From £12,9906
The new Baleno is a practical supermini to be sold alongside the current, sportier Swift. It's certainly spacious and could be very well equipped, too

Our Verdict

Suzuki brings back its 1990s family hatchback in modern, downsized form

12 November 2015

What is it?

Usually after a car launch, we return armed with all the information we need about the car in question. So much, in fact, that it takes ages to sift through the bluster to get to the important bits.

Read our full Suzuki Baleno review here

However, I’ve just come back from the new Suzuki Baleno launch in Spain and couldn’t say for sure what it will cost, what equipment it will have, or even how fast it will get from 0-62mph. 

Suzuki, however, wanted to give us an early drive of some prototypes, but they haven’t been fully homologated yet, or had their final UK spec decided.

Nevertheless, I did manage to glean a few tidbits from a nice man from the product team. Deliveries will start next May and the Baleno will be sold alongside the current Swift. That car will remain the more sporty offering, while the Baleno will be for those wanting something more practical.

There’ll be two trims levels, with prices ranging from £12k to £14k, which is rather close to established offerings such as the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia, but even the entry version will get sat-nav, a 7.0in infotainment screen, a reversing camera, electric front windows, a DAB radio, Bluetooth and 16in alloy wheels. There's also a 4.2in TFT screen between the instruments that displays all sorts of additional driving data, including just what you need in a practical supermini: a g-meter. 

The top-spec version will add adaptive cruise control, city braking with forward alert, climate control and all-round electric windows to that list.

You’ll be able to choose between two petrol engines. One is the 1.2-litre from the Swift, but Suzuki has added some mild hybrid technology to it. There’s a tiny 0.2kwh lithium ion battery under the driver’s seat that gathers energy from a motor-generator, belt-driven off the crank.

Under acceleration and at engine speeds of up to 3900rpm, this can supply an extra 37lb ft for up to 30 seconds. It’s for efficiency rather than performance gains, and helps achieve CO2 emissions of 93g/km.

However, the engine that Suzuki thinks 90% of buyers will opt for is this new 1.0-litre three-pot Boosterjet we’re testing. It uses a small turbo with, in effect, an overboost function to keep it efficient while still delivering decent power and torque.

What's it like?

The Boosterjet is a little cracker. It revs freely and pulls strongly from 2000rpm, buzzing away pleasantly with an ever-present triple-cylinder rasp. Stretch it beyond 5000rpm and it gets a little raucous, but not enough to stop the enjoyment of giving it a darn good thrashing.

Suzuki doesn’t have any acceleration times but it feels somewhere in the region of 10.5sec to 62mph, but don’t quote me on that.

Part of the reason it feels so quick is that the Baleno is built on a new lightweight platform, and as a result weighs next to nothing. It tips the scales at 905kg, which is more than 200kg less than a Fiesta.

That means it’s not only sprightly off the line but also agile in the bends. Okay, it’s no Fiesta, but it grips well and stays relatively flat right up to the point that the front tyres start to slide.

The steering is pretty accurate as well, although there’s not much feel. You also get a bit of kick-back when you hit a sharp mid-bend ridge. As the dampers struggle to control this sudden vertical movement it sends a thud through the cabin and causes the Baleno to skip momentarily off its line.

Away from such sharp intrusions the ride is very well controlled. There’s an inherent softness to the damping that allows it to cruise over speed bumps while alowing it to stay calm over patchy surfaces.

Mind you, the suspension is quite noisy at times and refinement in general isn’t a Baleno strength. Our car was the five-speed manual version, and the lack of a sixth gear (a six-speed automatic is available) means on motorways you can always hear the engine in the background, although the constant flurry of wind noise around the windscreen and door mirrors is the main bugbear.

Where the Baleno is strong, however, is on cabin space. I’m 6ft 3in and had all the head and leg room I needed up front. The steering wheel adjusts for rake and reach, and there’s a driver’s seat height adjuster. Even with this on its lowest setting the driving position is quite high, but you get used to it after a mile or two.

In the rear it beats most superminis for leg room and probably isn’t far off the Tardis-like Honda Jazz. Head room isn’t as good as the Honda's, but it's still more than acceptable, while there’s enough width across the rear bench to squeeze three abreast if you need to.

The boot is equally voluminous at 355 litres. That’s generous enough for several large shopping bags, although to get them in you'll have to lift them over a high load-lip. There's underfloor storage, too, and if you have the false floor in its upper setting, it gives you a flat-ish load deck with the split rear seats folded down.

Other than the Volkswagen Polo, most superminis feel a bit plasticky inside. Even in this context the Baleno is a bit naff in places, with some pretty cheap-feeling plastics and switchgear. But something has got to give if it's going to get all that lavish equipment the man from Suzuki talked about.

Speaking of which, the touchscreen infotainment system can be a bit slow to react at times, and some of the buttons are needlessly small and tricky to hit when you’re on the move. But it’s perfectly serviceable, and even I managed to programme an address into the sat-nav and pair my phone in seconds, so you should have no problem.

It’s all set-up with Apple Car Play and Mirror Link too, so you can operate your smartphone direct from the screen if you wish.

Should I buy one?

With Suzuki being so coy about its new baby and giving so little away, it’s hard to fully endorse the Baleno at this stage. What we do know is that it’s got a delightful engine and it’s decent enough to drive, but it won’t woo the keen drivers that generally like to purvey these pages.

The fact that it’s so good at the practical stuff gives it a certain appeal, and if Suzuki really does come good on the price and equipment levels then it will no doubt sell well. But with all that in mind, we'd still opt for the fun factor of a Fiesta Ecoboost.

Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet

Location Barcelona; On Sale Jan 2016; Price From £12,000 (est); Engine 3 cyls, 998cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 110bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox five-speed manual; Kerb weight 905kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 10.5sec (est); Economy 62.8mpg; CO2/tax band 103g/km, 15%

Join the debate

Comments
7

12 November 2015
...then 110bhp and 125lb ought to make for pretty relaxed performance, and potentially very fine real world economy.

12 November 2015
"entry version will get sat-nav, a 7.0in infotainment screen, a reversing camera, ..", good looks, modern Turbo engine, around £12,000 upwards Suzuki appear to be onto a winner. Hopefully it'll be as sucessful as the Swift and Vitara, this is the best Suzuki line up they've had in a long time. Only shame is you can't have the hybrid tech. with the 3 cylinder turbo engine.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

12 November 2015
The Swift is a stylish small car with many delightful details. This Baleno only manages to look dumpy and incoherent. Does Suzuki contract out designs to different houses I wonder?

13 November 2015
If there is any possibility of a warmer version it might address some of the shortcomings as far as driving entertainment is concerned. If they can make the standard car a) reasonably safe b) as well equipped as it promises and c) only 905kg it will be a mighty achievement. If they could make a sportier version with around 130-140bhp and keep it under 1000kg it could be even better!

17 November 2015
And I'm sure that by the time the Baleno goes on sale, its price and weight will have gone up and the performance and fuel economy will have come down. Even so, it should be well worth a look. But where does this leave the Swift, unless Suzuki is planning some new engines for this also?

17 November 2015
It does look awful inside and out, which is a great shame as the package looks very promising indeed.

17 November 2015
I actually thought it was a 2002 Proton Gen2!

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