The Suzuki Swace is a great example of how platform-sharing and badge engineering can work for car makers.
Launched in 2020 but updated for 2023, the Swace borrowed everything except the front grille of the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports and instantly gave Suzuki a really strong entrant into a segment from which it’s long been absent. In exchange (in case you wondered) Toyota got to stick its badge on Suzuki models in India and Africa, where the smaller brand has a larger influence.
Suzuki’s ambitions for the Swace aren’t huge - its main focus remains on its selection of compact SUVs such as the S-Cross and Vitara - but the mid-sized estate is still a popular choice for families after a practical alternative to an SUV, and the segment is a busy old place. The Swace is up against the likes of the Corolla (obviously), (for now).
Where it differs from those is in offering a full “self-charging” hybrid option rather than mild or plug-in variants and not coming with a hatchback option. It’s estate or nothing for Suzuki, which means you get 596 litres of boot space (expandable to 1,232) and a wide, flat user-friendly load space. Other cars offer slightly more boot space but the Swace counters with good interior room for passengers - four adults will fit comfortably.
All of that is unchanged from the previous version of the Swace and it’s under the bonnet where the first key has taken place. Toyota updated the British-built Corolla’s powertrain earlier this year and those changes have now arrived on the Suzuki. As before, the Swace still uses the lower-powered 1.8-litre motor rather than the punchier 2.0 offered in the Corolla. The updates, however, improve power by 15% from 120bhp to 138bhp, bringing a mild step up in performance. Unfortunately the 1.5-second reduction in 0-62mph time is accompanied by a minor drop in efficiency. Still, official economy is an impressive 62.7mpg and if you drive carefully you should get pretty close to that.
The extra power still doesn’t bring scintillating performance and the Swace’s approach to acceleration is best described as relaxed but that’s in keeping with the overall feel of the car. There’s decent enough handling if you seek it out but most Swace buyers are more likely to appreciate the light steering and impressive damping that bring a comfortable ride and easygoing approach to covering ground.
Beyond the mechanical upgrades, the new version of the Swace gets new trim names and a step up in the already generous standard specification. Entry level Motion cars now get an emergency driving stop system that kicks in if the driver is incapacitated, LED tail lights, heated seats and steering wheel and an upgraded eight-inch infotainment system with sharper graphics, quicker responses and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Ultra grade adds bi-LED headlights, front and rear parking sensors, wireless phone charging, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. It also gets the innovative safe exit assist, which uses the blind spot monitors to warn if an occupant is about to open a door into the path of anything approaching from behind. In addition, both versions get an improved pre-collision detection, adaptive cruise control, rear parking camera, keyless entry, dual-zone climate control and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Cannily, Suzuki has priced the Swace at around £2,500 less than the equivalent Corolla, with Motion priced at £28,999 and Ultra at £30,799. That somewhat helps counter the fact that the service-activated warranty on the Swace is seven years rather than the 10 years offered by Toyota.
Suzuki is gambling on the lower price to help attract buyers, and the reputation of its dealers. Suzuki customers tend to be a loyal lot and, according to the Institute of Customer Service, Suzuki is the most trusted car brand in the UK. For private buyers more interested in good service than residual values, that could be enough to swing things in the Swace’s favour, especially with the improvements that the recent updates bring.
- Price: £30,799
- Engine: 1.8-litre, four-cylinder petrol with electric motor
- Power: 138bhp
- Torque: 136lb ft
- Transmission: E-CVT
- Top speed:112mph
- 0-62mph: 9.4 seconds
- Economy: 62.7mpg
- CO2 emissions: 102g/km
Rivals: Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, Kia Ceed Sportwagon, Hyundai i30 Tourer, Skoda Octavia estate, VW Golf Estate