Suzuki Swace vs Skoda Octavia Estate

The new Suzuki Swace goes up against one of the best estates on sale - the Skoda Octavia Estate

While family car buyers focused on style can’t help but turn towards an SUV, those on the hunt for practicality above all else will still be hard pressed to look past a traditional estate. Making the most of the space on offer while driving much the same as the hatchbacks on which they’re based, the best family estates deliver huge load capacities without the need for a vast footprint or lofty ride height, and there’s a new contender in the form of the Suzuki Swace.

Hybrid tech is a key selling point and the Swace shows that Suzuki wants to grow beyond its range of small cars and SUVs. It’s entering the estate class with low emissions and the promise of impressive load- carrying capacity. But this is an area of the market that Skoda has nailed in recent years. Estate versions of the Superb and the Octavia have helped the Czech brand to corner this pragmatic section of the market, and it’s the second of those two cars that we’re testing here. 

The Octavia Estate is now in its fourth generation, and it promises to be more technologically advanced than ever, yet Skoda hasn’t lost focus on its practical appeal, either. Electrified powertrains have become more common to help reduce fuel bills, and here we’re trying a new mild-hybrid petrol model. 

Suzuki Swace

Model:Suzuki Swace SZ5
Price: £29,299
Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl hybrid, 120bhp 
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Test economy: 49.9mpg/11.0mpl 
CO2: 103g/km 
Annual road tax: £150

The Suzuki Swace is a newcomer to the estate car class, although its Toyota origins make it quite a familiar prospect, as we’ll see. This top-spec SZ5 trim costs from £29,299, but Suzuki currently offers a hefty £3,000 discount for the Swace range, dropping that figure to a more-competitive £26,299.

Design & engineering

You can be forgiven for looking at the Swace and feeling a hint of déjà vu. That styling is familiar for good reason: this is the second rebadged Toyota to join the Suzuki range, following on from the RAV4-derived Across SUV. The Swace is based on the Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, so is therefore built here in the UK. 

As a Suzuki, it gets a new front bumper, but that’s as far as the big changes go. Hybrid badges along the flanks are in Toyota’s typeface, while Suzuki’s ‘S’ logo on the boot looks suspiciously like it’s been glued on top of the Toyota badge.

The same story continues inside. We have no complaints about that, because that means Swace owners get a well finished, comfortable cabin.

Under the skin, the Swace rides on Toyota’s TNGA platform, which accommodates a 1.8-litre petrol engine and an electric motor for a total of 120bhp. The engine, e-motor and power electronics are situated at the front of the car, while the hybrid battery and fuel tank are located at the rear. Just like the Octavia Estate, the Swace uses MacPherson-strut front suspension. However, there’s a more sophisticated double- wishbone set-up at the back of the Swace, in contrast to the Skoda’s torsion-bar arrangement.

Driving

Toyota has been investing in hybrids longer than any other manufacturer, and the Swace has reaped the benefits of using one of the slickest hybrid systems on the market. At low speeds, the Swace operates smoothly and near-silently in EV mode; when more power is needed the petrol engine wakes up. But under hard acceleration or on long inclines the engine can become loud and droney due to the nature of the CVT gearbox, which is one area where the Octavia Estate is superior.

Thanks to the modestly sized 16-inch wheels and the generous tyre sidewalls, the Swace rides smoothly. Light, precise steering means that it’s easy to drive around town, and all-round visibility is fine. The Suzuki feels marginally sharper than the Skoda in corners, but it doesn’t feel quite as planted cruising at higher speed, yet it’s still safe and reassuring.

Practicality

Taken in isolation, the Swace is a very practical, very spacious car. However, put it beside the Octavia Estate, and the Suzuki can’t match the roomiest in its class.

The Swace’s 596-litre boot is large and well shaped, and the rear bumper doesn’t sit too far proud of the low opening, which minimises the risk of damaging the paint when trying to load large or heavy items into the back. The space is shaped to the inner edges of the rear wheelarches, giving a large, square floor area with vertical sides, and there are two deep pockets to either side behind the arches. Under-floor storage looks large enough to house a spare wheel, but you don’t get one with the Suzuki, while Skoda offers a spare as a £185 option.

What the Swace does have in common with the Octavia is a pair of levers that make it easier to fold the 60:40-split rear bench. Flick these and the seat backs fold completely flat, so the Suzuki scores points over the Skoda here. But while the 1,232-litre volume is generous, it’s short of its rival’s 1,700-litre capacity.

It’s a similar story for passengers, where the Suzuki will prove to be perfectly roomy enough for most people, but the Skoda is better still. Rear head and, particularly, legroom trail, while the cabin lacks the smart touches that highlight the thought invested into the Skoda’s design. Both the Octavia and the Swace have Isofix child-seat mountings that are easily accessible behind plastic covers.

Ownership

Given its underpinnings, it’s reasonable to assume the Swace should perform similarly to the near-identical Toyota Corolla. That’s promising, because the Corolla finished a brilliant seventh place overall in our Driver Power 2020 survey of the best models to live with; it was one of the most reliable cars surveyed.

Euro NCAP hasn’t specifically tested the Suzuki Swace, but once again it’s possible to use the Corolla as an accurate barometer. As with the Driver Power rankings, the news is good: the Corolla achieved a five-star score after its Euro NCAP assessment. 

The only point against the Swace is that, while Toyota offers a five-year/100,000-mile warranty on the Corolla, Suzuki provides a five-year/60,000-mile package of cover for the hybrid system, and only three years’ warranty for the rest of the car. 

Running costs

Predictably, the Suzuki’s hybrid powertrain makes it a cheap car to run. We averaged just under 50mpg, although this included a significant amount of motorway miles. With more urban driving, where the electrical assistance has an even greater positive impact on fuel economy, it would not be unreasonable to expect the Swace’s return to creep up towards the official WLTP figure of 64.2mpg.

Further, CO2 emissions of 103g/km mean that the Suzuki compares favourably with the Skoda’s 113g/km official figure. 

However, the Suzuki’s higher purchase price means that, for company car users, the Skoda will still be the cheaper car to run. For a lower-rate earner, the Octavia in the spec tested here will cost £1,360 per year in Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) taxation, while the Swace is £1,455 annually. Go for the Swace in the entry-level SZT trim, however, and there’s only £5 in it, although that’s still in the Skoda’s favour.

Testers’ notes

“Among its switchable driving modes, the Swace has an EV setting. With enough charge in the battery, it’s possible to travel in fully electric mode for short distances.”

Skoda Octavia Estate

Model:Skoda Octavia Estate 1.0 TSI e-Tech SE Technology
Price: £24,510
Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl turbo, 108bhp 
0-62mph: 10.6 seconds
Test economy: 44.2mpg/9.7mpl 
CO2: 118g/km
Annual road tax: £180

The Skoda Octavia bagged our 2020 Car of the Year award, with the Estate taking the Estate car class victory. Here, we’re driving it in SE Technology spec, powered by a 1.0-litre mild-hybrid engine paired with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox. It’s priced from £24,510, while our test car adds a driver-fatigue monitor (£45), metallic paint (£595) and a space-saver spare wheel (£185).

Design & engineering

The latest Skoda Octavia has a near-identical length and wheelbase to the model it replaces. Most of the similarities end there, though, because the cosmetics, in-car technology plus many of the powertrains have taken a massive leap forward for the Mk4.

It feels plusher than ever inside, with the use of soft-touch materials and the two-spoke steering wheel arguably giving the Octavia a more upmarket feel than the current Volkswagen Golf

The 48-volt mild-hybrid powertrains are new to the range, including the 1.0-litre petrol MHEV tested here. The system combines a small battery with a starter/generator unit, which recovers energy that would otherwise be wasted when coasting. This then sends a small boost to the wheels under acceleration to reduce load (and therefore fuel consumption) on the combustion engine. 

Unlike the Suzuki, it can’t run only on electric power alone, but the electrical system does mean that the engine can switch off through a special coasting function at higher speeds or under low loads to further improve fuel efficiency.

Driving

The driving experience might not be at the top of the list of priorities for a hybrid-estate buyer. All that really matters here is that both the Octavia and the Swace go, stop, ride and handle with competence. 

The Skoda feels the more substantial of the two, thanks mainly to its excellent stability at speed, and it does a better job than the Suzuki of filtering out road noise and bad surfaces when on the move. 

While the 1.0-litre petrol engine is a familiar VW Group unit, it now benefits from mild-hybrid assistance. Of all the systems we’ve experienced, it’s one of the keenest to operate, dipping the revs or shutting down the engine altogether when coasting or coming to a stop. The engine re-engages so quickly and smoothly that you barely notice it cutting in and out, so refinement is a strong point.  

A 10.6-second 0-62mph time means that the Skoda is half a second faster than the Swace, but it’s the 200Nm peak torque from 2,000-3,000rpm that makes the Octavia feel the more muscular option.

Practicality

The Skoda Octavia can claim to be the most spacious car in its class, and one of the roomiest of any estate in general. However, its usability goes deeper than plain figures, because the Octavia is loaded with smart, versatile touches. Take the door-mounted umbrella, for example, or an ice scraper that also functions as a tyre-tread depth gauge. The small ticket clip in the front windscreen is a neat idea, too, and all four door pockets are deep. 

Passenger space is vast, with legroom a particular highlight; while the Swace is fairly accommodating in this area, the Skoda is noticeably more generous. Headroom is great, too; the Estate’s taller roofline provides 15mm more space for passengers than the Octavia hatchback. The centre rear seat is wider than the Suzuki’s as well, further boosting practicality. 

Opt for Skoda’s £195 ‘Simply Clever’ pack, and you gain extra storage beneath the front seats, door edge protectors, and a 12-volt socket in the boot; the latter accessory is not available to Swace buyers.

The boot itself is enormous. At 640 litres, the Octavia matches the physically larger Mercedes E-Class Estate, meaning that there’s very little that the Skoda will struggle to swallow. It’s a well shaped opening too, with the rear hatch extending to the outer edges of the floor, helping access. 

Although the rear seats don’t quite fold flat – a process aided by two levers located in the boot – the 1,700-litre total volume is 468 litres larger than its rival’s. The gulf between the two in both passenger and boot space is all the more impressive given that the Skoda is only 34mm longer and 39mm wider than the Suzuki.

Ownership

A strong Euro NCAP showing saw the Octavia achieve a maximum five-star rating. Seven airbags are standard, as is lane-keep assist and a forward collision warning system with emergency braking. Crew Protect Assist, which on sensing an impact closes all the car’s windows and the sunroof to protect the passengers from debris, is available as an option.

The Octavia, and the Skoda brand in general, regularly score highly in our annual Driver Power satisfaction survey. In 2020 the firm finished fifth out of 30 overall in the manufacturers’ category, and an above-average 11th place out of 25 for its dealers, shows that buying and living with a Skoda is an experience that its owners are happy with on the whole. In comparison, Suzuki ranked 17th out of 30 as a manufacturer. But the brand’s cars were ranked as the cheapest to run of any brand in our survey.

Running costs

During our time with the Octavia, we averaged 44.2mpg, which isn’t a bad return from a big estate car with a relatively modest petrol engine. The mild-hybrid system certainly played a part here, but the engine proves to be a very frugal choice on motorways, too. 

Overall the Suzuki Swace was around 6mpg more efficient than its competitor in this test, which means that over 20,000 miles you can expect to pay £298 less to fuel the Suzuki, with the Swace costing £2,316 at the pumps and the Octavia £2,614.

Testers’ notes

“Find it hard to keep your car tidy? As part of the £130 Interior Pack, Skoda includes a small waste bin that fits in the driver’s door pocket. The pack also adds folding tables for back-seat passengers.”

Verdict

First place: Skoda Octavia Estate

The number one priority for any estate car is how much space it offers. In this regard, the Skoda Octavia is one of the best at any price, while a range of clever features only enhances its usability. That it also drives well, has a great cabin, plus a strong and frugal engine, and is affordable to buy only cements its position as the class leader. As a family car, the Skoda Octavia Estate is very nearly flawless. 

Second place: Suzuki Swace

Suzuki has made a great decision by choosing to draw on Toyota’s expertise, because the Swace is a very dependable and frugal car. The ownership experience should be painless, and the current discounts gain it an extra half star over our first drive rating. Good though it is, it just can’t match the Skoda’s vast load space or impressive refinement, so must settle for second best here.

Also consider...

MG MG5

  • New: MG5 EV Exclusive
  • Price: £27,595 
  • Engine: single e-motor, 154bhp

If you want to make the switch to electric, then the estate choice is slim. But the MG5 looks a bit of a bargain. It has a 578-litre boot, a 214-mile range and smooth, silent drive from a 154bhp motor for £27,595. The entry-level Excite trim costs £2,500 less.

Mercedes E-Class Estate

  • Used: Mercedes E 220 d AMG Line Estate
  • Price: £27,000 
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl diesel, 191bhp

With its 640-litre boot, the E-Class is one of the few estates that can compete with the Octavia’s practicality. It doesn’t take a long search of the classifieds to find a bargain; for less than the price of the Swace, you can pick up a smart 18-month-old diesel with fewer than 5,000 miles on the clock.

Figures

 Skoda Octavia 1.0 TSI 110 e-TEC DSG SE Tech Est.Suzuki Swace SZ5
On the road price/total as tested£24,510/£25,335£29,299/£30,199
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000)£11,049/45.1%£14,374/49.1%
Depreciation£13,461£14,925
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£1,360/£2,720£1,455/£2,909
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,569/£2,614£1,389/£2,316
Ins. group/quote/VED12/£407/£18021/£514/£150
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service£16.50pm (2yrs)£129/£199/£279
Length/wheelbase4,689/2,686mm4,655/2,700mm
Height/width1,468/1,829mm1,460/1,790mm
Engine3cyl in-line/999cc4cyl/1,798cc + e-motor
Peak power/revs 108/5,500 bhp/rpm120/5,200 bhp/rpm
Peak torque/revs 200/2,000 Nm/rpm142/3,600 Nm/rpm#
Transmission 7-spd auto/fwdCVT auto/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel47 litres/£18543 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down)640/1,700 litres596/1,232 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight1,341/512/1,300kg1,420/415/750kg
Turning circle10 metres10.1 metres
Basic warranty/recovery3yrs (60,000)/3yrs 3yrs (60,000)/1yr
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.5th/11th17th/N/A
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/stars92/88/73/79/5N/A
0-62mph/top speed10.6 secs/124mph11.1 secs/112mph
Auto Express econ. (mpg/mpl)/range44.2/9.7/457 miles49.9/11.0/472 miles
WLTP combined 54.3mpg64.2mpg
WLTP combined 11.9mpl14.1mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket148/118g/km/28%131/103g/km/25%
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/cam.Seven/Yes/F&R/£605*Seven/Yes/F&R/Yes
Auto box/lane keep/blindspot/AEBYes/Yes/No/YesYes/Yes/Yes/Yes
Clim./cruise ctrl/leather/heated seatsYes/Yes/No/£435Yes/Adaptive/No/Yes
Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate£595/Yes/Yes/£680£900/Yes/Yes/No
Nav/digi dash/DAB/connect servicesYes/Yes/Yes/YesNo/Yes/Yes/No
Wireless charge/CarPlay/Android AutoYes/Wireless/YesYes/Yes/Yes

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