Cape Town - Imagine this: you meet a woman - or a man.
She’s not exactly gorgeous, but there is something about her that just draws you in. You know that if something develops between the two of you it could end in tears, but you just can’t help liking this woman.
This is my predicament with the Suzuki Baleno.
Girl in the black pumps
Donned in a silver outfit and black pumps, the Baleno can easily disappear in a crowd. Its design is not what you would call evocative, but it emphasises the calm, quiet demeanour of the car. Suzuki really took a brave step in making the car look as fresh, modern, and hip as possible. And to a large extent, it worked; especially at the front.
The rear reminds me of something Proton would design. From the outside the rear window looks on the small side, but it actually provides decent viewing pleasure. And that little rear spoiler just rounds the package off nicely.
Understated. That's probably the best way to describe the Baleno. It doesn't jump at you with it's subtle looks, but you just can't help but take notice of it. And sometimes that's a good thing.
Excuse me, Miss. Can I drive you around?
So you and this girl decide to give it a go. Time for that first date. But instead of going to a fancy restaurant and having dinner by candle light, and violins playing in the background, you check out something more informal. And then you find out she's an athlete. Not the 100m type, but long distance.
The Baleno is not fast, but its 1.4-litre engine has enough oomph to maintain speeds. Whilst driving, I just never had the urge to be somewhere quick. It's like I know I'll get there, but why should I rush?
Even when pushing along I never felt the urge to fully engage the throttle. I don't know, maybe this car is making me come across as old - ditching my young genes and skipping too far into the future - but the Baleno gives me peace. It's like my ying met its yang. As if Cheech met up with Chong - from Up in Smoke fame in the 1970s.
This is typical of a long distance runner. They know the race will not be over in 10 seconds and pace themselves accordingly.
Long distance athlete, I tell you.
Simple, plain interior
Remember that girl you took on a date? Well, she invites you to her flat for coffee. Familiar scenes.
The Baleno's interior exudes that familiarity and it doesn't take too long to get comfortable with where the dials and switches are positioned. This specific model, the GLX, is kitted with a touchscreen central display, auto climate control, as well as Bluetooth and cruise control, to mention but a few.
A gripe is that the touchscreen is positioned just a tad too far if I'm ideally seated in the driver's seat, so the stretching exercises I do renders my gym sessions pointless. Fortunately the controls on the steering wheel make things a lot easier.
The sound system is not bad, either. I've bumped my Afrikaans songs with lots of confidence through the audio system. But I just need to figure out if road users were looking at the car or the coloured boytjie singing along to Bok van Blerk and Snotkop.
Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
I don't know if I'd invite the long distance athlete to stay with me, but I'd definitely pop the occasional invite her way for a friendly lunch date frequently.
But the Baleno I'd take without hesitation. Sure, the market is rife with plenty of options to choose from, but I do not have any issues going the distance in this car. I like it. It's honest and frill-free. I can actually see myself living with it, as long as there is something faster and more powerful to drive in the garage too!
Come to think of it: throughout my school career I was also a long distance athlete. Probably why the Baleno and I clicked...