It wears a Japanese badge but it hails from the sub-continent.
Ant and Dec seem to be everywhere these days. Hosting the X-Factor, introducing the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, and popping up in the ad breaks in between programmes. The latter finds the cheeky chappie duo’s light touch humour injecting fizz into some car commercials, promoting the Japanese brand Suzuki.
Little Suzuki may be a tiddler in the UK car pond, but it has bigger ambitions. It is currently on an upward sales curve from its current status as a tiny ‘niche’ brand, with a target of selling 50,000 cars a year in the UK within the next few years. On route to achieving that, its modest range will be swelled by four new models due by the end of next year.
Stretching the budget
So, you’re on the hunt for a smallish car at a modest price, but one with five doors, lots of room and a decent boot. Well there are lots of options on the busy new car scene, but this one with an S badge on the grille is worthy of a place on the have-a-look list.
The Baleno is four metres long, the same size as a Skoda Fabia, which is one of its closest rivals. The Suzuki is slightly dearer – at £12,999 for the base SZ-T and £13,999 for the higher spec SZ5 – but it comes with a more comprehensive list of standard kit. Even the SZ-T has standard air-con, satnav with Apple Carplay, a DAB radio and Bluetooth, Aux and USB connectivity.
At the car’s heart is a three-cylinder one-litre engine, teamed with a five-speed manual gearbox. For a budget model, the SZ5 comes with some up-scale techy standard features such as adaptive cruise control and radar brake support. An auto version is also available, for an extra £1,350.
Quieter than some limos
Don’t turn your nose up at a one-litre engine. It is turbocharged – Suzuki calls it Boosterjet – and has a 109 bhp power output. The Baleno is a relatively light car for its size at just under a ton, and it has quite gutsy performance. Not at the expense of making a lot of noise about it, either.
That’s the biggest surprise about the Baleno, how quiet it is. On idle, you can barely hear the motor ticking over, and it stays relatively muted even when you work it hard. It’s enough to put some limos to shame.
Hustled along a country lane, there is a bit of body lean on the bends, and the hushed engine means that you do notice some road noise feeding up through the suspension. It isn’t the most dynamic car of its size, a Ford Fiesta is more fun to drive, but this feels friendly and civilised with decent enough handling.
The ace up its sleeve is space. Suzuki has packaged the Baleno cleverly, with good rear seat room for its size, but also a reasonably sized boot at 320 litres (the Fabia’s is 330 litres, but a Fiesta’s is only 290 litre) and up to 756 litres with the rear seats folded.
The name may be a bit optimistic, this Baleno is no flash of lightning, but it’s a roomy, likeable and well-equipped supermini. It gets a thumbs-up from us.
Suzuki Baleno: Stats Review
Model tested: Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T
Top speed: 124 mph
0-62 mph: 11.4 secs
CO2: 105 g/km
Images: Sue Baker