BY BRIAN BYRNE
TOYOTA and Suzuki share a number of things, one of them being in the Top Ten by global production of their cars. Toyota is in first place with 2.5m units sold in the first quarter of this year. Suzuki is at number nine, with 727,000 units rolled out.
The two Japanese companies also share a number of technology agreements, and — like many other carmakers — even badge share individual models. That last makes sense — developing a car model is hugely expensive, and sharing those costs helps with the balance sheets of both sides.
For some years now, apart from its city Ignis and ageing but able supermini Swift, Suzuki has been concentrating in Europe on crossover-SUV models like the Vitara and S-Cross.
But there’s still a significant market for compact hatches and estates, and also Suzuki needed a model that would bring down its overall fleet CO2 in Europe or face emissions related penalties. So, in 2020 enter the Swace wagon — pronounced ‘Swacey’ — to its offerings. It became available in Ireland earlier this year.
The Swace is in fact a Corolla Tourer Sport hybrid. It is built on Toyota’s assembly line in the UK, and comes with minor changes to badging and interior ID elements. For buyers who prefer a proper estate car to a compact SUV — and there is a significant number — it makes a great deal of sense. Why someone would prefer a Suzuki badge than a Toyota one is open to interpretation, but it might be simply a matter of which dealership is closer, or, in Ireland an important matter, of knowing your local motor man or woman.
The Swace is a smart looker, low slung and in my review car coloured in a very dark metallic brown that looked almost black.
After a number of taller cars, it did indeed feel very low, but I got used to it. And I was able to bring my son to the airport along with his bicycle and case with no problems — he was returning to Germany after a cycle tour of the south-west with friends.
The interior is familiar to anyone who has driven a current Toyota, especially the Corolla. An understated styling across the dashboard, the 8-inch centre touch-screen that for my money is the best out there in that it is operated mainly by buttons and knobs.
The carmaker doesn’t try and fit every conceivable control and system on the screen, and only the essentials are there. I used it mainly with my iPhone, which gave me both good navigation and access to my favourite jazz music that I wouldn’t get through the normal radio services here.
The powertrain is Toyota’s 1.8 dedicated petrol-hybrid system, which gives a very smooth driving experience seamlessly changing or mixing between the motor and petrol engine. The CVT automatic has its own style of working, which I find makes for very relaxed driving. Consumption is rated at 4.4L/100km, though I only achieved 5.1L/100km because I was testing the hybrid experience in more extreme ways.
For instance, on a 120km/h full-on motorway drive between my home and Waterford, a distance of 119km, the EV element of the journey was just 3pc. Coming back through the hills and valleys of South Kilkenny, that ratio changed to being in EV mode 60pc of the time. This is where hybrids shine, in town and countryside driving.
The Swace is fully specced with driver assistance, including active cruise control and automatic dip headlights. It doesn’t have blind spot warning, which doesn’t bother me but might be an issue with some drivers.
My time with the car was one of those very enjoyable experiences where I took every opportunity to give it a spin. Can’t think of a better recommendation.
What I liked: The smooth experience and wagon styling.
Price: From €30,995.