Suzuki plugs gap

with Baleno

Suzuki Baleno, side
Suzuki Baleno, front, action
Suzuki Baleno, side, static
Suzuki Baleno, rear
Suzuki Baleno, rear seats
Suzuki Baleno, boot
Suzuki Baleno, display screen
Suzuki Baleno, dashboard
Suzuki Baleno, hybrid dash

CITY car wizards Suzuki next month plug the gap between the diminutive Swift and their successful SUV Vitara.

The new Baleno, built on a fresh lightweight platform, is six inches longer than the Swift but has bags more cabin and boot space.

About the size of a Fiesta or a Skoda Fabia, it is cheaper and more compact than Suzuki's own crossover, the S-Cross.

Two engine options are available - the 1.0litre Boosterjet SZ-T starting at £12,999 and the 1.2litre mild hybrid engine SHVS at £13,499.

The higher trim level SZ5 adds £1,000 to the bill on the non hybrid model.

Both engines major on economy with the hybrid managing a tax-free 94g/km and the Boosterjet engine car achieving 105g/km, which corresponds with 70.6mpg and 62.7mpg in official tests.

Translated into real life terms, most owners are likely to get above the 50mpg mark.

Less individual looking than the chunky Swift, the Baleno is easy on the eye with frontal styling not dissimilar to the SEAT Leon or Ibiza while the rear design sits somewhere between the BMW 1-Series hatch and the Astra.

It might not stand out too much in the supermarket car park, but it's unlikely to offend either.

Suzuki says it follows its ‘Liquid Flow' theme ‘evoking energy mass of liquid motion using curved lines and expressive surfaces'.

All Balenos come as five-doors and have plenty of goodies. Standard equipment includes sat-nav, Bluetooth, air con and six airbags. The dearer SZ5 also gets radar brake support and adaptive cruise control.

Owners of the Swift will be amazed at how much cabin space there is in the new model. A genuine five-seater, the Baleno has one of the most roomy rear sections in its class with impressive legroom for both front and back passengers.

Rear headroom is slightly restricted because of the sloping roofline, but you'd have to be over six-foot tall to be bothered.

The boot, too, is unusually spacious and can swallow up 320 litres of luggage which is noticeably more than the big selling Fiesta.

Cabin and fascia design is smart enough and uncluttered but the materials don't quite measure up to European rivals such as Polo and Fiesta.

There's a harshness about the plastics with echoes of models goneby. Tech-wise, however, it's right up there with today's generation offering DAB radio, full connectivity and Apple CarPlay.

Most of my drive was spent behind the wheel of the three cylinder 1.0litre Boosterjet engined model which is likely to attract most of the 3,500 sales a year.

With 110bhp being extracted from the tiny unit, it's hardly surprising the Baleno gets a wiggle on. There's a pleasing ‘thrum' from the engine, slightly reminiscent of a flat four ‘boxer' unit, as it polishes off the dash to 62mph in a nimble 11 seconds and goes on to more than 120mph.

The high torque turbocharger means there's ample low down power so there's little need to row through the ratios, although the five speed manual gearbox is light and pleasant to use. A six-speed automatic transmission is offered for an extra £1,350.

Handling is confident and secure rather than sporty with ample adhesion and predictable front drive characteristics.

It rides poor surfaces with comfortable assurance though the steering is a shade too light and offers little in the way of driver feedback. Noise level from the engine is reasonably low even at high revs, but road surfaces transfer some commotion back into the passenger compartment.

Built in India, where it is already a huge hit, the Baleno will ultimately be exported to 100 countries around the globe. It's a welcome addition to the highly competitive supermini sector and sets a new benchmark in value-for-money.

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