Suzuki's nippy, fun Baleno puts rivals under pressure with €18k price tag
Arriving next month is an all new car from Suzuki that should appeal to the more grown up drivers as much as the younger set, who are the main devotees of the super mini-class of vehicle.
The Baleno is a size bigger than the well-regarded Swift and comes with equipment on the entry level model that will shock many rivals - and it has a brand new 1-litre Boosterjet petrol engine that Suzuki engineers claim has the equivalent level of power and torque as a normally aspirated 1.8 litre unit.
But while the 3-cylinder power plant may be the star attraction, the level of equipment on the entry level SZ-T model will force rivals to up their game to compete. It comes with 16'' alloy wheels, HID headlights, air conditioning, Sat/Nav, DAB radio, rear privacy glass and Bluetooth, steering wheel controls, seven-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, front fog lights, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink, leather steering wheel, follow-me-home lights and trip computer. A lot of bang for your buck at under €18,000.
The top grade ST-5 adds safety features such as adaptive cruise control, radar brake support and LED rear lights with automatic climate control, keyless entry and keyless start, and electric rear windows. The step-up price is an extra €1,500.
The big interest to the younger driver will be the amount of punch the tiny engine can put out. The 110bhp turbocharged unit with 105g/Km C02 emissions and 117Nm of torque on tap reaches peak at 2,000 rpm when the high combustion efficiency of Boosterjet technology kicks in as fuel goes through a greater atomisation process for improved combustion. It delivers an instant spurt of speed, great for overtaking, and also reduces the amount of gear-changing required.
Suzuki claims over 64 mpg in its test figures but drivers may never reach this level as the Baleno is fun to drive and encourages high revving travel.
The manual transmission is a five-speed box but an extra gear would be useful for cutting fuel consumption and engine noise on motorways.
Good room up front and more than adequate for two adults in the rear, the Baleno has a lightweight design which makes the car seem more energetic. The interior trim has some hard plastics and some rivals have brighter interiors but seats are supportive if somewhat on the firm side. Overall an agile and nippy fun car to drive with light steering.
Suzuki plans to sell 250 models this year and 400 in a full year through its 23 dealerships.
Also to be launched at the same time is a mild hybrid Baleno SHVS with a 1.2 litre Dualjet engine with stop/start technology and just 95g/km C02 at €18,995. This is the first foray in to the hybrid market and more versions can be expected in the next few years.
On the way from the Japanese firm is a small crossover which may be called the Ignis, which will appear at the Paris Motor show later this year. It is expected to arrive in January. There will be a new Swift next April, a new S-Cross in October and a Vitara in September.