - and it costs a slightly discounted annual rate in VED (road tax). We also don’t expect insurance to be very expensive.
Engines, drive & performance
The Suzuki's 1.8-litre petrol engine produces 101bhp and 142Nm of pulling power, while the electric motor makes 71bhp and 163Nm; a combined maximum of 120bhp can be sent to the front wheels at any one time. The gearbox is an automatic CVT and the 0-62mph sprint takes 11.1 seconds.
It's a setup that's happiest when driving around town, where the electric motor can do its best work, both helping the car pull away and recuperating energy when slowing down. There's a full EV mode but the small battery only provides range for around a mile of driving, so it's best reserved for car parks, city centres or heavy traffic.
At higher speeds, the powertrain is less convincing because, even with the boost of the electric motor, the Swace never feels particularly fast. Ask too much of it and there's also a drone from under the bonnet as the CVT gearbox keeps the engine at high revs. The Swace drives well enough in other respects; the ride is smooth and the handling is neat enough.
Interior & comfort
Inside, the Suzuki Swace is virtually identical to the Corolla Touring Sports - the two models are even built on the same line at Toyota's Burnaston plant in Derbyshire. That's not really a bad thing; the Corolla has a sturdy and well-designed dashboard, and the blue instrument graphics add some character. The infotainment screen is perched on top of the dashboard, so it's fairly close to the steering wheel and it has some physical keys and knobs to make it easier to use. The seats are comfortable but relatively flat, which goes to show Suzuki doesn't expect Swace drivers to be attacking corners.
Even the entry-level SZ-T trim gets an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio, Bluetooth, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and ambient interior lighting. There's also a rear-view camera and radar cruise control for added safety and convenience. The SZ5 trim costs around £1,800 extra and adds features like front parking sensors, a wireless charging tray, LED headlights and self-parking, along with some added safety tech.
Practicality & boot space
Room in the front of the Swace is good, with both the steering wheel and driver's seat offering plenty of adjustment. The rear seats aren't quite as spacious, so tall passengers may find their hair brushing the headlining.
The boot measures 596 litres behind the rear seats, extending to 1,232 litres with them folded down. That can't quite compete with the Skoda Octavia Estate, which has a 640-litre boot, partly thanks to its boxier proportions. The Swace does have some clever features, such as a reversible boot floor with carpet on one side and an all-weather resin surface on the other. This can also be put into a lower position for carrying taller objects, or left at its raised level to make sliding objects in and out of the boot easier.
Unfortunately, the Swace' hybrid powertrain does limit its abilities as a towing vehicle. It can only haul a 750kg braked trailer, which rules out most caravans. If the trailer has no brakes, its weight is limited to 450kg.
Reliability & safety
Suzuki and Toyota share a good reputation for building reliable, sturdy cars, so there shouldn't be too many alarm bells as a result of the partnership. In fact, in our 2020 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of the 30 top brands, Toyota did rather better overall than Suzuki, with the two manufacturers coming in sixth and 17th places respectively.
It's disappointing, however, that the Swace only gets a three-year warranty (extended to five years for the hybrid powertrain), rather than up to ten years of cover for the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports.
The Swace might not have been crash tested by Euro NCAP yet but it's good to know the Toyota Corolla was awarded five stars in 2019 because the two cars share the same crash structures and technology. Safety equipment is generous, including standard traffic-sign recognition, lane departure alert, autonomous emergency braking and 'E-Call' that can alert the emergency services if the car is in a severe collision. Upgrading to the SZ5 trim does add some safety features, including blind-spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert, designed to make reversing out of parking spaces less dangerous.