What is it?
Meet the invisible man, or at least the virtually invisible Zook.
Baleno is or at least was the Suzuki’s best kept secret, overshadowed by the high profile Swift.
But this seems to be changing, with a 98 per cent increase in sales of the hatch so far this year.
Swift on the other hand has experienced a 43 per cent decline.
The thing is, with its plastic wheel covers and decidedly down market ambience, what on earth is the appeal? we wondered.
Then we looked at the price. At $16,990 driveaway with satnav standard, it’s a bit of a no-brainer really if you’re in the market for a cheap runaround — though it doesn’t come with a safety rating.
What’s it cost?
Balenos are built in India at Suzuki’s Maruti plant, which was set up in 1982.
Launched in 2016, Baleno is designed to appeal to people looking to step up into a “larger” small hatch.
GL manual starts from $16,990, GL auto is a thousand more at $17,990 and GLX auto comes in at $20,990, while metallic paint adds $500 to the equation.
Six airbags are standard, along with a rear view camera, and electronic stability control — but that’s about the extent of it.
Standard features include cloth trim, manual aircon, cruise control, keyless entry, leather-clad wheel, auto headlights, fog lights, a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and six-speaker AM/FM audio (but not DAB digital radio).
What’s it go like?
It’s bigger than the Swift, with a bigger boot.
The high tailgate with its piece of chrome trim is shall we say interesting, but it serves to set the car apart.
Baleno is 3995mm long with a wheelbase of 2520mm, and 355-litre boot capacity.
Swift 3840mm in length, with a 2450mm wheelbase, and has a 242-litre capacity.
Back when they launched the five-seater, it was available with zippy 1.0-litre turbo.
These days, however, there’s just the one 1.4-litre four cylinder engine — but no turbo.
It produces 68kW of power and 130Nm of torque, the latter from 4000 revs, and is hooked up to to a 5-speed manual or optional, old school 4-speed auto with lockout overdrive.
With a small, 37-litre fuel tank, the manual uses a claimed 5.1L/100km, while the auto is good for 5.4L/100km.
The GL, subject of our test, gets drum brakes at the rear. The more expensive GLX gets discs.
GL misses out on reach adjustment for the steering wheel too. GLX doesn’t.
I takes a key to start this one and you won’t find any gear change paddles, just D, 2 and L — for Drive, Second and Low — with an overdrive lockout button on the side of the transmission lever (in effect turning it into Third).
Fifteen-inch steel wheels are clad with skinny 175/65 series rubber and plastic wheel covers, with a space saver spare buried in the boot.
Two ordinary looking instrument dials flank a central info screen, nut it misses out on a digital speedo.
How’s it go?
Granted. Better than expected, given the fact it weighs just shy of 900kg — but it’s little more than adequate.
Flick the switch to lock out overdrive and it becomes a bit more lively, but also noisier.
It sits surprisingly fairly flat in corners too, unless you press hard — but it’s not happy turning into corners.
As around town transport, however, it’s perfectly adequate, with plenty of room inside, including plenty of rear legroom and a largish boot.
This is where it has it over the Swift.
The cabin is drab and the audio system lacklustre, while the lack of DAB is not unexpected.
We were getting 5.7L/100km after more than 350km.
What we like?
- Excellent fuel economy
- Infotainment system
- Big cargo capacity
What we don’t like?
- Drab interior
- No digital speedo
- Space saver spare
The bottom line?
Baleno is to Swift as the S-Cross is to the Vitara — a cheaper alternative
It’s not about performance, but rather form and functionality, minus the frills.
It’s about getting from A to B on time, every time with room in the back in case anyone wants to tag along, and it uses hardly any fuel in the process.
Satnav is a bonus at this price point and could be the carrot that gets buyers across the line — but a digital speed would have been welcome, particularly in a city runabout.
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Suzuki Baleno GL, priced from $16,990
Looks - 7/10
Performance - 6.5/10
Safety - 7/10
Thirst - 8/10
Practicality - 8/10
Comfort - 7/10
Tech - 7.5/10
Value - 8/10