BALENO IS NO LIGHTWEIGHT
IMPRESSIVE SUZUKI TAKES IT UP TO ITS LARGER RIVALS
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.