Suzuki is, literally, on a charge. Not only has it electrified its entire range, but it has also expanded it, albeit with more than a little help from its technical collaborator, Toyota. Launched in 2020, the Swace was the second model of that partnership, this curiously-named model borrowing the design of the familiar, respected Toyota Corolla Touring Sports Estate to give the Suzuki brand an entrant into the lucrative C-segment compact estate sector. Now this car's been updated, with a punchier Hybrid engine, more equipment and an improved cabin. Is it convincing enough to win Suzuki some new friends?
Suzuki might not yet be at the forefront of EV development, but they've certainly been doing their bit for automotive electrification. All their core models have mild hybrid electrified petrol powerplants and, thanks to a partnership with Toyota, the company's flagship model, the Across SUV, offers a plug-in hybrid powertrain. For those wanting a self-charging full-Hybrid engine, the brand launched this model, the Swace, in 2020, basically a re-badged Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate. The Swace brought the brand into a market sector it had been absent from since it offered the Baleno estate at the turn of the century - but that car never sold that strongly. This one's done a bit better - and its prospects should be further improved by the package of updates we look at here.
The Swace has benefitted from changes that Toyota has made to the 1.8-litre VVT-i full-Hybrid engine that it supplies for this Suzuki. The powerplant's electric motor output has been boosted from 53kW to 70kW, a change which has increased torque from 163Nm to 185Nm. As a result, the Swace will in this form feel usefully more responsive, should you come to it from an older version. The 0-62mph time has consequently dropped from 11.1s to 9.4s. The engine's power output is 96hp at 5,200rpm but taking the electric motor's contribution into account, the combined system output is 140hp (up from 122hp previously). As before, top speed is pegged at 111mph and drive is through a CVT gearbox. As with the original model, three driving modes can be selected - 'Normal', 'Eco' or 'Sport'. The driver can also select a fully electric 'EV mode' for those times when completely silent, or emission-free, running is preferred, such as for inner city work, or even early morning starts. In this mode, the car has the potential to cover a mile or so on pure battery power. 'EV 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, or in garages and indoor parking lots. Combining both engine and electricity, however, can still reap the environmental rewards depending on what you select. 'Normal' mode will give the driver the optimal balance between fuel economy and performance, whereas 'Eco' will enhance the fuel economy through throttle response and even go as far as limiting the air-conditioning. 'Sport' will provide a quicker throttle response to emphasise the acceleration when needed.
Visual changes to this updated Swace are slight; a few exterior styling tweaks and some different lighting finishes. As before, the Swace only comes as an estate and almost exactly mirrors its Toyota Corolla Touring Sports cousin in design, save for a unique front face with LED headlamps and prominent Suzuki badges. A strong, dynamic crease blends out from the front wheel arch towards the rear, breaking the side profile embellished by standard 16-inch alloy wheels. Moving inside, the Swace continues to offer little differences over its Corolla cousin - which is a good thing because it means that this latest version gets the much improved standard of media connectivity that Toyota's lately introduced into its version of this model. The centre screen is still a modest 8-inches in size, but it's now of higher definition and includes 'Apple CarPlay' (wireless) and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring (wired). For the instrument binnacle, there's an upgraded central 7-inch multi-information display, with the choice of three display modes. As before, soft-touch plastics with chrome and silver accents throughout help lift the ambience of a slightly dark interior, which gets rear privacy glass and Piano Black instrument surrounding trim. There's room (just about) for three adults on the rear bench. And out back, there's a class-competitive 596-litre boot. The luggage compartment can be easily expanded into a fully flat space by using a remote folding lever to fold down the second-row seats, which creates a total loading space of up to 1,232-litres. Privacy needs are addressed with a detachable tonneau cover that can be retracted with a single touch, and the luggage compartment is equipped with auto-illuminating lights and DC12V accessory socket for added convenience.
Entry to Swace ownership starts at around £29,000 - that's for base 'Motion' trim; plusher 'Ultra'-spec costs around £1,800 more. These figures might look a little high at first, but when you take into account the sophisticated full-Hybrid tech and look at the high-level of equipment fitted, they might seem a little bit more palatable. Also, the fact that this is an estate model brings an element of practicality into the mix too. Rivals to the car are a mixed bag, with many not offering this car's full-Hybrid efficiency. Of course, the biggest competitor to consider will be the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports estate model this Swace is based upon; one of those in base 'Icon' trim costs around the same as a Swace with top 'Ultra'-spec. Potential customers might also be looking at estate versions of the Ford Focus, the Volkswagen Golf, the SEAT Leon or the Skoda Octavia with mild hybrid engines. Standard Swace equipment has improved as part of this update. The 'Motion' model includes an Emergency Driving Stop system, LED rear lamps, seven airbags, Dual Zone automatic air conditioning, an eight-inch LCD colour information screen, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a 'Smart phone link' system for wireless 'Apple CarPlay' and wired 'Android Auto' device connectivity, a rear parking camera, a larger digital instrument cluster with three display modes, a type C USB port and Dynamic Radar Cruise control. The top 'Ultra' grade adds updated Bi-LED projector headlights, Safe Exit Assist, Smart Door locking, Front and Rear Park distance sensors, a Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross traffic Alert, interior ambient lighting and a centre console tray with wireless charger.
The hybrid system fitted to the Swace gives reasonably impressive fuel economy and running costs without the need for plugging in. The combined fuel economy figure is up to 62.7mpg according to WLTP figures, with emissions of just 102g/km. That's assuming you activate the provided 'Eco' drive mode, which helps the driver accelerate in an eco-friendly manner and enhances fuel economy through more gradual throttle response and minimal air-conditioning use. This mode is useful during stop-and-go city driving. Clever touches also help, like the 'S-Flow Control' in the air-conditioning which allows the climate system to detect the number of occupants and take into account the ambient temperature, then altering its output accordingly, thereby saving energy where possible. That's the same as in a Corolla. One area where Suzuki does drastically differ from the Toyota equivalent is with its warranty, only offering a 3 year/60,000 mile warranty, as opposed to the package you get with the Corolla which can be extended up to ten years.
It might seem odd that Suzuki, often previously such an innovative manufacturer, would merely re-badge a Toyota to widen its electrified model offering. This technology though, demands years of experience and huge investment. Should Suzuki have made its customers wait for full-Hybrid tech - then charge them richly for it? Or use proven tech from an established partner, allowing them to bring this engineering quickly to market at a (relatively) affordable price? You can see why the second approach makes more sense and this Swace model fully embraces it, especially in this updated form. For the money you'd spend to get mild hybrid tech that makes hardly any difference to running costs on comparable estate versions of the Golf, the Focus, the Leon and the Octavia, here you get a full-Hybrid powertrain that can, in contrast, run at times exclusively on full-electric power, so delivering significantly lower running costs. And all at better value pricing than this car's Toyota clone can offer. If that makes sense to you, this car might too.