2023 Suzuki Swace review

2023 Suzuki Swace

Suzuki’s hybrid estate has been updated for 2023, and it’s better than ever…

When the Swace was launched in 2021, it was the second fruit of a collaboration between Suzuki and Toyota. The first was the Across (a badge engineered Toyota RAV4 plug-in hybrid).

As you can see from the pictures, the Swace is a Suzuki-branded Toyota Corolla Touring Sports, and the pair are both manufactured at the Japanese giant’s plant at Burnaston, Derbyshire.

2023 Suzuki Swace

Fast forward two years and the Corolla and Swace have been treated to a mild makeover and technical upgrade.

The Swace’s refresh is subtle, to say the least. The front end has a slightly tweaked grille, lower bumper and headlight design, while there are new LED tail lights and a revised lower rear bumper which creates the illusion of twin exhausts.

The more significant changes are under the bonnet and technological.

2023 Suzuki Swace

As before, the Swace shares a 1.8-litre petrol hybrid engine with the Corolla. The updates, however, improve power by 15% from 118bhp to 138bhp, bringing the 0-62mph sprint down to 9.4 seconds, yet maintaining the car’s high fuel and emissions efficiency.

More importantly, it seems to have extended the Swace’s capacity for electric-only running (ie shutting down the petrol engine when coasting, braking and during low speed driving).

The green EV icon was lit up in the driver’s display much more than I expected, and once you get used to the hybrid system, you find yourself making a real effort to charge it up as much as possible via regenerative braking.

2023 Suzuki Swace

Officially, the Swace is capable of an impressive 62.7mpg, yet I managed a best of 71.5mpg and achieved an average of 54.5mpg without trying, while CO2 emissions are as low as 102g/km.

The extra power is noticeable and delivers a more rewarding drive. However, the Swace is still fitted with a CVT gearbox which puts you off more spirited jaunts because the revs soar if you’re heavy with your right foot, creating a temporary din in the cabin.

But don’t let that put you off. Best suited to a relaxed driving style, but it’s still a very clever and efficient full hybrid system which switches seamlessly between engine and electric power.

2023 Suzuki Swace

The Swace handles well too, with a smooth ride and controlled body roll in faster corners. There’s good overall grip, while the steering is light and precise.

There are also three drive modes – Eco, Normal and Sport. Normal provides the best balance between economy and performance, Eco is best for urban trips, while Sport sharpens up the throttle response for more adventurous runs.

Inside, the Swace offers space for five with enough head and legroom for six-footers in the back. What’s more, there’s 596 litres of boot space (expandable to 1,232 litres if you drop the back seats).

2023 Suzuki Swace

The interior’s only downside is that the Swace is fitted with Suzuki’s own 8.0-inch infotainment system in the centre console. Unless you hook it up to Apple CarPlay or Android Auto via your smartphone, it’s really only a radio/audio player, plus very limited vehicle info (ie trip/economy data) and no built-in sat nav.

More information and functionality can be found in the 7.0-inch digital driver’s display via the multi-function steering wheel, but it was a tad disappointing.

Elsewhere, materials and build quality are good, but nothing special.

2023 Suzuki Swace

Starting at £28,999, there are now just two well-equipped trim levels – Motion and Ultra.

Entry-level Motion includes heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a rear parking camera and Dynamic Radar Cruise control.

The new Ultra grade adds updated Bi-LED projector headlights, Safe Exit Assist, Smart Door locking, Front and Rear Park distance sensors, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross traffic Alert, interior ambient lighting, and a centre console tray with wireless charger.

2023 Suzuki Swace

Ultimately, it’s a close-run thing between the Swace and Corolla Touring Sports. The Suzuki’s a little cheaper, but the Toyota edges it on infotainment tech.

Both have a standard three-year/60,000 miles manufacturer warranty, but the Toyota’s can be extended to up to 10 years/100,000 miles if the car is serviced at a Toyota dealer. That said, Suzuki dealers have a superb reputation when it comes to customer service. So, swings and roundabouts.

Verdict: Sleek, safe, spacious, economical and easy to live with, the refreshed Suzuki Swace should definitely be on your shortlist if you’re in the market for an affordable family estate.

Suzuki Cars UK

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Audi Q4 e-tron review

We get behind the wheel of the Q4 e-tron – Audi’s entry-level, all-electric car…

Launched in 2021, the Audi Q4 e-tron battles it out in the hugely competitive mid-sized SUV sector.

Its many rivals include the Tesla Model Y, Kia EV6, BMW iX1, Mercedes-Benz EQB, Volvo XC40 Recharge and Polestar 2.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Priced from £51,325, it also competes with its Volkswagen Group cousins (they share the same platform) – the Skoda Enyaq and VW ID.5.

Available in both SUV and sleeker Sportback versions, the Q4 e-tron comes with a 76.6kWh battery and two power levels – the ’40’ (rear-wheel drive single electric motor) or the top-spec ’50’ quattro (two electric motors driving all four wheels).

The ’40’ delivers 201bhp and accelerates from 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds, while the ’50’ has 295bhp on tap and can hit 62mph in 6.2 seconds.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Both versions have a 135kW charge capacity, which can get you from 5% to 80% in as little 29 minutes. Like all EVs, it will also charge up overnight if you have a home wallbox.

Depending on body style and power output, the Q4 e-tron has a claimed range of 292 – 328 miles.

Naturally, the Q4 e-tron is generously equipped, but as ever with Audi, there’s still a lengthy list of options, plus three packs (Technology, Technology Pro and Safety Package Plus) in addition to the basic three trim levels (Sport, S Line and Black Edition).

Audi Q4 e-tron review

We road tested the Audi Q4 e-tron 50 quattro in S Line trim. Our car was a Sportback, which is mechanically identical to the more conventional SUV version, except for the sharply raked roofline for extra kerb appeal. Perhaps more importantly, its slippery body also delivers a slightly longer range.

Inside it’s very Audi. In other words, it’s a combination of top build quality, state-of-the-art tech, comfort and space.

As with all SUVs, there’s a high driving position, while the dashboard layout is refreshingly conventional with a user-friendly blend of 10.25-inch digital driver’s display, a 11.6-inch central touchscreen, separate (physical) climate controls and a multifunction steering wheel.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Audi’s infotainment system is as slick as ever. What’s more, it uses ‘haptic feedback’ (there’s a slight clicking sensation when you touch it), which is much better than the frustrating touch-sensitive system used by other VW Group brands such as Volkswagen and Seat.

Visibility is good and where there are deficiencies, the multitude of cameras and sensors make up for it. Oh, and kudos to Audi for sticking with a rear wiper, an essential missing from competitors such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5.

On the road, the Audi Q4 e-tron 50 quattro may not be as blisteringly fast in a straight line as some rivals, but it’s still swift enough for everyday driving.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

The ride is a tad stiff, but even so, it manages to stay comfortable and refined with very little wind and road noise making it into the cabin.

In fact, our test car – which was fitted with 20-inch wheels and optional adaptive suspension – only got caught out on poorer surfaces.

The Q4 disguises its weight well, for a fairly heavy car (more than two tonnes), thanks to a low centre of gravity, but also light and accurate steering with a reasonably tight turning circle. It’s only when stopping from speed that you sense how hard the brakes are working.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Push it on more challenging roads and it would be a stretch to call it the most engaging of drives, but at least it manages to remain relatively flat in faster corners, plus it grips well and traction is excellent.

There are various drive modes (Efficiency, Comfort, Auto, Dynamic and Individual) and selecting Dynamic does make it feel slightly sharper and more responsive, but that’s as far as it goes.

We also like the way you can also adjust the level of brake regeneration via the paddles on the steering wheel, plus there’s a B-mode on the gear selector, for maximising energy recuperation.

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Based on a week of mixed driving, we’d estimate our Q4 e-tron has a real-world range of around 270 miles. However, if you opt for the entry level model, your range is likely to be closer to 230 miles.

The Q4 e-tron’s interior is spacious and there’s enough room for six-footers to sit comfortably in the rear which isn’t always the case with sportier SUVs.

Add 535 litres of luggage space in the boot (15 litres more than the SUV version) and 1,460 litres with the rear seats folded, and it’s a very practical proposition.

Finally, and as with most modern EVs, the Q4 e-tron is loaded with the latest technology and solidly built, achieving a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP’s crash tests.

Verdict: Handsome, comfortable, practical and easy to drive, the Audi Q4 Sportback e-tron oozes badge appeal and is one of the best 100% electric SUVs in its sector.

Audi UK

Audi Q4 e-tron review

Smart #1 review

Smart #1 review

We get up to speed with the first of a new generation of Smart cars – the awkwardly-titled #1…

The Smart #1 compact SUV is the first fruit of a new joint venture between Mercedes-Benz and Chinese giant Geely, which also owns Volvo, Polestar and Lotus.

Sharing a platform with the upcoming Volvo EX30, the #1 (pronounced ‘hashtag one’) is a class act and about the same size as a MINI Countryman, Volkswagen ID.3 or Peugeot 2008.

Smart #1 review

Clearly a departure from the iconic city car, the Fortwo, the #1 is likely to transform Smart into a serious player in the EV sector.

Of course, it’s no stranger to electric vehicles. An EV version of the Fortwo was first introduced way back in 2008 and the Smart range has been 100% electric since 2019.

Already crowned Best Small SUV at 2023 What Car? EV Awards, the boldly styled #1 is distinctive, though its rear has a hint of a scaled down Mercedes-Benz EQB.

Smart #1 review

There’s also plenty of scope for personalisation with a wide range of colour and ‘floating’ roof colour combinations.

The clever design continues inside the surprisingly spacious cabin where there’s a quality, slightly quirky feel, and it’s loaded with tech.

As is the trend (unfortunately), the Smart #1 is minimalist up front with just about everything controlled via the 12.8-inch central infotainment screen (Apple CarPlay is integrated, but Android Auto is yet to come).

Smart #1 review

Additionally, all Smart #1s also get a slim 9.2-inch driver’s digital instrument cluster for info such as speed, plus a head-up display is also available on more expensive models.

Thankfully, there are useful shortcuts along the bottom of the main touchscreen, for essentials such as climate control, but you can’t even adjust the wing mirrors without having to access the touchscreen.

On the plus side, the menu structure is intuitive and the screen is responsive. What’s more, the system will save your profile, so it will remember your individual settings every time you drive the car.

Smart #1 review

Personalising settings takes a while, but once you switched off irritating things like Driver Exhaustion Alert, Steering Wheel Re-Centring and Lane Assist, you’re well on your way.

Oh, and there’s also an animated fox lurking on the infotainment screen. It’s a fun face for the voice assistant, and you’ll either find it cute or annoying.

Awarded a maximum five stars in crash testing by Euro NCAP, the #1 is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance systems.

Smart says the #1 has the same interior space as a Mercedes-Benz E-Class, and I don’t doubt it for a moment. There’s plenty of head and leg room throughout and the 60:40 split rear seats recline and slide backwards and forwards.

Smart #1 review

Boot capacity is not best-in-class, ranging between 273 – 411 litres (up to 986 litres with the rear seats flipped), though there is a tiny 15-litre ‘frunk’ under the bonnet.

Competitively priced from £35,950, there are two Smart #1 specs (Pro and Premium) and both get a 66kWh battery pack and a 268bhp motor that drives the rear wheels with 253lb-ft of torque.

Pro models get a reasonable 260-mile range, while Premium is capable of up to 273 miles thanks to the addition of a heat pump and other tech tweaks.

Smart #1 review

Both accelerate from 0-62mph in just 6.7 seconds, while 150kW charging speed means a 10-80% top-up takes as little as 30 minutes.

The Smart #1 is rapid enough as it is, but if you want serious performance, then opt for the range-topping Brabus #1.

Starting at £43,450, this hot all-wheel drive version gets an extra electric motor, develops a huge 422bhp and is capable of 0-62mph in a savagely fast 3.9 seconds. The downside is that the range in the heavier Brabus #1 drops to 248 miles.

Smart #1 review

We tested the Smart #1 Premium and it’s swift, smooth and refined with some of the best road manners in its class. The ride is on the firm side, but it still manages to iron out all but the poorest of surfaces, while wind and road noise are well contained.

Staying surprisingly flat in faster corners, it hides its 1,800kg weight well. Grip levels are impressive too, though it could get a little playful if you floor it in the wet.

It feels especially agile in town, and thanks to a tight turning circle of 11 metres and good visibility, it’s easy to manoeuvre.

Smart #1 review

The Smart #1 is fun on faster, twisty roads, but at its best cruising smoothly.

You can choose between three driving modes – Eco, Comfort and Sport. As ever, Comfort is best for everyday driving. In fact, only throttle response, steering weight and the regenerative brake level are altered anyway.

Like many EVs, the brakes aren’t the most progressive, and the brake regen was a tad fierce for my liking.

Talking of gripes, the driving position is on the high side, but then that’s generally the case with SUVs – particularly electric ones with a battery pack underneath.

Smart #1 review

It’s hard to assess the Smart #1’s real-world range based on a day of driving, but it held its charge well and at least 200 miles would be a reasonable expectation – maybe closer to 240-250 miles in the city.

So, while it may not have a 300-mile range, it’s quick to charge, which means that longer journeys are still a realistic proposition. That said, I suspect the majority of #1s will spend most of their time in urban environments anyway.

Finally, the Smart #1 comes with a three-year unlimited mileage warranty, plus an Integrated Service Package which includes maintenance and MOT, and vehicle wear and tear items for three years/30,000 miles.

Verdict: The Smart #1 small SUV is one of our favourite EVs in the £35-£40,000 price bracket. Swift, spacious and safe, it has a classy, funky feel and delivers an engaging drive.

Smart UK

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

Volkswagen’s bestselling EV in the UK has had an update for 2023 – we drive the new, improved ID.3…

The VW ID.3 electric hatchback has been treated to a mild makeover and tech update, despite only being launched in 2020.

Volkswagen has listened to feedback (some of it lukewarm) and acted on it swiftly. The result is a more mature proposition.

Crucially, the changes will also keep the car competitive in the ever-increasing EV family hatch sector, where rivals include the ID.3’s VW Group cousin, the Cupra Born, plus the MG4, Nissan Leaf, Renault Megane E-Tech Electric, Vauxhall Astra Electric and Peugeot e-308.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

The ID.3’s exterior styling tweaks are subtle, to say the least. The front now features a longer-looking bonnet as a result of the removal of the black strip beneath the windscreen, plus larger air intakes. The honeycomb effect on the bumper has also gone and LED headlights are now standard.

Badging along the side of the car, plus decals on the rear pillar, have vanished too, resulting in cleaner lines, while the rear light cluster is tweaked and it has a distinctive X-shaped light signature.

The cabin has had an upgrade too. There are now more soft-touch surfaces, while the seat covers and door trims use fabric made of 71% recycled materials.

Finally, the infotainment system (one of the original ID.3’s biggest issues), has improved software and can now be updated over-the-air.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

The menu structure is clearer and it seemed slicker and more responsive on our test drives. Even the controversial touch-sensitive sliders at the bottom of the touchscreen and on the steering wheel worked better.

Sadly, UK buyers will have to wait until 2024 for the new, larger 12.9-inch central screen, which benefits from backlit climate and volume controls – one of the big criticisms of the original car.

There’s also a more intelligent route planner for the sat nav (which schedules charging stops more effectively on longer journeys), improved voice control and an impressive augmented reality head-up display which projects directions from the sat nav onto the road ahead.

Mechanically, the rear-wheel drive ID.3 is much the same, so there’s still a choice of two batteries – 58kWh in the Pro and 77kWh in the Pro S, delivering ranges of up to 266 miles and 347 miles respectively.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

Priced from £37,115, both develop 204bhp, though the Pro accelerates a tad quicker to 62mph (7.4 vs 7.9 seconds).

Another change is that the ID.3’s charging capacity has been uprated. So, the Pros S can be charged from 5-80% within 30 minutes at speeds of up to 170kW, while the Pro takes 35 minutes with a charging capacity of up to 120kW.

The revised ID.3 is no different to the “first generation” model on the road, which means that it’s competent and assured.

It’s no Golf in the handling department and is unlikely to put a smile on your face like some EVs, but it’s easy to drive and a refined cruiser.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

It’s also good in the city with decent all-round visibility, light steering and a tight turning circle of just 10.2 metres.

There’s also plenty of grip and it smoothed out poorer road surfaces well, but it’s not at its happiest when hustled on more demanding roads.

There are three drive modes (Eco, Comfort and Sport), but the reality is that the ID.3 is all about comfort and extracting maximum miles from a charge.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

Frankly, there’s not much between the Pro and Pros S, other than range. If anything, the 58kWh Pro S is a tad more nimble, but ultimately, the ID.3 still lacks the driving engagement of some rivals.

So, there aren’t many gripes with the improved ID.3. The brake pedal still has a relatively long travel, which takes a bit of getting used to, and paddles or buttons behind the steering wheel to adjust the brake generation level would be a bonus.

And the ID.3 can’t be faulted when it comes to space inside the cabin where there’s plenty front and rear, while the boot has a healthy 385-litre capacity, rising to 1,267 litres with the back seats flipped down.

2023 Volkswagen ID.3 review

It’s safe too, boasting a maximum five stars from Euro NACAP. The ID.3 has all the latest safety and driver assistance systems. And new for 2023 is Travel Assist, which helps keep your vehicle in its lane, keeps its distance from the vehicle in front and maintain your pre-defined speed.

Verdict: The updated Volkswagen ID.3 is a welcome improvement. Safe, spacious, refined and a doddle to drive, it’s a sensible electric hatchback choice with a good range.

Volkswagen UK

Abarth 500e review

Abarth 500e review

Is the Abarth 500e a proper electric pocket rocket? We get behind the wheel to find out…

If you’ve ever driven or heard one of the Abarth-tuned Fiat 500s over the years, you’ll know that they are cars that bombard the senses.

Not only do they look suitably sporty, they drive like go-karts and the aggressive exhaust note is like no other small car on the road.

Abarth 500e review

Offered as a hatch or convertible (more like a cabio), the Abarth 500e is the brand’s first fully electric car.

Priced from £34,195 and based on the Fiat 500e city car, the Abarth version certainly looks the part.

Up front there’s a deeper front bumper, there are bigger side skirts and wider wheel arches down the side, while a large roof spoiler and meaty bumpers adorn the rear.

Abarth 500e review

Thanks to a wider track and lower sports suspension, the Abarth 500e’s stance is more athletic too.

Then to top it off, there’s a choice of five colours, each with cool names – Antidote White, Venom Black, Adrenaline Red, Acid Green and Poison Blue (the latter two are especially vibrant), plus a smattering of scorpion badging.

Inside there’s a new flat-bottomed three-spoke steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara, plus sports seats. You also get the same (much improved) 10.25-inch touchscreen from the flagship 500e as standard (featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), plus a 7.0-inch digital driver’s display.

Abarth 500e review

I tested the top-of-the-range Turismo model in both hatch and soft-top body styles. The driving position is (thankfully) lower than the Fiat 500e, while the body-hugging seats are comfortable and supportive.

Underneath the Abarth’s pumped-up bodywork you’ll find the same 42.2kWh battery that powers the standard Fiat 500e, though it is now paired with a more powerful 152bhp electric motor driving the front wheels.

However, the first surprise is that it’s swift rather than blisteringly fast off the line, unlike some other EVs. With a 0-62mph time of 7.0 seconds, it’s only a fraction quicker than a petrol Abarth 595, though instant torque makes it feel faster because it’s also a second faster from 25-37mph.

Abarth 500e review

The downside of this power boost is that the Abarth’s takes a hit compared to the Fiat 500e, which on paper can manage up to 199 miles on a full charge.

For the record, the hatch has a 164-mile range, while the cabrio is up to 157 miles. In other words, the Abarth 500e is very much in urban territory, along with other EV rivals including the MINI Electric, Honda e and Mazda MX-30.

Just like the Fiat 500e, the Abarth can charge at up to 85kW, meaning you can top up 80% in 35 minutes, or in other words, you can add around 25 miles of range in five minutes.

Abarth 500e review

Don’t get me wrong, I like the Fiat 500e, but for me its weakest point is that it’s not quite as agile as it looks when pushed, so how does the Abarth stack up on the road?

Well, it certainly goes a long way to sort that issue. For instance, there’s sharper steering, which makes the car turn in more keenly.

The ride is on the firm side, but don’t worry, it’s not anywhere near as bad as Abarth 595/695s of old that used to crash over potholes.

Abarth 500e review

For the most part, the Abarth 500e feels composed, there’s plenty of grip, and body lean is kept in check on more challenging roads.

The brakes are effective, if slightly aggressive at times (unusually for reasonably-priced EV, it has discs all round). Go for it on faster, twisty roads and you’ll have the confidence to push on.

You can also choose from three drive modes – Turismo, Scorpion Street and Scorpion Track. The first is more comfort-orientated, limiting power and delivering more regenerative braking via one-pedal driving around town. Scorpion Street keeps the regen but adds full power, while Track is all about performance.

Abarth 500e review

Personally, I found the regenerative braking a tad too fierce. What’s more, the settings only change with the drive mode, so there are no paddles behind the steering wheel to adjust the regen, which always work better.

Overall, the Abarth 500e is settled and predictable, but I’d stop short of calling it thrilling.

For now, my benchmark urban hot hatch remains the road-going go-kart that is the MINI Electric.

Abarth 500e review

However, there’s one area where the Abarth 500e beats its rivals hands down. Its party piece is a sound generator which reproduces the exhaust note of a petrol-powered Abarth.

More than 6,000 hours was spent analysing and creating the perfect sound, and the end result certainly adds to the fun aesthetic of the car.

Unfortunately, the novelty wears off on longer runs and it’s more relaxing to switch off the drone (which sounds like an engine stuck in third gear) and enjoy the refinement that only an EV can offer.

Abarth 500e - Gareth Herincx

Irritatingly, you can only disengage it via the fiddly digital driver’s display – and the car has to be stationary. Apparently, Abarth is already looking into ways to make the process easier.

From a practicality point of view, the Abarth 500e is a mixed bag. Fantastic though the front seats are, they are bulkier than the Fiat’s and eat further into the already tight rear space. All but the smallest children would struggle to sit in the back.

Luggage capacity is limited too. There’s just 185 litres with the rear seats up, or 550 litres with them folded down. And on a personal note, I found I couldn’t rest my left foot comfortably.

Abarth 500e review

There’s virtually no difference between the hatch and convertible on the road, despite the latter being a tad heavier (25kg).

The slick electric hood mechanism can be opened and closed on the move, and apart from a slight loss of cabin refinement, it’s much the same as the hatchback.

Verdict: The Abarth 500e is an entertaining EV debut from Fiat’s sporty sister brand. There’s definitely still space for a hotter version, but for now this swift urban runabout offers a fun blend of good looks, driver engagement and everyday comfort.

Abarth Cars UK