DRIVE IT. BELIEVE IT. The Suzuki Baleno is the practical hatchback that’s a joy to drive. And so says Suzuki regarding their latest compact hatchback, the Baleno. If this is to be the case then Suzuki have a lot of hard work to do to match the more established vehicles from the usual suspects and tempt buyers onto their own, rather smart, forecourts.
A quick glance at the specifications suggests nothing too daring or unusual from Suzuki which, I suppose, is to be expected as this is an extremely important marketplace for the Baleno and alienating the consumer would not be the wisest of design decisions. It’s when you start to dig a little deeper though that this Suzuki starts to surprise and delight in equal measures.
There’s certainly no issue with standard equipment in this, the SZ5 Edition. Bluetooth connectivity, DAB digital radio, Front electric windows, LED daytime running lights, HID projector headlights, Rear privacy glass, Satellite navigation, Reversing camera, Front fog lights, 16″ alloy wheels, Automatic climate control, Adaptive Cruise Control, Radar Brake Support, Rear electric windows, Colour trip display and Full LED rear lights. All present and correct. Can you say the same for the competition at this price point?
Keep digging and you don’t need to be an archaeologist to discover further hidden treasures just below the surface.The Suzuki’s 1.0 Boosterjet engine doesn’t sound like much, especially when you realise that it contains a mere three cylinders but it delivers far more than you have any right to expect.The direct injection turbo engine is an absolute gem, the Cullinan Stone of engines if you will. 110bhp at @ 5500rpm sounds good but as always, relying on numbers alone doesn’t tell the whole story.
A largely irrelevant maximum speed of 124mph is more than enough to get along with as is the 0-62mph time of 11.4secs. Whilst a combined mpg of 64.2 doesn’t help the cause of, the soon to be extinct, small diesel engine that we’ve become accustomed to over the last ten years or so.
Sitting inside the Baleno will be familiar to fans of Suzuki’s recent products as your eyes are immediately drawn to the modular Satellite Navigation touchscreen with it’s simple to use interface. Suzuki haven’t forgotten to present the driver with a number of infotainment options either as the Baleno, in this SZ5 specification, offers up DAB digital radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity as well as Smartphone linking connectivity. Essential in this day and age.
There’s even a clear and informative Advanced digital display, as Suzuki call it, in between the dials dead ahead which can be used to find out fuel efficiency, average speed, power, torque and more. Excellent.
To quote the late, great Douglas Adams writing in The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy: Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind- bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space. Too much? It’s how the Baleno makes you feel, offering far superior room for driver and passengers alike.
Suzuki’s experience with smaller cars has clearly helped as this, their compact hatchback, is both spacious and comfortable.Rear passengers will be extremely grateful as legroom is deceptively superior to many others and means that this green and pleasant land of ours can be traversed in perfect comfort. And did I mention it’s got a great boot with 320L of space?
The Baleno is a car that gets under your skin quicker than you might expect. A first look around the car and you could be forgiven for wondering if Suzuki have tried at all with the Baleno’s styling, seemingly only finding time to add on a rather lovely chrome tailgate trim and roof end spoiler. I think it’s safe to say that a brief look over the Suzuki as it drives past will certainly not divulge it of the subtleties imbued to the car by Suzuki’s designers.
And that really is a shame. In the Ray Blue Metallic of the SZ5 on test the Suzuki offers up a classy and distinctive colour, one that is a little different from the norm. And then you take in the black with chrome accented front grille, the wonderfully chunky and substantial feeling chrome door handles, Chrome beltline mouldings that break up the colour and add a touch of class to the proceedings and black coloured A and B pillars. Mix in the gorgeous, gentle curves that seemingly ripple across the bodywork themselves and the profile offered is one of modern class.
This is a car that grows on you the more time that you spend with it. Statistics alone don’t tell the whole story or give you an idea about the feel you get from behind the wheel. Town driving and commuting are simple tasks for the Baleno, its light clutch, sweet five speed gearbox and nicely weighted steering see to that whilst the Suzuki’s economical three cylinder, turbo charged power plant just gets on with the job of delivering you to where you need to be.
If you’ve bought this compact hatchback for the above duties then you’ll be more than happy with it, congratulating yourself on a job well done but that will most definitely deny you the Suzuki’s trump card. Show the Baleno a country road such as the stunning A169 Whitby Road, heading out from Pickering, North Yorkshire with its mix of challenging curves and changing gradients and you’ve a real treat in store.
Rather surprisingly, for an engine with only 998cc, this Suzuki offers excitement by the bucketful. Keep the Baleno spinning above 2500rpm and you’re right in the sweet spot for maximum torque of 125lb/ft whilst still allowing room for the engine to stretch it’s legs in the upper reaches of the rev range. Indeed, for such a classy looking family hatchback the turn of speed on offer is a constant surprise.It can not be emphasised enough how perfectly matched the K10C Direct Injection Turbo is to the Baleno as it’s 110bhp, whilst not the most powerful output offered up by Suzuki’s current range, is enough to deliver an exciting, connected drive and leave you feeling that you’re in charge rather than the car.
The feel through the steering wheel, combined with supple and controlled suspension allow you to push the Suzuki into the corners, revelling in the feedback on offer. Get the right combination of gear, revs and corner and just enjoy, safe on the knowledge that when you arrive at your destination the Baleno returns to town duties as swiftly as it delivered you in the first place.
Fun? You bet!
We’re all big fans of Suzuki over here at MotorMartin for good reason and the Baleno keeps this tradition going offering, as it does, an intoxicating mixture of practicality and fun that should be pushing you towards your local Suzuki dealership when it’s time to change. Cost? Well the Baleno continues Suzuki’s reputation for competitive pricing arriving on your driveway from only £10,999 (including £2000 customer saving) rising to just £13,499 for the SZ5 (including £2500 customer saving.)
Suzuki’s best kept secret won’t be for much longer.
Where will you go?