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Car group tests

Suzuki Baleno vs Honda Jazz vs Nissan Note

Is the Suzuki Baleno practical enough to overcome the Honda Jazz and Nissan Note?

In the world of sporty superminis, Suzuki’s Swift has always been great to drive and affordable to run, but what if you need a small car to cover more bases than just fun and low running costs? In today’s market, these models require a wider spread of abilities, but with a boot smaller than some city cars, the Swift trails many of its rivals.

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Enter the Suzuki Baleno – the Japanese brand’s scaled-up supermini that aims to deliver a more versatile platform, blending extra space and more standard equipment with the Swift’s fun-to-drive character and reasonable pricing.

Best superminis on sale right now

The newcomer will have to face up to the Honda Jazz, but even the mid-grade SE model is more expensive than the top-spec Baleno. The Honda has plenty of clever practicality solutions on its side, though, while the Nissan Note is more reasonably priced, boasts a big boot and a versatile cabin. Which plus-size supermini offers the most appealing solution?

Head to head

Versatility

The absence of the Nissan’s trademark sliding rear bench on our test car means the Honda has the edge when it comes to versatility thanks to its Magic Seats. However, you won’t use them that often, so the Suzuki almost matches it for practicality, while the Note also offers marginally more passenger space inside.

Costs

These cars offer practical motoring on a shoestring, but do you have to compromise on kit? Well,the Baleno fights strongest, with a level of kit that would rival some junior exec saloons; it even has adaptive cruise control. The sparse Note doesn’t deliver, while extras on the Jazz are expensive.

Quality

Both the Baleno and Jazz have moved material quality on and leave the Note trailing in their wake. Softer plastics and sharper designs in the Suzuki and Honda mean the Nissan can’t match up; it has a clunkier user interface and a cheaper feel.

Verdict

First place: Suzuki Baleno

At this level, cost is a big factor, but just because the Baleno is impressively affordable to buy and run, it doesn’t mean you have to compromise. It’s the cheapest car here but has the most kit, while the practicality on offer makes it usable every day. If you can look past the styling, the Suzuki is an honest, cheap and flexible supermini that’s also surprisingly good to drive.

Second place: Honda Jazz

With a sweet manual rather than the droning CVT auto, the Jazz has been vastly improved. It combines usable space with a decent drive and is more distinctive than the Baleno or Note. But in a sector where the balance between price, practicality and equipment is key, the more expensive Honda doesn’t stack up next to the Suzuki. Plus, it’ll be pricier to run. 

Third place: Nissan Note

Next to fresher hatchbacks like the Baleno and Jazz, the Note is starting to show its age. In Acenta Style trim, the cabin feels sparse, while material quality can’t match its rivals’. With the least power and agility on test, the Nissan also comes up short on the road, where the imprecise gearchange and less comfortable ride further dent its appeal.

Coming soon

Nissan Micra

Due: Late 2016 Price: £11,500Engine: 1.2-litre 3cyl, 97bhp

Later this year, we’ll see an all-new, larger and more practical Nissan Micra that could make the Note obsolete. Previewed by the Sway concept, the Micra will be sportier, more efficient and more upmarket.

Figures

 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet SZ5Honda Jazz SE 1.3 i-VTECNissan Note Acenta Style 1.2
On-the-road price/total as tested£13,999/£14,429£14,995/£14,995£14,285/£14,835
Residual value (after 3yrs/30,000)£5,800/41.4%£6,374/42.5%£5,925/41.5%
Depreciation£8,199£8,621£8,360
Annual tax liability std/higher rate£502/£1,004£598/£1,195£512/£1,025
Annual fuel cost (12k/20k miles)£1,176/£1,959£1,439/£2,399£1,237/£2,061
Ins. group/quote/road tax band/cost11/£321/B/£2013/£480/C/£306/£480/B/£20
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd serviceN/A£695 (5yrs/62,500)£149/£259/£149
    
Length/wheelbase3,995/2,520mm3,995/2,530mm4,140/2,600mm
Height/width1,470/1,745mm1,550/1,694mm1,530/1,695mm
Engine3cyl in-line/998cc4cyl in-line/1,318cc3cyl in-line/1,198cc
Peak power 109/5,500 bhp/rpm101/6,000 bhp/rpm79/6,000 bhp/rpm
Peak torque 170/2,000 Nm/rpm123/5,000 Nm/rpm110/4,000 Nm/rpm
Transmission 5-spd man/fwd6-spd man/fwd5-spd man/fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel37 litres/repair kit40 litres/repair kit41 litres/repair kit
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 320/1,085 litres354/1,314 litres411/1,495 litres
Kerbweight/payload/towing weight950/480kg/N/A1,066/473/1,000kg1,040/470/430kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient9.8 metres/N/A10.8 metres/N/A10.7 metres/N/A
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery3yrs (60,000)/1yr3yrs (60,000)/3yrs3yrs (60,000)/3yrs
Service intervals/UK dealers12,500 miles (1yr)/14912,500 miles (1yr)/19612,500 miles (1yr)/225
Driver Power manufacturer/dealer pos.19th/31st*20th/4th*28th/29th*
NCAP: Adult/child/ped./assist/points85/73/65/43/493/85/73/71/586/82/58/70/4
    
0-60/30-70mph9.5/9.0 secs10.4/9.6 secs12.1/12.5 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 4.3/6.1 secs5.7/8.2 secs6.6/10.1 secs
50-70mph in 4th/5th 6.8/9.2 secs 11.2/14.5 s (5th/6th)10.7/16.4 secs
Top speed/rpm at 70mph 124mph118mph/3,000rpm105mph/3,300rpm
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 57.9/38.8/11.9m52.6/35.2/8.7m50.0/36.7/9.2m
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph66/51/66/74dB65/52/66/73dB68/53/67/72dB
Auto Express econ (mpg/mpl)/range50.8/11.2/413 miles41.5/9.1/365 miles48.3/10.6/436 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 52.3/70.6/62.7mpg46.3/65.7/56.5mpg47.9/70.6/60.1mpg
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 11.5/15.5/13.8mpl10.2/14.5/12.4mpl10.5/15.5/13.2mpl
Actual/claimed CO2/tax bracket128/105g/km/18%157/116g/km/20%135/109g/km/18%
    
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors/camSix/yes/£214/noSix/yes/yes/noSix/yes/£371/no
 £1,350/adaptive/yes£1,100/yes/yesNo/yes/yes/no
Climate control/leather/heated seatsYes/no/noA/C/no/noA/C/no/no
Metallic paint/HID lights/keyless go£430/yes/yes£500/no/no£550/no/yes
Sat-nav/USB/DAB radio/BluetoothYes/yes/yes/yes£610/yes/yes/yesNo/yes/£179/yes
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