Suzuki Baleno fills

the gap

Suzuki Baleno, front, action
Suzuki Baleno, front, static
Suzuki Baleno, side
Suzuki Baleno, rear
Suzuki Baleno, dashboard
Suzuki Baleno, boot

SUZUKI sales are going from strength to strength on the back of that strange TV advertising campaign with Ant and Dec.

Every airing of the ad is apparently followed by a huge number of views online and a surge in the numbers of people going into showrooms.

The company is revitalising its range too, with the excellent Baleno hatch out recently, major changes to the S-Cross by the end of the year, and a new small car called the iM4, slightly bigger than the Celerio hatch anfd due next year.

The Baleno falls into the range above the high selling Swift. The company realised that when people needed a larger car, they moved on to other makes.

So it's badly needed to stop that loss of customers already aware of the brand's reliability, practicality and fun.

The platform is completely new and very light weight, while still retaining all the safety we need these days.

I drove the cheapest SZ-T 1.0-litre turbo and thought that, with just 110bhp on tap, it was unlikely to have much performance.

But that light weight - 100kg less than many others in the class - means it's surprisingly quick and beautifully willing.

It's very smooth and tuneful too - always a plus - pulling easily from just above tickover all the way to the red line and there's plenty of urge for swift, safe overtaking.

The more I drove this one the more characterful it became and the more I enjoyed it.

It's a good deal cheaper than many alternatives too and also has a bigger interior than cars like the Ford Fiesta or the Vauxhall Corsa.

I recently tested Kia's latest 1.0-litre turbo in the cee'd, which is also very smooth and has similar interior space, but the Baleno is more willing and quicker.

On a cross country run with no motorway but pretty clear roads it returned a real 50 miles per gallon too, which is exceptional for a petrol car of this size.

Comfort is very good on rough roads in town and just as good out on the open road at speed. It soaks up every bump with great ease and does it quietly too.

General refinement is excellent with subdued wind noise and little from the tyres, except for the usual thrum on tar and chippings.

And the road holding, even when pressed much harder than most would dare, was very good, with great balance and strong grip instilling confidence.

Inside, there's plenty of room for four or a friendly five, with good rear leg and head room, one of the biggest boots in the class and supportive front seats giving a higher than normal driving position.

Equipment in this entry model is excellent, including stability control, sat nav, front, side and curtain airbags, climate control, USB and aux connections for stereo, DAB radio, smartphone link, Bluetooth and alloy wheels.

FAST FACTS

Price: £12,999

Mechanical: 109bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 11.4 seconds

Combined MPG: 62

Insurance Group: 11

C02 emissions: 105g/km

Bik rating: 18%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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