BIGGER, BETTER BALENO
SUZUKI DELIVERS DIFFICULT CHOICE FOR BUYERS
APART from its engine, there's nothing small about the Baleno GLX Turbo.
Suzuki's reincarnation of its Baleno range comprises the 1.4litre GL (reviewed a few weeks ago) and the GLX Turbo, which has a smaller but more potent powerplant and a lot of extra features.
The high-technology cars are built on a lighter and stronger new generation platform and have nothing in common with the original Balenos of the mid-1990s.
The 68kW four-cylinder GL manual costs $15,990 and $16,990 with an auto, while the three-cylinder 82kW 1.0litre GLX Turbo is $21,990 with an auto as standard.
Both cars are hi-spec with standard items, such as a big touch screen with satellitenavigation, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, reversing camera and Apple CarPlay or smartphones via MirrorLink.
The GLX Turbo adds keyless entry and start, climate control, high-density output projector headlights, multi-feature colour LCD instrumentation and telescopic adjustment on its leatherbound steering wheel. Outside there's a bit more chrome and it runs on 16-inch alloy wheels.
Its engine, called a Boosterjet, does a great job. It's a freerevving, keen-to-please motor that drives the front wheels through a slick six-speed auto – with paddle shift – and it can take the 975kg GLX to 100km/h in 11 seconds (about 1.5 seconds faster than the GL) and, for the record, on to a 200km/h top speed.
Physically bigger than most of its class rivals, the beautifully styled Baleno invites comparison with some models in the class above.
While giving its driver and front-seat passenger oodles of room, body support and comfort, the back seat will happily accommodate two burger-fed adults and to supplement their diets they're even provided with a USB adaptor for their plug-in devices.
There's also a USB port in the glovebox recess, plus quite big door pockets with built-in bottle holders.
The boot borders on the cavernous with 355 litres, which can be more than doubled by folding the rear seats flat.
The GLX Turbo is a hoot to drive. The controls are light and easy to use, the steering has a sporty turn-in, the fairly firm suspension holds the road well and the brakes do a fine job.
It's quick off the mark, runs effortlessly at freeway and open road limits, and is generally a pleasure to be in.
The dash display lets the driver see all sorts of stuff not normally associated with light cars, such as selectable meters for G-force, engine output and torque, accelerator and brake operation, and a few more.
Good visibility and the rear camera make it easy to park and the efficiency of the Boosterjet motor is also reflected in its miserly fuel needs. We averaged 5.7litres/100km, which translates to a range of about 650km from the 37litre fuel tank.
Verdict: The made-in-India car (by Maruti) is nicely finished, well engineered, and the main problem is which of the two lovelies to choose.
Suzuki's Baleno GLX Turbo has a lot to crow about.