Who knew, Suzi

Herald Sun - Motoring - - SHORT CUT -

VALUE

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.

COM­FORT

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.

SAFETY

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.

DRIV­ING

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.

AL­TER­NA­TIVES

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).

VER­DICT

Sur­pris­ingly perky per­for­mance from the tiny turbo, ex­cel­lent fuel econ­omy but still room for im­prove­ment in some ar­eas.

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