Suzuki have added the Baleno to their range of compact cars which include hatchbacks, sedans, SUVS and crossovers and is expected to further entrench the brands reputation for selling some of the best compact cars in the market today. Reuben van Niekerk reports
This streamlined hatchback features short overhangs, sculpted flanks and a strong identity. Larger than the popular Swift, it offers a spacious, well-packaged interior and good equipment levels.
The Baleno is powered by Suzukis well-known 1.4-litre, normally-aspirated engine. This powerplant has a reputation for responsive performance and excellent fuel economy and extends those attributes to its application here. This engine produces 68kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm at 4200rpm and was adequate down at the coast. I suspect it will not suffer too much up on the reef either, partly thanks to various weight saving initiatives that have resulted in a power to weight ratio of 76,5kW/ton.
There is a choice of two gearboxes, a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic. Suzuki admits that the traditional automatic and small-capacity engine is not the best combination, but doesn’t expect it to become a volume seller.
Suzuki claim an average fuel consumption over the combined cycle of 5,1litres/100km for the manual model and 5,4 litres/100km for the automatic. Our spirited launch drive yielded a figure of 6,1 litres/100km, so getting close to those claimed figures should be fairly possible.
The Baleno is produced in India for international markets including Japan. A benefit of this is that the car has lost that made in India feel and the quality, fit and finish is now on par with vehicles manufactured in Japan.
Suzuki say that the Baleno is ideal for individuals and families seeking the extra comfort and convenience of a larger hatchback but who don’t want to give up the agility and efficiency of the Swift.
The cabin gives an immediate feel of roominess and rear space is ample, allowing four adults to travel in comfort. In comparison the Baleno’s interior is 87mm longer than that of the Swift. The rear seat can be folded flat in a 60:40 fashion expanding the 355 litre boot to 756 litres. The width of the interior is emphasised by the smooth expanse of the instrument panel, which is home to an instrument binnacle directly ahead of the driving position. A 6,2-inch colour display for the infotainment system is located in the centre stack in GLX models.
The Baleno sits on a new platform designed to be more rigid while reducing overall weight. Despite being larger than the Swift, the Baleno is 11 percent lighter, tipping the scales at just 915kg. Integral to this weight saving is the Balenos body, the curved shape requires fewer joints and therefore less reinforcements.
The reduced weight benefits performance by improving the power to weight ratio and also enhances economy, handling and refinement.
The Baleno is equipped with a comprehensive array of active and passive safety systems including ABS, EBD and EBA. Dual front airbags are standard too, while GLX models get side and curtain airbags. Other features include Isofix child seat tethers, childproof rear door locks, side impact protection beams and an alarm/immoboliser.
The Baleno is offered in two specification grades. The more affordable GL model is fitted with a manual gearbox only, while the GLX can be ordered with either manual or automatic.
The GLX adds a variety of equipment to the comprehensive specification of the GL including; HID projector headlamps and LED daytime running lights, low mounted fog lights, turn indicator repeaters in the exterior mirror housings, chrome touches, a roof spoiler, privacy glass and revised tail lights as well as 16-inch alloy wheels.
Inside the upholstery is the same but it has been decorated with chrome accents and a 6,2-inch TFT colour screen controls the infotainment system. The instrument cluster is enlarged to 4,2 inches and displays average speed, ambient temperature and a graphic representation of engine power and torque output. The multifunction steering wheel gains additional controls for the cruise control. Air-conditioning is fully automatic and there is the addition of rear park distance control and keyless starting.