COLLABORATIONS between car manufacturers are becoming the norm these days and the Suzuki Swace is the second new model to be launched under the business alliance with Toyota.
It comes hot on the heels of the Suzuki Across which was a slightly reworked Toyota RAV4 and the Swace is based heavily on the Toyota Corolla Hybrid Estate with a Suzuki signature front end.
The five-door model is manufactured here in the UK and is available in two well equipped trim levels called SZ-T and SZ5 costing £27,499 and £29,299 respectively. There is a £3,000 reduction on both models until the end of June.
There is just one engine powering the Swace, a punchy 1.8-litre four cylinder petrol unit with a power output of 102ps. The electric motor delivers 53kW and 163Nm of torque to produce a combined 122hp which translates into a 0-62mph sprint time of 11.1 seconds and top speed of 112mph.
The car has a CVT transmission, but can be driven in EV-only mode over fairly short distances and has impressive fuel efficiency with a combined 64.2mpg and carbon emissions of 103g/km.
When it comes to the design, it is a Toyota Corolla with some Suzuki tweaks, including the company's signature grille and fog lamp bezels along with Suzuki badging. These complement the streamlined styling of the car with its rear privacy glass, rear spoiler, roof rails and 16-inch alloy wheels.
Move inside and there is a wealth of on-board kit to explore - all of which will be familiar to anyone who has driven the latest Toyota Corolla. There is an eight-inch multi-media touchscreen with full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is really handy as neither Swace models come with sat nav.
Additional creature comforts in the SZ-T version include dual-zone automatic air conditioning, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, a rearview parking camera, seven airbags and pre-collision braking system. There are USB sockets, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system.
Move up to the SZ5 and you gain smart door locking, simple intelligent park assist with front and rear sensors, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert and a centre console tray with wireless charger.
There is an upmarket, clutter-free feel to the Swace with ambient lighting and a rather clever S-FLOW air conditioning system with occupant detection whereby the air con is not activated where it is not needed.
Unlike the Corolla, which is also available in hatchback, saloon and touring styling and with a choice of powertrain systems, the Swace is simply on sale in estate guise with just the 1.8-litre engine. But that's not a bad thing as it means customers are not faced with a decision overload.
And the hybrid system works really well. Admittedly, it's not the fastest estate car out there, but the high-end SZ5 version we drove was certainly exceptionally comfortable and very pleasant to drive with excellent all-round driver visibility.
It quietly weaves its way through the congested town centre traffic with plenty of agility and those cameras and sensors make light work of parking. There is ample grunt to eat up the motorway miles cruising at the national speed limit. And it copes well with the open country lanes, although the CVT box does get a little vocal under harder acceleration.
The petrol engine cuts in seamlessly working perfectly in tandem with the electric motor and there are drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the characteristics of the car's performance.
The road holding is confident and the steering is nicely weighted. Maybe, it's not that exciting to drive, but it is enjoyable and the car offers plenty of estate practicality with space for four adults (five at a bit of a squeeze).
The boot can swallow 596 litres of kit, a limit increases that to 1,232 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat and elsewhere there is a cubby box, front cup holders with two rear ones in the fold-down armrest, door bins and a lockable glovebox.
The level of safety kit impresses on the car with the likes of lane departure warning, vehicle sway warning, steering assist, automatic high beam, hill hold control, Isofix fixtures, dynamic radar cruise control and plenty more besides.
All in all, the Suzuki Swace is a great addition to the popular car maker's line-up and further proof that these collaborations really do work. And when you factor in the low CO2 figure with its great tax breaks to the fleet driver, along with excellent fuel economy, the Swace has plenty of all-round appeal for business and private owners alike.