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Suzuki is looking to take on sensible superminis such as the Skoda Fabia with its spacious new Baleno. We've driven it in the UK

Our Verdict

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

What is it?

As odd as it might seem, the new Suzuki Baleno occupies the same class as the existing Swift – the Japanese firm's B-segment supermini. While you might expect it to steal sales, Suzuki is adamant that it should interest a completely different type of buyer.

If the Swift is the stylish one of the family, the Baleno is the sensible sibling that appeals to those who tend to buy with their head rather than their heart. Because of this, it’s a bit longer overall and much, much roomier inside.

It may be sensible, but it isn’t the cheapest supermini out there; you’ll need £12,999 for an entry-level version. It comes stacked with kit, though, and you get a turbocharged three-cylinder engine under the bonnet as standard. 

What's it like?

We’ve already seen the start of Suzuki’s ‘Boosterjet’ range of turbocharged petrol engines in the Vitara S. The Baleno gets a smaller, 1.0-litre unit (rather than the Vitara S's 1.4), spread over three cylinders to make 109bhp. The Baleno is light, too; both this and the mild hybrid version are under 1000kg.

Firing up the engine brings a slight vibration to the cabin that seems to be the norm with these downsized triples. Once you’re under way, the engine smooths out and is happy to pull from below 2000rpm without too much fuss. It doesn’t make a bad noise when pushed, either.

You soon learn to use the motor’s mid-range to make the most effective progress. Although the engine is redlined at 6500rpm, the soft limiter kicks in at around 5500rpm, something that can take you by surprise, especially when overtaking.

Even with periods of working the engine hard, we saw fuel economy of more than 45mpg indicated on the Baleno’s trip computer, so we can’t imagine over 50mpg would be too hard to achieve. Certainly, the handling is never likely to encourage you to drive particularly fast.

The entry-level SZT model receives 16in alloy wheels with tyres wide enough to provide plenty of grip. If you do manage to unstick it, you’ll find the front tyres always run wide first - not that the steering will really tell you a great deal when that happens.

If you do manhandle the Baleno, you have to put up with a fair amount of body roll, which ensures it never feels as eager to have fun as a Swift or Ford Fiesta. Despite the soft springs, you still get jostled around over broken surfaces. There’s a fair amount of tyre roar and suspension noise, too.

But, to be fair, driving enjoyment isn’t really what the Baleno is all about. For a supermini, you get an impressive amount of room inside. Front-seat passengers are well catered for, as are those in the back. Leg room is generous enough to squeeze a pair of six-footers in, even with taller occupants up front. Head room isn’t quite as good but is still bearable.

The Baleno's boot is impressively large, coming very close to the space offered by the Skoda Fabia; even a bulky pushchair would fit. There’s a two-level boot floor as standard that provides an almost flat load bay with the rear bench folded.

There are signs of how Suzuki has slashed the kerb weight, though. There’s no soft-touch plastic at all and the door pulls inside feel flimsy. You may not care, though, given the generous standard equipment; even entry-level SZT models get air-con, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio.

Should I buy one?

Although it’s fair to say the Baleno won’t revolutionise the supermini segment, we can certainly see the appeal of its roomy cabin, high level of standard equipment and punchy yet economical turbocharged motor. 

However, it isn’t perfect; the handling is merely adequate, the interior feels cheaper than most of its rivals' and there are options out there for the budget-conscious that are cheaper still to buy. If you need decent space, we’d still suggest a similarly priced Skoda Fabia is your best bet. If it’s fun you’re looking for, the answer is still the slightly pricier Fiesta.

Suzuki Baleno SZ5 1.0 Boosterjet

Location Belfast; On sale June; Price £13,999; Engine 3 cyls, 998cc, turbo, petrol; Power 109bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 125lb ft at 2000-3500rpm; Gearbox 5-spd manual; Kerb weight 950kg; Top speed 124mph; 0-62mph 11.4sec; Economy 62.7mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 105g/km, 18%

Join the debate

Comments
12

10 May 2016
Sounds like a decent car. The low weight (and economy) are particularly commendable. Shame it looks so cheap - like a Chinese copy of a Japanese hatch, rather than the real thing.

10 May 2016
That black painted A-pillar is really messy in the way it meets the door frame, just as bad as on the Citröen C1 and DS3. The paintwork bears no relationship to body creases or shut lines. Disappointing, particularly as Suzuki knows how to do this detail properly, as demonstrated on the 2004 Swift (although they didn't do quite as neat a job on the 2011 Swift). I need to get out more...

10 May 2016
A 90 ps Skoda with 5 gears and sat nav is at least another £1,000 and would It have adaptive cruise, keyless, climate, privacy glass, break assist, hill hold etc? I'm not one for bling but if Autocar make comparasions they need to get it right.
Also, I'm not sure why they write about the spec of the SZ-T but tell you price of the top spec SZ-5. One more thing expect it to be quicker Suzuki's always under estimate the performance of their cara.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

10 May 2016
I wouldn't be surprised if it was faster. Given how little it weighs and it's respectable power figures, 11.4 seconds to 60 seems a bit conservative. Nearer 10 would be my guess. Just wish it looked better, but the oily bits bode well for the new Swift.

11 May 2016
Suzuki makes the Swift for people who like great looking small cars, and the Baleno for people who want a small car that looks rubbish. Very strange!

11 May 2016
...doesn't look worse to my eyes than lot of hatches out there, no better, but no worse. Clearly directed at different set of buyers than the Swift.

11 May 2016
than any WAG product. That isn't a minor consideration. And the light weight shall with very little doubt. Result in excellent real world economy. As it grants a very fine power to weight ratio in comparison with rivals. Meaning relaxed mode of driving will be easier to arrive at, and probably still results in fairly rapid covering of ground - if the driver's in hurry. While the car may not have sporty pretensions, the on limit handling undoubtedly is competitive and foremost with little doubt - safe.

11 May 2016
Is it just me, or does the picture of the engine show 4 coil packs and a 4-branch manifold?
Strange on a 3-pot??

11 May 2016
Also, the shot of the dashboard seems to show some kind of 'hybrid drive' energy display?
No mention of this in the article, but doing a sneaky dvla check, the car comes up as Baleno SZ5 SVHS.....is that some kind of acronym for 'Suzuki Vehicle Hybrid System' or similar perhaps?

11 May 2016
stumpys182 wrote:

Also, the shot of the dashboard seems to show some kind of 'hybrid drive' energy display?
No mention of this in the article, but doing a sneaky dvla check, the car comes up as Baleno SZ5 SVHS.....is that some kind of acronym for 'Suzuki Vehicle Hybrid System' or similar perhaps?

Not only did they get the spec and price muddled they tested the wrong car. It's a 1.25 HYBRID ELECTRIC that I don't even think is coming to the UK

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

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