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.