BALENO IS NO LIGHT­WEIGHT

IM­PRES­SIVE SUZUKI TAKES IT UP TO ITS LARGER RI­VALS

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - DRIVEWAY - Bill Buys

SUZUKI'S new Baleno is a game lit­tle char­ac­ter, ready to tackle all man­ner of op­po­nents.

It's in the light car mar­ket seg­ment, where it faces 15 con­tenders, but it also has the ammo to take on quite a few mod­els in the next cat­e­gory up.

The In­dian-built Baleno comes in two mod­els: the GL, as re­viewed, and the GLX Turbo, which is a higher-spec and hot­ter ver­sion at about $5K ex­tra.

The GL, priced at $16,990 drive-away with five-speed man­ual or $17,990 with a four-speed au­to­matic, is a sur­pris­ingly spa­cious and well-equipped five­door hatch.

It's good-look­ing too, with stylish lines and a tallish stance that all but says 'I'm more than a pretty face’.

Pop in­side and that state­ment is con­firmed.

The Baleno comes with a 7.0inch in­fo­tain­ment sys­tem with satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and Ap­ple CarPlay, re­vers­ing cam­era, air­con, LED day­time-run­ning lights, cruise con­trol, Blue­tooth phone and au­dio stream­ing, and auto-on head­lights.

Then there's the leather-clad steer­ing wheel, which houses con­trols for the cruise, phone and au­dio sys­tems, and a handy trip com­puter with info on fuel econ­omy – in­clud­ing how far you can go be­fore you need to top up the 37litre tank – and sev­eral more fea­tures.

The fuel thingo read in 'litres/km' which got my back up be­cause there's no such term. Should be litres/100km. Then I dis­cov­ered you could switch it to the cor­rect ver­sion. And it didn't need voice ac­ti­va­tion, an­other stan­dard fea­ture, to do so.

The car has good, comfy and quite sup­port­ive seat­ing for five, and a cargo area most of its ri­vals can only dream about.

The tail opens to re­veal a 355litre boot, the big­gest in its seg­ment and big­ger than some in the next cat­e­gory too, and if you knock the back seats down, the cargo room ex­pands to 756litres. The spare wheel is a space-saver, tucked un­der the boot floor.

Also, the back seat can hap­pily ac­com­mo­date tall, long-legged pas­sen­gers, and if they need to charge their phones, there's a 12volt socket wait­ing to oblige.

Un­der the bon­net is a 68kW/130Nm 1.4litre four-cylin­der mo­tor, but its mod­est out­put eas­ily copes with the car's ad­vanced en­gi­neer­ing and re­duced mass, so per­for­mance is fine.

Zero to 100km/h came up in 12.5 sec­onds, and more im­por­tantly, av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion around sub­ur­bia was 5.5litres/100km. The five-speed man­ual had a smooth shift, and light and tilt-ad­justable steer­ing en­sured a 'just right' po­si­tion for driv­ers of all sizes.

The Baleno has six airbags, plus all the elec­tronic safety bits and its com­pli­ant sus­pen­sion gives a sure­footed and comfy ride.

It's easy to park and build qual­ity is im­pres­sive.

I didn't like the plas­tic cov­ers on the 15-inch steel wheels – re­place­ment al­loys shouldn't cost much – and found the head­lights dis­ap­point­ing in their short reach and ex­ces­sive left bias.

But for the money, there are few to chal­lenge the fea­tures, size, style and econ­omy of Suzuki's Baleno GL.

More than a pretty face, Suzuki's Baleno fairly brims with space and fea­tures.

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