4th Report: ‘Tis the season…

Tackling a weekly shop is one thing, but taking on Christmas and its gauntlet of shopping, family and bad weather-related challenges is a whole different kettle of fish – or turkey – in this case. 

December 2021’s weather was particularly chilly, with no shortage of wet, windy, icy and foggy climates. That made the condition of our Suzuki Swace and the road ahead of it a little unpredictable. Thankfully however, Suzuki’s Toyota-rivalling estate held its own.

When sat on the driveway, like a block of ice, the Swace has plenty of features to help combat the cold. When iced over, the Swace’s heated door mirrors and heated front and rear windscreen – of which are standard across the range – help to thaw all the important areas of glass. When combined with its front and rear defogging features, courtesy of its air vents, we’ve found the Swace defrosted fairly quickly, only requiring a jug of water to speed up the process in particularly dire conditions.

And due to the Swace’s simple to follow, easy to access climate control buttons, you can lean in, adjust your temperature settings and ramp up the air vents in a matter of seconds – which might seem like a given, but you’d be surprised how many simple climate control functions are buried behind digital menus these days.

In general, we found that the ambient temperature inside the Swace heats up very fast, even with the air vents ticking over at half of their blowing capacity. This has been a massive plus for us, given we usually have a one year old sitting in the back. 

And for us adults, the Swace’s standard heated front and rear seats – as well as the heated steering wheel – have also been welcome features on cold mornings, with the heated steering wheel being particularly fast-acting and toasty.

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As of the first foggy day in December, we ensured we were well acquainted with the Swace’s headlight functions – crucially its fog lamps. And thankfully both front and rear fog lamps are standard across the range. 

Another huge convenience/safety feature is the auto high beam headlight function, which when activated will automatically dip your high beams when an oncoming vehicle or pedestrian is detected. This is particularly useful on winding country roads with limited visibility, as it helps you see as much as possible, for as long as possible, without blinding other road users. The guide me home headlights are another handy winter feature, which stay on long enough for you to unlock the front door of your house after you lock the car.

When it comes to rushing around and delivering presents to multiple family members, the Swace remains a solid companion, fuel economy wise. Although we’ve managed to achieve an average of 60mpg-plus during motorway driving, our average urban journey return has hovered somewhere around the 45mpg mark – and that’s with frantic, last-minute A to B driving.

The Swace’s ample boot space has of course come in handy too, with its 596-litre boot easily swallowing Santa sacks of goodies, and its 1,606-litre capacity (with the seats folded down) happily accommodating a set of step ladders for hanging Christmas lights. Perhaps the most useful practicality feature during Christmas, however, has been the ample underfloor storage in the boot. 

Neither the SZ-T or SZ5 model features a spare tyre, which is a shame, but the payoff is a vast, circular-shaped storage compartment under the boot floor, which we have used numerous times for stashing gifts away from the prying eyes of thieves when parked up. 

The pandemic has been a bummer, but at least the Swace has made our car-related Christmas chores both holly, and jolly.

3rd Report: Another hybrid? Swace for one more?

Most of us are likely numbed to the term hybrid these days. It used to conjure up thoughts of futuristic travel, but now it seems that almost every other car has some sort of hybrid tech spliced into its powertrain. So, when it comes to something like the Suzuki Swace – a family-sized estate version of the popular Toyota Corolla hatchback – what do its hybrid credentials actually get you?

On paper, the Swace’s 1.8-litre hybrid set-up offers a combined fuel consumption of 64.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 99g/km – that means you’re looking at a £140 annual road tax bill. 

The Swace is effectively powered in three different ways; via the electric motor, engine or both (both referring to its hybrid moniker). This will be dependent on driving conditions, your driving characteristics and the current state (or charge) of the on-board battery. The Swace will automatically switch between which mode it feels is most appropriate, although there is an EV Mode button that allows you to bypass this and access the juicy, pent up battery power with the click of a button. 

It’s a common misconception that hybrids with full electric functionality allow you to jump in and whizz to the shops and back, without using any engine power. Hybrids like the Swace don’t really work like that. Chances are, when you set off in the morning, the Swace’s battery will already be sapped of energy and require you to drive a bit before gaining enough energy to power the motor and propel you forward. So, as with any other hybrid, it’s a balancing act, and you’ll notice that the Swace will almost always be juggling between one form of power or another. And realistically, you won’t use the aforementioned EV Mode button – the Swace will just decide for you.

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That’s not to say the Swace doesn’t offer excellent all-electric – or part electric – efficiency though. Where you are most likely to reap the benefits of its hybrid powertrain are during coasting intervals, be it on the motorway, sitting in slow moving traffic or breezing through residential areas on your way home. In terms of overall electric range, don’t expect to get much more than a few miles.

There’s a few things to help you finesse your energy preserving/gathering skills too. Down near the gearstick you will see a D for drive and B for brake. Selecting B will be more efficient. This regenerative braking mode is just like your regular drive mode, albeit with a subtle amount of braking every time you take your foot off the accelerator – which in turn delivers a greater amount of kinetic energy to the battery. Really, there’s no reason you shouldn’t always be using this mode – it’s more efficient and the subsequent braking is certainly not jarring or distracting, unlike in some other hybrids. 

Suzuki also offers an Eco mode, alongside Normal and Sport. These modes limit things like throttle input, with Eco mode naturally dampening the accelerator and making it easier to accelerate more smoothly. Eco mode won’t magically give you better fuel economy, but if you’re heavy footed, it might help reign things in.

So, how does all this translate to fuel economy? Well, during our 250 mile long distance road test of the Swace, we managed to achieve a rather impressive 58mpg, and that was while driving with a car full of cargo and at a steady 70mph. We also tried a 50 mile motorway trip without cargo – hitting a fair few 50-60mph zones along the way – and managed to achieve 61.3mpg.

On a daily basis, we predominantly make use of urban routes and dual carriageways, and after two months we have found that 47mpg is our average return. Suffice to say, if you do a fair amount of motorway driving, Suzuki’s claimed 64.2mpg average is certainly within the realms of possibility.

2nd Report: Efficient and Swacious

The problem with holidaying in a car is the irresistible urge to take your entire house with you – kitchen sink and all. Thankfully, our Suzuki Swace long term test car was happy to oblige my obsessive compulsive packing.

Although the Swace is very much a hatchback in estate clothing, it definitely exudes estate functionality, with a boot that’s deep and has a low load lip. Between topped-off tote bags, prams, camera satchels and holdalls, the Swace was more than accommodating with our luggage. The square footwells in the rear also allowed for a chunky cooler bag or two. And while lifting our one year old in-and-out of his child seat was a little tricky – due to the Swace’s low-slung rear seats – there are wide opening rear doors and plenty of space to manoeuvre said child and seat in the back. All in all, the Swace passed the packing test with flying colours.  

Our destination was a 250 mile round trip to Center Parcs, with a mix of motorways and B roads. And the Swace’s relaxed character was a perfect companion for long journeys. Overall road and wind noise refinement is excellent, the ride is smooth and its sharp steering makes quick lane changes – as well as winding country roads – effortless. 

The CVT automatic gearbox, which sits alongside the Swace’s 1.8-litre petrol hybrid system, is most at home when sitting in higher gears, and there’s plenty of poke when you need to squeeze the accelerator for an overtake. Like a lot of other autos, however, the CVT will bounce the revs under firm braking, leading to the engine letting out an almighty roar. It’s nothing to be concerned about, but it’s definitely worth keeping in mind if you or a family member is a nervous driver.

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Considering we packed the Swace to the rafters, I was fairly impressed by the average fuel economy we achieved. Our journey was predominantly filled with steady 70mph motorway stints, with no uber-efficient 50mph zones to be found. Yet with what was likely equivalent to a car full of passengers, we achieved a very impressive 58mpg over the entire 250 mile trip. When you consider that the Swace’s official consumption figure is quoted at 64.2mpg – 58mpg is pretty astonishing.

To accompany its efficient drive, the Swace has an atttractive interior, which is a pleasure to spend extended periods of time in. There are comfortable, high-backed heated front seats – and a heated steering wheel – great all-round visibility, a straightforward infotainment system, tinted windows to keep the baby sheltered, and arguably most important of all, seamless Android Auto integration. 

The Google Maps I ran from my smartphone via USB worked excellently on the Swace’s 7in LCD screen, offering all the convenient quirks you get when in handheld mode – like traffic alerts and fastest route updates. The only slight hiccup was my phone’s tendency to lose GPS signal and leave us in the lurch for a few miles – and the fact that a passenger can’t input a destination on the phone itself, it has to be done via the screen when your phone is connected.

The Swace’s hatchback DNA does start to creep in when it comes to cabin practicality. While you do get wireless phone charging built into the centre console, this takes the place of a dedicated storage cubby, leaving you stuffing the two central cup holders with your wallet, keys and loose change. The door bins are a little awkward to use as well, being well-shaped for tall bottles, but not much else. These are relatively small things, however, and something I would be more than willing to put up with in the long run.

1st Report: A Swace up its sleeve

Toyota has been smashing it out of the park in the hybrid arena for some time now, so you can understand Suzuki’s enthusiasm for collaborating with them to create some new hybrid-infused family cars – first with the Suzuki Across and now with the Suzuki Swace. 

The Swace is essentially a rebadged Toyota Corolla Touring Sports – albeit in an arguably better looking, sleeker package. And while the Corolla is offered in numerous body styles, engines and trims, the Swace is only available in an estate variant, with one engine and two trims. 

We’ve got the plusher of the two Swace variants – the SZ5 – which houses a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid, claiming average economy figures of 64mpg. Within five minutes of driving the Swace, its Toyota influence is fairly obvious, in terms of driving characteristics if nothing else. The Swace is the epitome of an A-to-B family car. It’s not particularly exciting, nor does it offer much in the way of personality, but for a hybrid commuter, that’s absolutely fine. You’ll likely find your driving style stooping to match its sensible demeanour, which tends to be the case when getting behind the wheel of any hybrid. 

With my one year old in the back seat and a dog in the boot, I don’t mind doddering about. It’s a cliche, but the Swace simply wafts along, comfortably, quietly (for the most part) and with a surprising amount of feel through the steering wheel. And while the CVT automatic gearbox vocally alerts you of its presence under harsh acceleration, it’s smooth and composed enough when you gently squeeze the accelerator. 

So far, after a dozen urban work runs in rush hour, we’ve managed to get an average of 47mpg, with minimal effort actually, which isn’t too shabby. 

Of course, with Suzuki’s penchant for affordability and hardiness, there is a whiff of cheapness in certain areas of the Swace. It’s nothing major, but hollow exterior door handles and a few scratchy interior plastics – hidden among soft touch areas – are some of the first things I noticed. It’s certainly more upmarket than budget inside, however, with just the right splashes of sophistication.

After running a Mk8 Volkswagen Golf for six months, and having to wrestle with its temperamental touchscreen, the biggest thing that caught my attention when jumping behind the wheel of the Swace for the first time was its fairly rudimentary, but solid infotainment system. 

Typical of a lot of Toyotas, the system in the Swace looks a little dated, with less than exuberant graphics, but it’s easy to navigate and just works. The Bluetooth connects instantly, the DAB radio stations are easy to scroll through – as is the phone book – and the built-in Android Auto is faultless. It’s too soon to give a verdict on its overall functionality, but first impressions are good.

One clear omission from the Swace’s 7in system, however, is a sat-nav, which its Toyota counterpart has, possibly as a flex to differentiate the two. As mentioned, the Android Auto system works great, but when you forget your USB cable or run out of mobile data, having a built-in satnav is always a nice option.

We’ve got jaunts up and down the country to come in the next few months, so I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of fuel economy the Swace can achieve with some motorway miles, and just how flexible its estate boot really is.

Standard equipment:

Dual zone automatic air conditioning, seven-inch LCD colour screen, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, heated front seats, rear parking camera, dynamic radar cruise control

SZ5 additions:

Smart door locking, simple-intelligent park assist, front and rear parking sensors