Suzuki Baleno 2016 review

The Suzuki Baleno is the Swift’s more sensible brother and has all the supermini bases covered - we test it here in 1.0 BoosterJet form

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Suzuki Baleno is a bit of a hidden gem in the supermini class – especially fitted with this excellent 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine. If you can see beyond its rather dull styling inside and out, the Suzuki could be a great choice and capable of fulfilling all of your needs. It’s fun to drive, practical, comfortable and reasonably cheap to run. This SZ5 model comes loaded with standard equipment, too, and all for less than £14,000.

It may seem an odd choice by Suzuki to release the Baleno supermini when the company already has the excellent Swift competing in this crowded market sector. But the logic stands - the supermini market is booming and still makes up the lions share of car sales in the UK. With the sporty Swift occupying one side, the door is left open for the Baleno to swoop in and offer practicality and value.

• Best superminis on sale right now

The Baleno sits on a new platform – the same one that will form the basis of the next-generation Swift. It’s designed to save weight without compromising body rigidity. In fact, the basic shell structure of the car weighs less than 200kg, keeping the newcomer’s total weight down to 935kg.

Losing mass is always a huge bonus, as it means the Suzuki will be more efficient, more agile and faster, too. The weight doesn’t mean it’s a tiny car, either; at 3.9m long and 1.7m wide, it fits firmly in the supermini class, yet the 320-litre boot (756 litres with the seats down) is very large.

The cabin feels spacious, so it’s not just about the storage space. There’s loads of room in the front, and even with the seats set right back, rear legroom is adequate for adults to sit comfortably. It’s easily one of the most accommodating superminis around. Headroom is tight for those over six feet tall, but the back seats will be big enough to keep most people happy.

If you’re using the car for transporting objects rather than people, the rear seats fold down easily, and there’s no lip between them and the boot floor. There’s even a deep under-floor section for extra storage.

Suzuki’s latest supermini also rides well on British roads. The seats are a little hard, but as a result are supportive. We came out of the car after a long day of driving without the discomfort that some pricier models sometimes cause. The main problem the Baleno has is refinement, especially on the motorway. There’s quite a bit of wind and road noise, and with only five gears, the engine is very rev-happy at high speeds – doing nothing to improve refinement.

But unless you’re planning on a lot of motorway trips, it’s unlikely to be too much of a concern. The genes of the Swift start to show through when you come off fast roads, as it feels agile and nippy both in town and on quieter country lanes.

The steering is a little light, but the Suzuki darts around corners with surprising vigour. Even slowing down is satisfying, as the brake pedal feel is well judged. Soft suspension means there’s a bit of body roll, yet the Baleno is nearly as good to drive as its sportier brother, the Swift.

Our test model featured Suzuki’s new 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, which really suits the car. Its 109bhp and 170Nm torque outputs are more than enough in a car that weighs so little, and despite being turbocharged, it’s buzzy and fun to stretch out, just like the other great three-cylinder engines in today’s small cars.

It’s economical, with a claimed average of 62.7mpg. And although it can’t quite dip under the 100g/km CO2 emissions barrier, it still emits a respectable 105g/km. The manual box is easy to use, yet an extra gear for cruising wouldn’t go amiss and would probably improve efficiency on long journeys.

Unfortunately, the Baleno loses out when it comes to design, both inside and out. The plain exterior looks don’t do the car justice, meaning it’s unlikely to attract the eye of style-conscious younger buyers in the way that a SEAT Ibiza or Ford Fiesta might. Those superminis have a much more interesting interior than the Suzuki as well. While the Baleno’s hard-wearing and solid-looking plastics will help with the trials of family life, the cabin feels very old-fashioned, sparse and, perhaps worst of all, a bit dull.

It is loaded with kit, however, with standard equipment for all models including alloy wheels, DAB radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity and tinted rear windows. You even get a sat-nav across the range, which is simply unheard of in the supermini class. If you’re not worried about the look and feel of the interior, the kit list could prove very tempting.

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