If you know the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, you’re familiar with the Suzuki Swace, too.
As mid-size estate cars go, they look very much alike – and that’s because they’re pretty much the same vehicle.
It means some models they’ve produced are virtually identical, and the result is that, in some parts of the world, a car has a Suzuki badge. In contrast, the same vehicle in another country has a Toyota emblem instead.
The automakers are doubling up in some markets, though, resulting in two very similar cars ending up on the roads, including here in the United Kingdom.
The Toyota RAV4 and the Suzuki Across, for example, are more or less the same motor, too.
Now, two-and-a-half years after it launched, Suzuki has updated the Swace – although, unlike the Toyota Corolla, it only offers the estate version, not the hatchback.
The only real difference between the Swace and the Corolla, in terms of looks, is at the front end. But, even then, the contrast is incredibly subtle.
Like the Corolla, the Suzuki Swace isn’t likely to win any awards for its dazzling good looks, but it’s got enough personality in its design to win over customers.
It is appealing but in an understated way.
The most significant differences between the Toyota Corolla and the Suzuki Swace are found in the trim levels and engines.
Whereas four grades and two hybrid petrols are offered on the Corolla, the updated Swace now provides half the choice of Toyota: two trims and just one powertrain.
The entry-level Motion trim comes with a generous level of equipment, though.
As standard, you get 16-inch alloys, an eight-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay, wired Android Auto and a DAB radio. The car also vaunts a digital instrument cluster, LED exterior lights, roof rails, rear privacy glass, automatic headlights and wipers, a heated leather steering wheel and heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and keyless entry.
The Ultra grade adds Bi-LED projector headlights, front and rear parking sensors, ambient lighting, leather-trimmed upholstery and a wireless phone charger.
Thankfully, as far as power is concerned, it’s the higher-end system from the Corolla that makes its way into the Swace, offering up 140PS from its 1.8-litre petrol hybrid.
It is also a full hybrid, which means that it’s self-charging, so there’s no need to plug it in to replenish the batteries.
Given there’s only one powertrain offered compared with the Toyota Corolla’s choice of two, I’m relieved it’s the more potent one that Suzuki has gone for because the lower-powered unit isn’t quite up to the job.
Even the more muscular powerplant takes 9.4 seconds to get from 0-62mph, which is hardly extraordinary. But then, for the type of driver Suzuki is going for, it’s sufficiently satisfactory – and it’s reduced from 11.1 seconds in the old Swace model.
Indeed, the hybrid system is quite punchy and offers worthy acceleration off the line and at higher speeds. So, getting from 50 up to 70mph as you join a motorway isn’t likely to trouble it, for example.
At low speeds around town, the Swace can feel quite serene to drive with the engine off, as the electric motor can power the car on its own for short distances. However, the engine will join in when you ask for more clout from the accelerator pedal than the electric motor can provide on its own.
When the combustion unit does start contributing again, though, the transition is seamless and barely noticeable, unless you’re focusing your attention on it.
The engine can be noisy at speed, though, due to the higher-than-normal revs demanded by the CVT gearbox. And that produces something of a whiny drone at times.
A CVT is, essentially, adaptive – that means there’s only one gear which continually adjusts itself automatically to provide you with sufficient power, taking into account the speed you’re currently driving at.
Despite this, though, the Swace is better than expected.
Granted, it could be more fun to drive, and you will need to thrash it a little if you’re in a hurry. But if you’re the sort of dad who likes to thunder along, then you’ll likely not be looking to buy something like the Swace in the first place.
In terms of ride comfort, Suzuki (or should that be Toyota) has done an excellent job of blending an absorbing ride with engaging handling.
Okay, it’s no hot hatch, nor will it match BMW for its cornering prowess, but as journeys go, it does a civilised job of smoothing out imperfections in the road surface without feeling excessively bouncy.
After going over poorly maintained road surfaces, the ride quickly settles down again, and it retains a good level of absorption through the suspension no matter what you throw at it.
The steering is direct and offers a suitable amount of feedback, getting noticeably heavier as speeds increase.
That doesn’t mean the Swace is adept at being thrown around corners, but the lean in the bends is relatively well-controlled, given its reasonably large estate bodyshell.
The Suzuki will understeer if you push it too hard, and you’ll start to run out of tarmac. But if you keep it well within its limits, it’s pleasing, albeit not wildly entertaining, to drive.
There are three driving modes, too – Normal, Eco and Sport. These settings control the ferocity of the acceleration and even the extent to which the air conditioning is used, letting you choose whether to prioritise economy or performance.
The seat adjustment in the Suzuki Swace is entirely manual. So, it’s a case of pulling levers and sliding seats back and forth, up and down (but not side to side), until you find a position that you’re comfortable with.
That didn’t take me very long, plus there’s an appropriate amount of adjustment in the steering wheel to aid the process.
The seats are comfy, and adjustable lumbar support is offered as standard on both trims.
There is a good view out of the front, and although the rear pillars are quite a bit thicker, all Swace models come with a reversing camera as standard. But, as mentioned earlier, you only get parking sensors on the top-of-the-range Ultra grade.
If you’re on the tall side, you won’t fight for room in the front, which is spacious, offering plenty of shoulder room and legroom.
The rear is impressive, too, offering a courteous amount of headroom for even taller passengers, and although three adults sitting next to each other is a bit of a squeeze, it’s achievable.
There are many spaces to store belongings, too, with a good-sized glove compartment. But the door bins aren’t massive if you want to take drink bottles with you.
The Swace offers a broad and deep boot opening, with the cargo capacity measuring 596 litres, which expands to a quite extensive 1,606 litres with the rear seats down, which fold away in a 60:40 configuration.
This is similar to most of the Swace’s competitors, although the Skoda Octavia Estate offers more room. At the same time, the adjustable boot floor in the Suzuki adds more convenience if you need to get rid of the load lip to slide bigger or heavier objects in and out.
The Suzuki Swace has yet to be crash-tested by safety experts Euro NCAP, but the Toyota Corolla’s rating should give a reliable indication of how safe it is.
The Corolla scored a maximum five-star rating, earning a whopping 95% score for adult occupants, 84% for children and 77% for safety assists.
In the Swace, you get a rear-view camera, automatic emergency braking, dynamic radar cruise control and road sign assist, plus lane tracing assist with alert and steering assist, all as standard.
The Ultra grade adds blind spot monitoring, safe exit assist, rear cross-traffic alert, and the front and rear parking sensors, mentioned earlier.
So, guys, the Suzuki Swace is a surprisingly good family car, with decent if unremarkable performance, a comfortable ride and, for a vehicle that’s not engineered to be thrown about, it’s pretty good in the handling department, too.