Who knew, Suzi
Old name, new car. Priced from $22,990 drive-away, the Baleno is not a replacement for Swift but is slightly larger. Fit and finish are good but hard plastic dominates and they’ve cut corners in places — the boot, though much larger than in the Swift, in particular looks cheap. Standard are LED headlights, alloys, auto lights, cruise control and satnav. There is Apple CarPlay but no Android support yet. Spare is a spacesaver. Three-year/100,000km warranty. Service costs $1458 for three years/60,000km.
Built in India, the Baleno is comfortable with good outward vision. There is ample legroom but not a lot of rear headroom due to the elevated seating position. The steering wheel adjusts for height and reach and the driver’s seat for height. Controls are easy to use but centre console box is tiny and the instrument array is cluttered and overly busy. Ride quality is excellent on smooth roads and it feels exceptionally quiet inside for a car this size — but a lack of local tuning shows on back roads where the bumps jar.
No rating from ANCAP yet but there are six airbags, stability control and reverse camera. The camera is one of the clearest we’ve seen, although the guidelines don’t move with the car as you turn. In Europe, there is autonomous emergency braking but not here — even as an option.
It’s not the turbo from Vitara but a smaller job paired with a six-speed auto, with paddleshifters but no sport mode. It’s the same silly shift as Vitara making it easy to accidentally select manual mode. Surprisingly punchy, with some harshness as it accelerates — a reminder that it’s a triplecylinder. Annoyingly, in full auto, it slips into top gear early and can be reluctant to stir. The steering also feels unusually heavy at low speed. Rides on 16inch alloys and sits flat in corners with good turn-in. Rather garish graphics for power, torque and even G-force — but no digital speedo.
Hyundai Accent SR, $18,990 Market leader. Cheaper and outguns the Baleno except for lack of satnav and reverse camera. Its 1.6-litre four (103kW) is bolted to a six-speed auto and returns 6.6L/100km. Warranty is five years/ unlimited km. Servicing costs $717 for three years/45,000km. Mazda2 Genki, $20,690 Second biggest seller in the segment. Comes with a camera and satnav but has rear drum brakes. The 1.5-litre (81kW) turns a six-speed auto and sips 4.9L/100km. Three year/ 100,000km warranty. Service costs $1332 for three years/ 40,000km (based on 15,000km national average).
Surprisingly perky performance from the tiny turbo, excellent fuel economy but still room for improvement in some areas.