Once in a while a new car comes along – seemingly out of the blue – and surprises everyone. The new Suzuki Baleno supermini is just such a car.
The Baleno seems to be all about Suzuki cementing its position in the small car sector with another value offering.
The frugal Celerio, launched in 2015, is already one of the cheapest cars to run. Move up to the evergreen Swift with its loyal fanbase – especially the entertaining Swift Sport. Next up is the Baleno…
A little bigger than the Swift, the Baleno is a better all-round package – and it’s well able to hold its own against the established opposition which is no mean feat when you consider its rivals include the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia, Renault Twingo and VW Polo.
The Baleno range starts at £12,999 and my test car came with a “Boosterjet” three-cylinder 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which is expected to be the most popular choice.
A 1.2-litre mild hybrid petrol engine (Suzuki’s first) is also available. With CO2 emissions of just 94g/km, it stores electrical energy under braking to boost performance. However, the car cannot run on electric power alone, like some hybrids.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I think the Baleno is a good looking supermini, especially from the rear. There’s even a retro touch with a horizontal chrome strip on the rear hatch.
It’s also the most aerodynamic car produced by Suzuki with a drag coefficient of just 0.2999.
Longer, lower and wider than the Swift, the Baleno is a triumph of packaging. There’s ample room for two tall people in the front and back, such is the impressive rear legroom available.
The good news doesn’t stop there because the boot is a competitive 320 litres – and a fantastic 1,085 with the rear seats down.
The seats themselves are comfy and the dashbroad and centre console are attractive and functional.
The Baleno is well equipped too, with six airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, DAB radio with DAB and Bluetooth and rear privacy glass as standard.
Spend a little extra and you get automatic climate control, a 4.2-inch infotainment screen, adaptive cruise control and radar brake support.
Fire up the 109bhp three-pot engine and you’re greeted with an eager thrum. It’s punchy too with the 0-62mph seeming faster than the claimed 11.4 seconds and a top speed of 124mph.
Thanks to the car’s lightweight construction (it weighs just 950kg), the lively power unit and pleasant, light five-speed gearbox, the Baleno drives well and is surprisingly refined.
Economy is officially 62.7mpg. During our test drive on mixed roads, we managed an
indicated fuel consumption of between 50-54mpg without trying. CO2 emissions are a low 105g/km, meaning road tax will be just £20 a year.
The Baleno is no Swift Sport in the handling department, but then the average supermini buyer isn’t looking for a hot hatch.
It is, however, nippy and body lean is well controlled. It bounces around a little too (no more than most superminis), but it’s still a pleasant drive.
There are a couple of minor gripes. The load lip for the rear hatch is a little high and the interior plastics have the accent on durability, but generally is a case of mission accomplished for Suzuki.
Verdict: The Suzuki Baleno really is a surprise package. Attractive, great value, comfortable, roomy and economical, it’s blessed with a cracker of a little engine.