Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9

The Suzuki Swace only comes in estate body style, and the engine available is Toyota's 1.8 hybrid

How can this left-field Suzuki estate measure up as a modern mid-sized family car, and why should you buy one over its almost identical twin, the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports? We’re going to spend half a year finding out.

Reports by Gareth Evans

Update 1: Welcome

Introducing the Suzuki Swace SZ5

I’m not going to beat around the bush here: this is going to be a curious long-term test. The car you’re looking at has an identity problem.

You see, underneath it’s actually a Corolla Touring Sports, built at Toyota’s factory in Derbyshire. The Swace is the product of a partnership between the two companies that also yielded the Suzuki Across and latest RAV4, which are also nearly identical.

The problem for the Swace is that Toyota’s dealer network is far larger, and while we’ve always had exceptional service at Suzuki’s, the Toyota/Lexus reputation for customer service is the envy of every other mainstream car maker.

Furthermore, even if you do have a Suzuki dealer nearby, the Corolla’s range offers two engine options to the Swace’s one. You can also order a hatchback version of the Corolla, while the Swace is estate only. There’s not even a compelling financial reason to buy one, because the Suzuki is more expensive than the Toyota spec for spec, and neither can match an equivalently appointed Skoda Octavia Estate with its significantly bigger boot - it measures 640 litres to the Swace's 596. There are only two trim levels with the Suzuki, too.

Other impressive rivals come in the form of estate versions of the Ford Focus, VW Golf, Vauxhall Astra and also the vast range of popular mid-size SUVs like the Nissan Qashqai and Kia’s Sportage.

The Suzuki Swace's boot isn't as big as a Skoda Octavia Estate's, but the 596 litres on offer is enough for most day-to-day chores

Practicalities out of the way, then, why buy one? Well, to this writer’s eyes at least, the Swace looks better than the Corolla. It’s the latter’s front end that does it for me: those sleek, futuristic-looking headlights seem to work better with the Suzuki face than the more plasticky Toyota.

Underneath the similarities are still obvious: the 1.8-litre mild hybrid powertrain has been developed by Toyota for decades, first appearing in the Prius in 1995 and now capable of eye-opening fuel economy and 99g/km CO2 emissions that slot the Swace/Corolla twins into a low company car band. You don’t get the option of the more powerful 2.0-litre unit in the Corolla’s line-up.

The Swace is based on Toyota’s TNGA platform, which we first tried in the C-HR SUV, meaning it’s way better to drive than you may expect, too. The steering is direct, the handling stable and approachable, and the cabin’s so quiet you can have a conversation at a whisper at 60mph.

Android Auto is a welcome addition to the Suzuki Swace's equipment list

And there’s no arguing with the amount of kit on offer. For your £29,299 on-the-road you may expect a range of useful accessories, but the Swace in SZ5 spec has nearly everything you could ever want. Wireless smartphone charging, heated front seats and steering wheel, self-parking, all the latest driver-assistance systems, and of course Android Auto and Apple CarPlay to provide all the multimedia entertainment you could ask for, displayed on a 7.0-inch touchscreen in the cabin.

However there are a few oddities here and there. First and foremost, that multimedia system doesn’t have sat-nav built in, meaning you need to use a smartphone connected via a USB cable in order to have a mapping function. That begs the question: why bother with the wireless charging?

It won’t work when the phone’s plugged in, so you’ll only use it when you’re not using CarPlay or Android Auto, but we use these systems all the time as they’re vastly more feature-rich than most manufacturers’ multimedia offerings. Wireless connectivity is the solution here, but sadly not offered by either Apple or Google at time of writing. The only optional extra here is the £600 silver paintjob.

I love all the physical buttons in the Suzuki Swace's cabin. It's so much better than having to navigate your way around a touchscreen

One thing I’m very glad to report about the Swace that really does endear it to me ahead of other firms’ cars is the way the controls are set out. There are dozens of physical buttons for things, rather than relying on the touchscreen to change settings such as heating or air-con. It means you can keep your eyes on the road and feel your way around the cabin to the buttons or knobs you’re after.

I’m also expecting impressive things from both the way this car drives, and potentially its fuel economy. The 1.8 petrol engine with its 53kW electric motor has a peak power output of 122hp, which isn’t going to set my trousers on fire, but my suspicion is that the claimed average fuel economy of 64.2mpg will be achievable, and that’ll mean it has a range of over 600 miles per tank. Fewer trips to filling stations can only be a good thing, can’t it?

I'll be keeping a close eye on the 7.0-inch colour LCD dash to see what fuel economy the Suzuki Swace is capable of

It’ll be interesting to see how often the car runs on electricity rather than petrol in order to do that. The official range of the tiny 3.6Ah battery is around nine miles, which isn’t a lot nowadays, but Suzuki (and Toyota) will tell you that’s not the whole story. It’s about how the car manages its power delivery between petrol and electric that should provide the results I’m after. Getting 60mpg+ from a car of this size previously meant you had to have a diesel, and I really didn’t want to go back down that road again if I didn’t have to.

So, it’s with a healthy dose of cynicism I begin half a year living with this curious Suzuki. Will it win me over with charm and capability, or will it be six months to forget? Stay tuned to find out...