THERE is no shortage of choice in the supermini class and Suzuki has a couple of strong contenders in the shape of its popular Swift and the recently launched Baleno.
I have been sampling the very practical Baleno which first went on sale in June and is already proving popular with private buyers.
It may seem oddto release the Baleno when the company already has the excellent Swiftcompeting in this crowded market sector but Suzuki feels that there is room for both with the Swift catering for sporty buyers and the Baleno competing on price and practicality.
The Baleno sits on a new platform which will also feature in the next generation Swift and as it is very light this helps the Baleno shine in the performance and economy fronts.
Available with a choice of two power units and two trim levels, the talented Baleno costs from £12,999.
The five-door Baleno is a product of Suzuki's new ‘Liquid Flow' design theme and while it is not exciting to look at it is tidy.
Style features include a black grille housing the Suzuki badging, a rear spoiler, chrome tailgate trim, LED daytime running lights, rear privacy glass, electrically-adjustable heated door mirrors and front fog lights as well as 16-inch alloy wheels.
For a supermini it offers bags of technology including sat nav with Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth connectivity, a decent sound system, a clear infotainment screen, a three-spoke leather covered steering wheel, smart nicely lit instrument dials and lots more.
The materials may not be as good as the class leaders but the cabin is user-friendly and roomy. Four adults can travel in real comfort and five could travel for shorter journeys - with head and legroom in back surprisingly generous.
There is bags of standard equipment, such as automatic air conditioning, automatic headlamps, guide me home light function, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and a DAB digital radio.
The Baleno boasts a 320-litre boot and that can be increased to 756 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. In addition to increase its practical credentials there is a glovebox, central bin, door pockets and a small tray just in front of a couple of cup holders.
Two engines are available in the Baleno - a 1.2 SHV or Smart Hybrid Vehicle which is expected to account for only 15 per cent of sales - or the super little three cylinder 1.0-litre engine fitted to the test car.
It might be small but the willing three-pot, 1.0 Boosterjet is up to the job. It might take 11.4 seconds to reach 62mph but it feels quicker and can go on to 124mph, so it has no problem cruising at motorway speeds.
It can deliver combined fuel economy of 62.7mpg with carbon emissions of 105g/km. Thanks to two fairly long journeys I averaged considerably more than the claimed figure.
Fitted with a five-speed manual gearbox the Baleno's powertrain has bags of character and only felt a bit wheezy on really steep gradients. In town it is an ideal companion and very comfortable on longer journeys.
The Baleno is built in India but feels well screwed together and comes with a long list of safety equipment including anti-lock brakes with electronic brake force distribution, six airbags, a tyre pressure monitoring system, radar brake support with brake assist function, ISOFIX child seat anchorages and childproof door locks.