Suzuki's new Baleno is an impressive addition to the supermini segment
Everyone loves an underdog. So when Leicester lifted the Premier League Trophy last weekend, the footballing world stood up and applauded.
Car brand Suzuki is something of a Leicester: They’ve always performed well without having the deep pockets of their rivals and, on occasions, made cars like the Swift and the new Vitara that can mix it with the big boys.
Their latest addition to the family is a revival of the Baleno. I can remember the Baleno being a sporty little number that with aftermarket kits, lowered suspension and a big exhaust was a bit of a boy racer’s dream.
Now, though, Suzuki has gone a different direction and delivered a car that becomes a family member. It’s a more sensible version of the Swift, putting practicality and comfort before sharp handling and sporty drive.
You’d think Suzuki had the b-segment covered with the Swift, but this new Baleno offers another choice for supermini buyers who like space and comfort from a big car with small car prices.
The Baleno exceeded my expectations, as I was thinking I was going to drive a regular family car without any thrills. How wrong I was. The new Baleno won’t win awards for looks, but as an overall package, Suzuki has a lot of car on their hands.
The biggest surprise for me was the new 1.0-litre three cylinder petrol boosterjet engine with 111bhp. Again, I was expecting a friendly little unit that goes about it’s business without much fuss – wrong again!
It’s a brilliant little powerplant and, putting my cards on the table, is the best 1.0-litre currently available – even trumping Ford’s award-winning 1.0-litre Ecoboost.
It punches well above its weight and pulls through the gears with verve. Sitting at 2,000 revs in fifth gear you’d expect it to take it’s time to build momentum, but nope, the Baleno moves rapidly with little or no lag.
Suzuki say it’s fuel efficient to go along with the performance – I’ll wait until I test it for a week to see how good it is, but after a good spin I was impressed with the return of 5.4 litres per 100kms. Taxing the Baleno 1.0-litre will cost you €190 a year.
I think this engine will help sell the Baleno alone, it really is that good, but when you look at what else is on offer you really do get bang for your buck.
There isn’t an entry-level model as such, with two trims available. First you have the SZ-T at €17,995. The reason this doesn’t feel entry level is because of the spec it comes with.
Suzuki really has thrown all the toys at the Baleno, with this model coming with all the usual refinements like air con, bluetooth, alloys, sat nav with reversing camera and rear privacy glass.
Add to that a seven-inch touch screen infotainment system that includes Apple Carplay and Mirrorlink and you really are getting a lot of toys for such a small price. The top model is the SZ5, which along with everything above, you get keyless entry, cruise control, radar brake support and chrome door handles.
The SZ5 model, starting at €19,495, is also available as an auto or 1.2 dualjet SHVS light hybrid. The hybrid model is a taste of what’s ahead for Suzuki in hybrid powertrains, but it felt flat compared to the little 1.0-litre turbo.
Being a supermini you’d expect to be a little cramped; not in the Baleno, which has class-leading interior space and I was amazed at how much room I had in the back after positioning myself in the driver’s seat.
The luggage space is a decent 320 litres, but I wasn’t best pleased to see a puncture repair kit instead of a space saver. The other small gripe I had with the Baleno was the seats, as I didn’t feel they were that comfortable and after a long journey I’d imagine you’d be irritated.
The Baleno is light at 950kgs and this helps the small petrol engine to really flourish. It has 170Nm of torque and you really can feel it. It’s a lively car that is practical and fun.
With all the ingredients in the mix, Suzuki really has a fabulous car on its hands. The asking price and what you get for your money makes the Baleno one of the best value-for-money cars currently on the road.
The one thing Suzuki has taught me is to never judge a book by its cover.