New Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo is charming, spacious and delivers impressive performance, but the whole experience falls a little short of that delivered by rivals
The new Suzuki Baleno could be considered as Suzuki’s first true attempt at the small car market. The brand has had great success with the Swift light car, the excellent Swift Sport hot hatch and the new Vitara – in Turbo guise, anyway – but Suzuki has never had a genuine contender that can do battle with the likes of the Toyota Corolla, Hyundai i30 and Kia Cerato.
Suzuki is attempting to devour a piece of that small car pie with the new Baleno. Available in GL and GLX Turbo trims, the Baleno range kicks off with the Baleno GL with a 1.4 litre petrol four-cylinder engine with a five-speed manual for a very reasonable $16,990 and extends to $21,990 for the GLX Turbo as tested.
We set out to uncover whether the new Suzuki Baleno is a small car game changer.
What we like:
- Interior space
- Eager and fantastic sounding three-cylinder engine
- Sharp pricing
- Perky personality
Not so much:
- Lacks finesse of its rivals
- Three-cylinder engine isn’t as economical as it should be
- Poorly executed interior storage
- Climate control system
A primary highlight of the new Suzuki Baleno interior is space. There is plenty of leg, shoulder and headroom for five adults – yes, five adults in a small car – and for a car in this class, the rear legroom in particular could be considered expansive. The rear bench is comfortable too, and all seats are finished in quality cloth.
Up front, it’s a slightly different story – the front seats aren’t what you’d call uncomfortable, but yours truly found that the manual seat adjustment mechanisms made it difficult to set and ideal driving position.
The dashboard layout is clean and uncluttered, with all controls falling within easy reach. The touchscreen infotainment system is shared with a number of models in the Suzuki range and includes satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay and voice control, which receptive for the most part.
Handily there’s also a reversing camera and push button start on the GLX Turbo, along with single zone climate control. The climate control actually proved frustrating during our test week, with the indicated temperature on the display seeming unrealistic and whatever the temperature shown, the Baleno’s cabin temperature never felt warm enough.
While passenger space is impressive, oddment storage seemed to be an after thought, with the centre console not large enough to hold a smart phone, a set of keys and a wallet. There is a recess at the base of the centre stack close to the 12V power outlet and USB ports, but the base of the recess wasn’t lined with non-slip material, meaning if your phone was resting here while charging, it will clunk around when the car is on the move.
The Baleno’s Indian build quality was generally very good and free from squeaks and rattles. The buttons for the climate control looked cheap and would certainly not be found in any of the Baleno’s rivals.
Boot space is rated at 355 litres with the rear seats up, and 756 litres with the seats folded down.
Under the Bonnet
The Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo is powered by Suzuki’s new 998cc three-cylinder turbo intercooled petrol engine. The little engine drums up 82kW @ 5500rpm and 160Nm @ 1500-4000rpm. That broad spread of torque means that performance is spritely, and the Baleno feels gutsier than those figures suggest.
The six-speed automatic is a slick shifter too, going about its business almost anonymously and drivers can change gears manually via steering wheel mounted paddles.
The engine makes a gruff exhaust note which sounds fantastic, and is a large part of the Baleno’s quirky personality. We found that the combination of sharp performance and barking exhaust note was grin inducing at times, and that’s something that doesn’t happen often in your average small hatch.
The Baleno’s official combined fuel consumption figure is 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres, but we found that 6.5 litres was more realistic, a little disappointing for an engine of this size.
On the Road
On the road, the Baleno is a competent city runabout, with light and quick steering and a relatively compliant ride. There is a fair degree of road noise on some surfaces though, and the Baleno just doesn’t feel quite as solid or refined as an i30 or a Corolla. That said, the Baleno is still pleasant to drive, it just isn’t as mature as some of the competition.
Although a reversing camera is standard on the Baleno GLX, parking sensors are not available, and rear parking sensors would not only make the Baleno GLX a more convincing package when customers are shopping around for their new car, but at least rear sensors would be a useful tool on a car that will spend the majority of its life in built up urban areas and parallel parking.
The Suzuki Baleno is backed by a three-year/100,000 kilometre warranty.
Name: Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo
Engine: 998cc three-cylinder turbo and intercooled petrol engine, 82kW @ 5500rpm and 160Nm @ 1500-4000rpm
Price: $21,990 plus on road costs
Country of Origin: India