Suzuki turns the corner with new ‘big small car’ Baleno
SUZUKI will have their new Baleno on sale here from June 1 as they continue to turn the corner after what they admit has been a “tough few years”.
The Baleno is being dubbed a ‘big small car’ (at 2.64 metres it has the longest interior space in its class) and they say it is designed to attract two sections of buyers: younger couples who need a bit more space, and mature people downsizing from family saloons such as the Opel Astra.
It will cost from €17,995 ex-works (SZ-T) with the top-spec SZ5 costing €19,495. There is a ‘light hybrid’ from €18,995 (it has top-spec trim only and a 1.2-litre petrol).
While it is technically a supermini it is, as is the likes of the Skoda Fabia, a bit of a ‘segment buster’ in that it isn’t far off a being a small-family car in terms of interior space. Other rivals, they say, include the Ford Fiesta, Citroen C3 and Hyundai i20. After driving it around Co Down this morning, I can tell you they are not wrong on cabin space. And with a low floor and high roof it is one of the easiest cars to get into and out of I’ve come across for a long time.
The Baleno is a brand new motor, as is the impressive 1-litre 3cyl Boosterjet petrol engine. It manages a seriously lively 111bhp – a power level above the average in the segment (60bhp to 90bhp would be common). The power and torque were more like what I’d expect from a much larger normally-aspirated engine.
There is a 5spd manual transmission and a 6spd auto. Road tax is €190 and they claim it is capable of 63mpg. We got around 50mpg on brisk driving.
There is also a ‘mild hybrid’ version called SHVS. Basically it has a system that works as a generator and a starter motor (it’s called Integrated Starter Generator or ISG) that assists the engine. It also taps electricity from the likes of regenerative braking to boost battery power (lithium ion and conventional 12-volt). The 1.2-litre petrol engine (94g/km; 70mpg) works with a 5spd manual transmission. It comes only with top spec (SZ-5) but was not as good to drive as the 1-litre.
They are making a big play about the level of standard equipment at entry level (called SZ-T) which includes sat nav, Bluetooth, a big array of airbags, air con, DAB, reversing camera, 16ins alloys, front fogs. You get MirrorLink and ApplePlay too. There is a new central console unit and a clear display.
The SZ-5 level has auto climate control, adaptive cruise control (rare even on much larger cars), Collision Avoidance system etc.
The Baleno ushers in the start of quite a flow of new models from the brand. Others coming down the line include a Vitara S version with a new 1.4-litre Boosterjet engine which arrives in September. They see it as an ideal replacement for a diesel, for example.
In October there will be a brand new S-Cross with a new engine too and is said to be a total departure from the existing one.
And early next year there will be a small (Fiat Panda sized) crossover called iM-4. They expect it will do for Suzuki what the little 500 did for FIAT.
For now, though, they've made a good start with their 'big little car' Baleno.