SUZUKI has become known in SA for its zippy compact cars with, especially, the Swift seen more and more on our roads.
Towards the end of last year, they introduced their new Baleno model in the country, aimed at filling the gap in their line-up for a hatchback that is a bit bigger than the Swift but smaller than a sedan or compact SUV.
All the models in the Baleno range have Suzuki’s K14B 1,4 litre engine which is also used in the Swift and Ciaz models.
The Baleno comes in a choice of either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission and it is available in two specification levels.
The lower spec GL model is offered with the manual gearbox only, while the higher spec GLX versions is available in either the manual or the automatic transmissions.
The test model for this week’s Express on Wheels, was the GLX version with 5-speed manual transmission.
The Baleno is larger than the Swift and has an aerodynamic, streamlined shape accentuated by blacked out A and B pillars.
The rear is quite wide housing a very generous boot space.
A rooftop spoiler is standard on GLX models adding a bit of a sporty touch.
I think the good use of the interior space and feeling of roominess is one of the Baleno’s biggest selling points. The Swift always offered a pleasant ride, good performance and even good looks, but the small boot has let it down. This is definitely not the case as far as the Baleno is concerned as it offers a nice, deep and wide boot space.
The cabin feels much roomier that one would have imagined looking at the compact exterior.
Even the back seat passengers will have no reason for complaints, and it is wide enough for three occupants.
The rear bench seat is divided in a 60:40 split for different cargo space options.
The boot offers 355 litres of space with the rear bench seat raised, and can be extended to 756 litres with the rear seat folded flat. Total rear volume to roof height with the seat folded flat is 1 085 litres.
Much like the outside, the interior design is uncomplicated and uncluttered. The dashboard also features wing-shaped details that is reminiscent of that of the Ford’s Fiesta, but in the Baleno this is toned down a bit.
All Baleno models come standard with alarm/immobiliser system, remote central locking, ABS anti-lock brakes, augmented electronic brake force distribution (EBD), emergency braking assistance (EBA) and dual front airbags as standard.
Even the entry-level GL version is comprehensively equipped. The Baleno GL has 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, and 175/65 R15 tyres. The spare wheel is located under the luggage compartment floor to save space.
Electric windows in the front and back, manual air-conditioning with a pollen filter, remote central locking, and electrically adjustable exterior mirrors are standard.
The Baleno’s on-board computer gives info on range, instant and average fuel consumption, time and the trip distance travelled.
The tilt-adjustable multifunction steering wheel, features controls for the audio system, and the Bluetooth-based hands-free telephony system.
In the Baleno GL, the audio system comprises an MP3-compatible CD receiver with six loudspeakers and integrated Bluetooth. There’s also a USB port, a 3,5mm stereo auxiliary input and a 12V power socket.
The higher spec GLX offers everything on the GL list, but with some additions and upgrades, such as LED daytime running lights, low-mounted recessed fog lamps, chrome finishes, roof-spoiler, privacy glass for the rear windows and rear screen and revised tail light clusters.
The GLX models are fitted with 16-inch alloy wheels with 185/55 R16 tyres.
Upgrades and additions in the interior of the Baleno GLX include a 6,2 inch TFT colour screen for the infotainment system. The digital display is upgraded to a 4,2 inch TFT colour display which can also display the average speed and ambient temperature, as well as graphics of the engine power and torque output. The GLX’s multifunction steering wheel, in a leather trim, gets additional controls for the cruise control.
The airconditioning is also upgraded to be fully automatic. Rear park distance control is fitted as standard.
The remote central locking system also has keyless starting.
As far as safety goes, the GLX models gain side and curtain airbags, while the ABS braking system features rear disc brakes, instead of the GL model’s rear drums.
The Baleno is built on an all-new platform to be more rigid while reducing its weight. Despite being larger than the Swift, the Baleno is eleven per cent lighter weighing in at 915kg.
The lightweight construction gives the engine, which is not turbocharged, a much-needed boost and is good for the fuel efficiency too.
At speed it goes smoothly and solidly and its electrically assisted steering and handling is precise. It offers a zippy, spirited ride around town as well as on the open road.
During my time with the Baleno, which was mostly on the urban and peak hour commute, it achieved a fuel consumption of 7.5 litres per 100km.
Suzuki claims an average fuel consumption for the combined cycle of 5,1 litres/100km for the manual model and 5,4 litres/100km for the automatic version.
Warranty and Servicing
The new Baleno is covered by a standard three-year/100 000km warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000km service plan. Services are at 15 000km/12-month intervals.
Baleno 1.4 GL MT R199 900
Baleno 1.4 GLX MT R229 900
Baleno 1.4 GLX AT R244 900