CLONING in the car industry is not new but it's definitely better than it was.
There was extensive badge engineering across Midlands' factories between the 1950s and 1980s but with the disappearance of the British Leyland and Rootes groups that also ended swopping brands' models.
Until fairly recently anyway and in 2019 Toyota and Suzuki entered into an agreement to badge engineer models in the former's Derby car assembly plant.
The Suzuki Swace hybrid five-door mid-sized estate is the second recent model to join the Suzuki range from their partnership with Toyota which also manufacture the Across Plug-in-Hybrid SUV based on the latest RAV4 PHEV.
The Swace is derived from the Corolla Estate and it's good for UK exports as Suzuki GB will be annually exporting between 11,000 to 12,000-UK-built Swace vehicles to the EU.
There is no direct model-for-model comparison between the Toyota and Suzuki brands and the latter is much simpler with just the 120hp 1.8-litre hybrid powertrain, CVT auto gearbox and SZ-T and SZ5 specification levelsat £27,499 and £29,299 respectively. There is currently no 2.0 litre version as in the Toyota Corolla estate.
The two brands differ in warranty cover and the Suzuki versions don't have standard satnav but rely on a plug-in to the user's mobile phone and there're some minor trim and equipment differences.
So, there is a shaving of some equipment but possibly nothing to bother a prospective buyer saving a couple of thousand pounds in these tougher times.
Drive to the front wheels is through a CVT auto transmission and there are the usual Normal, Eco and Sport selectable driving modes plus EV Drive Mode which the driver selects for solely driving via the electric motor for short distances, especially suitable for use in residential areas early in the morning or late at night, or in garages and indoor cat parks if the traction battery is sufficiently charged.
During deceleration and braking the electric motor also uses the wheel rotation to generate electricity to recharge the lithium-ion battery positioned under the boot floor. There is no plug-in PHEV mains charging facility with this system and no such thing as range anxiety as with pure electric cars.
For those that tow the braked towing weight is only 750kg due to the weight of the hybrid components fitted, so worth remembering if you have a trailer.
Inside, the design is straight from the Toyota Corolla, with well positioned controls and a centrally positioned ‘floating' 8-inch touchscreen for using the radio and other functions.
It can be a fiddle to find the cable plug in for the phone to the left of console and under the fascia.
The centre console between the seats houses the cupholders and storage and the doors have adequate holders as well as storage.
Some of the spec additions the SZ5 level includes are smart door locking, intelligent park assist, front and rear parking sensors, BI-LED projector headlights, blind spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and centre console tray with a wireless phone charger.
The highly refined and sophisticated powertrain offers eco, normal or sporting modes and is seamless moving between them if you choose to manually select them.
Left to its own devices it will decide which is best for any throttle setting and despite a shorter than usual test for us through mostly urban roads it provided an overall consumption of 45mpg.
Nevertheless, we liked the refined engine and gearbox, the feel through the steering and well balanced brakes underfoot.
Ride was slightly firm but it soaked up bumps well even if you could hear it working away, the handling was failsafe even with a load aboard. It's an easy car to use and live with.
Visibility was good all round, access easy and seats very comfortable with reasonable adjustment range on the front pair.
I liked the wipers, good lights and generally low noise levels in the Swace SZ5.
The growing number of estate models now on sale will please many families who do not want the size of an MPV or SUV but still need room for bikes, pushchairs and backpacks.