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Suzuki finds itself a lower-medium estate car thanks to Toyota - and could have done a lot worse.
LED headlights and DRLs, automatic lights and wipers,
16in alloy wheels, electric-heated and folding door mirrors, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, dual-zone automatic air conditioning, 8in touchscreen with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, reversing camera, radar cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane departure alert.
Although this is technically a First Drive review, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd seen this car in the pictures in this magazine before. This is because the Suzuki Swace, the manufacturer's new lower-medium estate, is really a rebadged Toyota Corolla. It's the second model from a collaborative agreement between the two companies, following on from the Toyota Rav4 SUV's transformation into the Suzuki Across.
Platform sharing is of course very common in the motor industry, but the Swace's family resemblance is closer than most. For example, the Volkswagen Golf Estate reviewed on the facing page shares its underpinnings with the Skoda Octavia and Seat Leon, but park them all next to each other and they are unmistakably different models. It would be far tougher at a glance to distinguish between a Swace and a Corolla, since essentially the only changes, badges aside, are a revised front bumper and grille. The Swace is even made at the same factory as the Corolla - Toyota's plant at Burnaston in Derbyshire.
A big advantage of the tie-up from Suzuki's point of view is benefiting from Toyota's hybrid powertrain technology. The Swace is solely available with the least powerful option from the Corolla range, which sees a 102hp petrol engine paired with a 72hp electric motor for a 122hp maximum combined output. That's still enough power for general motoring and the hybrid system is very willing to drop into moments of electric running of its own accord, even at A-road speeds and occasionally on motorways. The associated CVT automatic transmission does mean a rubber band effect is present with constant high revs under heavy acceleration, however, the engine is very smooth revving and well insulated from the cabin, meaning there's little more disturbance than with a conventional powertrain.
Ride quality is generally good, smoothly gliding over surface imperfections (though there's the occasional heavier jolt around town) while the handling has a nice flowing quality, which means it's quite enjoyable to drive, although the steering is numb and there's a hint of lean when cornering.
As with the exterior styling, the Swace's interior is almost all Toyota. That means an infotainment screen that works well enough, but is a bit lacking in graphical and switchgear quality. The instrument panel is better, with an attractive large speedometer display on a 7in screen, flanked by traditional dials. The interior's fit and feel is generally good, with synthetic leather on the doors and dashboard lending a quality feel.
Since the Swace is only available as an estate - there's no corresponding Suzuki version of the Corolla hatch - boot capacity is of course noteworthy. There are 596 litres of space available - reasonable enough for the segment - rising to 1,232 litres when the flat-folding rear seats are dropped, which can be done when opening the boot by pulling levers in the load bay. The boot floor is also easily adjustable.
Despite the close relationship between the Swace and Corolla, the Suzuki actually performs slightly better than the Toyota on official WLTP testing, ducking under the 100g/km CO2 barrier. It does, however, look a little bit pricier and has weaker expected residual values (though these are still strong in isolation). Still, those hybrid efficiency figures look very good compared with conventional petrol or diesel rivals, while PHEVs are beaten on price.
Suzuki Swace SZ5
Residual value: 38.7%
Service, maintenance and repair: £1,543
Cost per mile: 40.88p
Fuel consumption: 64.2mpg
CO2 (BIK %): 99g/km (23%)
BIK 20/40% a month: £112/£223
Luggage capacity: 596 litres
Engine size/power: 1,798cc/102hp plus 72hp electric motor