Launch review: Suzuki Baleno

 

Suzuki’s brand-new Baleno launched this week and, I must say, I am impressed. I drove the first generation of the Baleno and it always had a soft spot because of the amount of spec it has to offer its drivers, the confidence in its drive and the fact that it is an affordable car on top of that. It introduces perks to drivers who wouldn’t normally afford it. It effectively cornered a specific niche and I thought that it was forward-thinking from Suzuki and much needed in the South African market.

 

The only thing I was a little disappointed with was that even though still has all these perks to offer drivers it definitely could have done with some more power. I’m happy to say that the new Baleno has added power and torque and suitably addresses this issue.

 

Impressive spec

Suzuki says the new Baleno is so loaded with spec that it has more than any other car in that price range. This includes:

  • The Suzuki Baleno is only one of three models with ESP within that price range and also only one of the three models within the Suzuki range to offer this
  • Start button in the GLX model
  • Reverse camera
  • The GLX has a touchscreen infotainment system that not only has a reverse camera but a 360 degree view of surroundings
  • USB ports, one of them is actually a fast charger USB port. More often than not charging your phone on the USB in the car is more something you do to stop it from going flat rather than gain any charge but with the USB port in the Baleno you are definitely able to do a lot more than just that
  • Cruise control in the GLX
  • The size of the cubby is increased
  • Pockets have been added behind the seats
  • The GL has a tilted steering wheel whereas the GLX has both tilted and telescopic features
  • In the GLX you can set a ‘favourites menu’ that allows you to have quick access to your most-often used apps
  • Both have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • The GLX has heads-up display which you can adjust the height of, disable information shown and select other options such as power and torque information or even AC settings displayed
  • Seatbelt alerts, not only for the front but rear passengers as well which can also be displayed on your heads-up display
  • ISOFIX car seat anchors
  • The GLX has both front and side-curtain airbags
  • Technology that reduces injuries to pedestrians
  • The GLX has 16-inch alloy wheels
  • Keyless entry in the GLX
  • LED headlamps

 

Performance

A major addition is that the engine has been changed from a 1.4 litre to a 1.5 litre K15B engine. It is the same engine you will find in the Jimny and Ertigo. This gives the Baleno an extra 9 kW and increases the torque by 8 Nm. While this may seem negligible, you can definitely feel the difference as less power is needed on take-off alone.

 

Is it a fantastically speedy little car? The answer is no, and it is not meant to be. Getting that many specifications, more than adequate performance and stylish design is the focus here. That is never going to be the intention of the Baleno. If you fall into that small group that expects more than this, then you might be missing the point.

 

You can choose between a 5-speed manual, which was the tested vehicle during the launch, or a 4-speed automatic. When questioned about whether a 5-speed automatic might be something to look forward to in the future, there is no clear answer. Suzuki expressed, that while they have no confirmation, it may never happen because of all the other boxes that the vehicle checks. Its aim is to be ‘priced better, spec better, have a good warranty and still look good’ while remaining reasonably priced. A 5-speed auto is not on the priority list at this stage.

 

With the addition of the auto to the range there are now four derivatives available in the Suzuki Baleno range. Suzuki says they’ve made a massive shift towards auto introducing this to both the Celerio and Baleno, their two latest launches.

As expected, fuel-efficiency is impressive as well claiming 54.l/100km. We did quite a bit of driving and, unfortunately there was a lot of traffic, and by the time we’d finished our first day of driving the petrol tank had only dropped by less than a quarter.

 

Design changes

The Baleno was one of the first vehicles using the HEARTECT platform which introduces more lightweight and efficient vehicles and which Suzuki says has proven to be a great platform for the brand. You can see it again in their latest Baleno and all the benefits that come with it.

 

The exterior style and design of the Baleno stays true to the term introduced by Suzuki in 2016 which is called the ‘liquid flow design.’ It is now also also introduces ‘crafted futurism.’ crafted futurism. In the GLX this can be seen with their Chrome accents along the grill, front and rear LED lights. They have also introduced 5 new colours to the range which are all pearlescent metallics.

 

Visually the Baleno is considerably different to the last generation. It adds a fair degree of modernity to the car. In particular, it creates an appealing look from the rear.

 

The interior is based on ‘premium design’ which also reflects the liquid flow and crafted futurism approach to design. In particular, this can be seen in the dash, the doors and the seats and its stitching. A premium feel such as this, according to Suzuki, is often only found in premium level vehicles.

 

In addition to the wide range of spec that comes standard with the Baleno, Suzuki has also made it possible for buyers to personalise their interior with spec such as Navy accented seats. Drivers can also add a number of extra cosmetic options to the exterior of the Baleno.

 

The Baleno also stands out for its spaciousness, both in the cabin and the boots. We had a large suitcase with us that we put on the rear seat but I am fairly certain it could of easily fitted in the boot with the rest of the luggage. The rear legroom makes it just as comfortable for adults as what it is for children.

 

The best part is that a lot of the spec and features come standard in the GL. Thus, in the entry-level vehicle you have both the exterior good looks of the Baleno GLX plus its premium feel in the interior.

 

Once you add the service plan and warranty to all of the spec, the Suzuki Baleno truly seems to be way ahead of many vehicles similar to it and in the price range, especially its closest competitor.

 

On the up?

It is clear from international stats that the Baleno does very well, it sold record numbers within its first year. Its appeal is massive on a global scale and it is clearly a car that is high in demand. Suzuki believes the updates to the new Baleno will help it see even bigger supporters in South Africa.

 

Now the big question, what can drivers expect to pay for this well-specced vehicle? The manual comes in at R275 000 whereas the auto comes in at R290 000. It comes with a four-year 60 000km service plan and a 5-year/200 000km warranty.

 

Suzuki faced a big job in ticking all the boxes to create a long-lasting, reliable and efficient car. Yet, this is what they did very well. They have succeeded in their intention of making a car that is priced better, specced better, has a good warranty, looks good and still comes in at a great price.

 

Competitors will have an even bigger job matching these aims and specs. Its closest competitor does not have the 360-degree view camera or heads-up display. Their entry-level does not have leather seats or climate control either.

 

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