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.