In opting for a small-capacity, three-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine for the relative advantages on performance, driveability, fuel economy and zestiness of character that it provides over a larger, atmospheric four-cylinder unit, the Baleno joins a long list of rivals that have already made the switch.
Suzuki’s new turbocharged 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine is hardly a trend-setter, then, but it is every bit as good as most of the ultra-modern in-line triples we must compare it with, at least in terms of its gutsiness and response, its willingness to rev and its fuel economy.
That’s less true in terms of overall refinement, perhaps, but when you weigh up that list and consider that it’s delivered on a car available for the Baleno’s price, you have to admire Suzuki’s achievement.
The firm is notoriously pessimistic with its performance claims, so the fact that we beat the Baleno’s official 0-62mph claim of 11.4sec shouldn’t come as a surprise, but in repeatedly recording a sub-10.0sec 0-60mph time and averaging 9.8sec in two directions, the Baleno proves it’s no slouch.
It took just 9.7sec to go from 30-70mph through the gears; that’s closer to the pace of a Mini Cooper than the 89bhp Mazda 2 we tested last year – a car that ought to be the closer rival, based on price.
The Baleno’s engine is a little rough and chuggy at idle, just as all transversely mounted three-cylinder motors tend to be as a result of the rocking motion that their firing order imparts. But it spins into a fairly reserved but industrious thrum which, although not as well isolated as in some of its rivals, is perfectly tolerable.
It has throttle response as crisp as that of the better examples of the breed, and it’s efficient, returning better than 55mpg for our economy testers where plenty of less powerful small cars struggle to pass 50mpg.
We had hoped for slick and assured control weights, because the Swift gives them to you. But the shift quality of the Baleno’s five-speed manual gearbox is light and springy, and the keener you are to move the lever through the gate, the less satisfactory it feels.
Braking performance is respectable, although the 185/55 R16 Bridgestone Ecopia tyres on which the Baleno comes don’t exactly maul the road surface. In the dry, the car stopped from 70mph in 49.8 metres – a poorer result than the two-tonne Ford Edge we figured on the same day. From a sub-one-tonne car, you might well expect better.