Suzuki are bringing back the Baleno nameplate as they expand their range. Although designed to compete against cars like the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia, it promises greater levels of space at a bargain price. The experts at Car and Driving take a look.
The Baleno is designed to compete in the same class as Suzuki's existing Swift but offer a very different ownership proposition. Riding on an all new platform with two clever petrol engines, is it different enough to succeed?
The name Baleno is not a new one for Suzuki. The Japanese marque introduced its original Baleno back in 1995 as a bigger brother to the Swift supermini. Underneath the three-door hatchback, four-door saloon or estate bodyshell was a stretched Swift platform with certain engines shared. Although it was axed way back in 2002 and not exactly missed, Suzuki have still decided to resurrect the name. In a way, it's quite fitting. Although the new car is undoubtedly more interesting to look at than its predecessor, it offers much of the same. The key selling points are a competitive price and plenty of space inside for both passengers and their luggage. Like the original, it does this by being noticeably larger than the Swift and therefore other vehicles within the supermini class. Unlike the Nineties version, there's plenty of new componentry that could make the new Baleno a serious competitor in the supermini segment.
There are a couple of petrol engine options in the Baleno; Suzuki's 1.0-litre three cylinder Boosterjet powerplant with 111PS. Or a 90PS 1.2-litre four cylinder variant that uses the brand's 'SHVS' mild hybrid technology. As the output suggests, it's the 1.0-litre variant that's the stronger performer, with 'DITC' 'Direct Injection turbocharged' technology offering 170Nm of torque, this available from 2,000rpm through to 3,500rpm. The optional six speed automatic transmission equipped model offers 160Nm of torque which is available slightly earlier at just 1,500rpm through to 4,000rpm. The 0-62mph acceleration time is rated at 11.4 seconds with manual transmission and 11.0 seconds for the optional automatic model. And through the bends? Well, while Suzuki do talk of 'superior driving perfomance', the Baleno is unlikely to be set up for B-road blasting. With the Swift such a fun little car, the focus here will be very much on ride comfort and refinement to ensure the Baleno appeals to a very different audience.
Compared to the Swift, the Baleno is longer, wider yet lower. This gives it a much less upright look although you'd never call it sleek. There is an attractive feature line that rises from the headlight, over the front wing before dropping down and slowly climbing to meet the window line. Up front there's a bold grille with a large Suzuki 'S' logo while the rear is not quite as adventurous. Underneath is a brand new platform that is around 10% stiffer yet 15% lighter than that found beneath the Swift. While the platform may be new, the suspension is the familiar mixture of MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam out back. Standard hatchback stuff but a package that does allow for a 355-litre boot (astonishingly good for a supermini) and plenty of room for rear seat passengers. Inside, the cabin is clean and uncluttered but not what you'd consider exciting. Still, there is just enough silver trim to lift the ambience while the overall shape of the dash does add to the feeling of width within the car.
Prices start at around £13,250: that's for the base 'SZ-T' variant. For plusher 'SZ5' trim, you'll need to pay from around £14,250 - with a £1,350 premium on top of that if you want automatic transmission. All these prices assume you're going for the 1.0-litre Boosterjet petrol engine. If you want the alternative 1.2-litre SHVS petrol variant, you'll be paying around £13,750. Standard equipment for all Baleno models in the range is comprehensive and the 'SZ-T' model includes six airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, air conditioning, satellite navigation, a DAB Radio with USB and Bluetooth connectivity, rear privacy glass, cruise control with a speed limiter and front electric windows. 'SZ5' trim adds automatic climate control, rear electric windows, a 4.2 inch central colour trip display, LED rear lights, Adaptive Cruise Control and Radar Brake Support. That latter feature is well worth having. When travelling above approximately 3mph, if the system detects a risk of collision with the vehicle in front, it warns the driver to apply the brakes. At higher speeds, if the possibility of a collision is senses, Radar Brake Support warns the driver with a buzzer and also via a notification on the multi information display.
In efficiency terms, the big news with this Baleno is the introduction of Suzuki's 'SHVS' ('Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki') technology, this fiited to the 1.2-litre model in the Baleno's all-petrol-powered range. The SHVS mild hybrid system is a compact and lightweight set-up that incorporates an Integrated Starter Generator (known as ISG) which acts as both a generator and starter motor. The ISG is belt driven and assists the engine during vehicle take off and acceleration and also generates electricity through regenerative braking. The system also uses a compact lithium-ion battery placed under the front passenger seat to store energy and incorporates an idle stop function operated via the Integrated Start Generator. The SHVS system only uses its conventional engine starter motor when first started from cold. Under all other conditions, it uses the higher voltage ISG unit to allow smooth and quiet engine restarts. In the Baleno, the SHVS system helps this Suzuki reach a strong CO2 emissions figure of 94g/km, plus achieve a fuel consumption figure of 70.6mpg on the EC combined cycle. With the 1.0-litre Boosterjet petrol variant, the CO2 figure rises to 105g/km and it returns 64.2mpg on the combined cycle. As for the warranty, this remains a typical 3 year, 60,000 mile affair.
Some might think it a little odd that Suzuki seems to be competing with themselves by releasing a second car in the B-segment supermini class. The truth of the matter is that the Swift and Baleno are different enough to ensure they are unlikely to steal sales from each other. While the Swift is a funky little city car, the Baleno is that little bit bigger and more mature. Think of it another way. Volkswagen compete with themselves all the time: it's just they change more than the model badge. A Polo and Fabia may well be in the same class but the latter offers more room while the former has more kerb appeal. With the Baleno's 1.2-litre mild hybrid engine appealing to cost-conscious motorists and the Boosterjet 1.0-litre variant calling out to those that need a more responsive feel, Suzuki may be perfectly placed to appeal to those looking to downsize.
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