Suzuki must by now be well used to the idea that it isn’t fated to be like other car makers.
It has made two concerted attempts to sell what we might consider to be a typical family-use, full-sized hatchback in both Europe and the US.
The most recent of them, you may remember, was the Liana.
But before the Liana came the original Baleno, a decent but typically unadventurous model, available in hatch, saloon and estate bodies, that was launched in 1995. Built on a stretched Swift platform, it was the car intended to propel Suzuki into the car-making mainstream, which, as you may have noticed, it spectacularly failed to do.
But should we regret that failure, when Suzuki has instead grown to be one of the global car industry’s true specialists?
It is famously independent, having bought back only last year the shares formerly sold as part of an unsuccessful joint venture with Volkswagen.
It is a renowned expert in making superminis and small 4x4s, and it’s a roaring success in some of the world’s most important developing markets. Suzuki wouldn’t trade what it has today for what it evidently desired two decades ago even if it could.
This road test subject is highly symbolic of that change in outlook and new-found maturity. It’s an all-new Baleno but, rather than another Golf-sized hatchback, this one’s a supermini through and through.
Built at Maruti Suzuki in India for global export markets and on an all-new platform that’ll be used across the maker’s full range of small cars, the Baleno is intended as a more rational, practical choice than the smaller Swift.
It’s big on space, big on equipment and equally big on value – and still a recognisable Suzuki. It also comes to market with two interesting new engines: a 1.2-litre four-cylinder petrol mild hybrid with sub-100g/km CO2 emissions and a turbocharged 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol unit that Suzuki expects most buyers to plump for.