Stronger, lighter, better Suzuki Baleno stars on test

Suzuki is rapidly becoming a bit of a smash hit in the South African passenger car market. It’s not difficult to see why when one considers this all-new Baleno. Good, contemporary looks, a traditional hatchback layout, great spec and economy at a great price set it out amongst its rivals.

Restyled, revamped, powered up and improved in just about every way, biggest news is Baleno’s step up to a 9 kW stronger 8 Nm torquier 77 kW 138 Nm 1.5-litre K15B engine. The new lump delivers a decent balance of torque, willingness to rev and fuel efficiency. And at just 955 kg Baleno is also 10% lighter than its competitors to deliver a best-in-class 81 kW per tonne power-to-weight ratio. ‘To improve both performance and fuel consumption’.


Quicker? Yes, Baleno is much quicker now

Suzuki says Baleno will do an improved 11.2 second 0-100 km/h sprint and 175 km/h top speed. It’s better than that. Much better. Strapped to our trusty VBox and with our test driver at the helm, Baleno managed a nine second real world zero to hundred. It’s a feisty little thing, truth be told. Quite impressive. By the way Suzuki SA, you may want to borrow our pilot next time you test your numbers. Best in class 0-100s will sell even more cars…

Starlet was also just as frugal as promised too. We saw better than the measly claimed 5.4 l/100 km petrol economy from time to time. That equates to a squeaky clean 127 g/km CO2 in this 5-speed stick-shift version. Perfect muti for petrol at R25 a litre. Did I say Starlet? Oops, sorry, I meant Baleno!

Baleno rides on an evolved higher tensile steel-rich platform, gains revised coil springs and damping with a beefier torsion beam at the rear. There’s 20 mm more suspension travel, to deliver improved ride quality without compromising handling. Add 10 mm fatter 185/65/R15 tyres on good old steel rims with fashionable hub caps in this big-selling model.


You won’t miss Baleno’s styling advances

Talking fashionable, you won’t miss new Baleno’s styling advances. 3,990 mm long, it sits on a on a 2,520 mm wheelbase. Even this most basic of models looks the part with a wider three-dimensional grille design and chrome brightwork to complement flowing body lines.

Step inside to a quality feel two-tone cabin with swooping accent lines and multi-hued detailing. A large 7” full-colour central touchscreen infotainment screen isn’t quite as large as its plastic dash frame, but it does the job. It has CarPlay, Auto, Bluetooth and yes, both two USB-A and one C charger port. Some far cleverer cars can learn a trick from this humble model there. Add a 12V socket and a Multi-Info Display.

The dials are easy to read, and the multifunction steering wheel even has a sporty flat-bottom. Its far cooler in there now. Improved, supportive higher-grade cloth upholstered front pews even get an adjustable centre armrest. Add Auto Climate Control versus the old manual gig, power windows and retractable mirrors, and multiple cup holders too.


Plenty Kit for Steerage

There’s even remote central locking, a rear parking sensor and camera and a host of safety and assistance kit for such a basic a model. Baleno gets dual front airbags, an electronic stability programme, Hill Hold Assist, Vehicle Stability Control, and ABS and EBD brakes. Add ISOFIX child seat anchors and an alarm and an immobiliser too.

The also people friendlier rear bench sits in front of a 314-litre boot. The bench folds down in 60-40 fashion to open it up to 1,057 litres for bigger loads.

Ours was Celestial Blue Pearl Metallic. That comes with the choice of some cool sounding hue options. Like Luxe Beige, Opulent Red, Splendid Silver Pearl and Grandeur Grey. Among others. Baleno gets a handy 5-year 200,000 km warranty and 4-year 60,000 km service plan at 15,000 km intervals.


Baleno now equipped to do it even better

The new Suzuki Baleno now looks far more the part versus its bland predecessor. Inside and out. Better equipped, its smarter cabin has an upmarket feel. More pleasant and convenient, it’s a well-equipped place to drive, even down here in steerage. And even if some finishes are a bit plastic.

On the road, the new engine brings a smarter, far quicker, if a bit rowdier nature. And being lighter weight, it handles, rides, and drives well, too. In short, the new Suzuki Baleno is now far better equipped to do an even better job. – Michele Lupini

Images & testing: Giordano Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Suzuki Baleno 1.5 GL manual
Engine: 77 kW 135 Nm 1.5-litre petrol I4
Drive: 5-speed manual FWD
0-60 km/h:        4.11 sec
0-100 km/h:       9.00 sec
0-120 km/h:       12.32 sec
0-160 km/h:       24.03 sec
400m:             16.4 sec @ 138 km/h
80-120 km/h:      6.25 sec
120-160 km/h:     11.72 sec
VMax:             185 km/h
Fuel:             5.4 l/100 km
CO2:              127 g/km
Warranty/Service: 5y 200K/4y 60K km
LIST PRICE:       R225K
RATED:            8
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