Most of us would agree that there are things we’d like Suzuki to continue doing in its own particular way and other areas in which it could afford to converge a bit more with accepted European convention.

Knowing how and where it must continue to be different will be key to expanding its foothold in the European market.

Bodywork looks prone to car park dings, but Suzuki offers plastic bumper corner and side body protectors as affordable dealer-fit options

We expect Suzuki superminis to be light, for example. It’s something that has contributed to the dynamism, efficiency and all-round appeal of the current Swift and could do so again with the Baleno.

Because, built on a new platform made of higher-grade steels than its sister cars and requiring fewer reinforcements, this new five-door hatchback weighed just 920kg on our scales. And it didso in spite of dimensions that make it large by class standards: longer and wider than a Skoda Fabia, Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo and beaten for outward size only by the very biggest cars in the class.

But we don’t expect Suzuki to aim for styling allure inspired by the fashionable premium supermini set.

The Baleno’s appearance is a clear attempt at European design sophistication – and, at least in places, a misguided one.

With less decoration, the car might have conjured the modern, smart, understated impression that most of its styling seems to be working towards. But there’s too much chrome-effect plastic to make it able to pass muster in the context of European tastes.

The extra-wide chrome bar running the full width of the tailgate is simply too flashy, and the chrome door handles (a feature of SZ5 trim only, should you want to avoid them) are equally overdone.

Suspension is via struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, while power comes from a choice of 89bhp 1.2-litre four-cylinder Dualjet and 110bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder Boosterjet petrol engines.

The former is partnered with the starter-generator and extra-large-capacity lithium ion battery of an economy-boosting mild hybrid set-up, christened ‘SHVS’, while the latter uses a turbo and direct fuel injection.

A five-speed manual gearbox is standard with both engines, while a six-speed automatic transmission is an option on the three-cylinder turbo engine only. 


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