Suzuki Baleno a top

small family car

Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno, rear
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno
Suzuki Baleno, side, static

ANYONE looking for a very comfortable smaller car that's cheap to run would be hard-pressed to find anything better than the Suzuki Baleno.

It's a brilliant family car with room for four and a decent boot on top of many other class-leading attributes.

And with keen prices and generous standard equipment, plus very reasonable running costs - including a government average of 64 miles per gallon - it's a great buy for thrifty drivers.

From the outside it seems quite small, but that small footprint hides a Tardis-like interior.

The car I drove was powered by Suzuki's excellent Boosterjet 1.0-litre turbo petrol, which in this guise, produces an excellent 110bhp.

To put that into context, it's not far off the power of some early GTIs.

This little engine is a gem, smooth and quiet at most speeds and beautifully tuneful when revved.

But there's no need to use the revs most of the time, because the turbo means it pulls happily from low speed in fifth gear of five.

It's willing and peppy in the lower gears and the performance is good, giving more urge than the 11 second 0-62 miles an hour figure would have you believe.

The ride is excellent - even in town at low speeds - and it stays just as good out on the open road, even when the surface is poor.

It takes speed humps and the multi-excavated town roads we all face every day completely in its stride

And despite some roll, it also holds the road really well, with excellent balance even when pushed very hard and good feedback from the decently tactile power steering.

Sharp changes of direction give it no difficulty and grip is excellent - despite fairly thin tyres to help economy.

This is a smaller car that I could easily live with because it's a joy to drive in almost every situation

Inside, it may not be particularly plush but everything you need falls to hand and the seats are supportive and comfortable.

Taller passengers will be happy in the back and access is easy through the wide opening doors.

The boot is also a good size, and will expand dramatically with the use of the split folding back eat.

As I said above, all models come with excellent equipment including a touchscreen system, with sat nav, stereo and a number of car functions.

They also have air conditioning, automatic lights, Bluetooth, USB, traction control and alloy wheels, so if you're downsizing, you won't miss out on much.

The SZ-T I drove adds audio remote controls on the steering wheel, fog lights and parking sensors and the top SZ-5 gets autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and climate control among other extra kit.

: 20%

: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles

: Skoda Rapid

FAST FACTS

Price: £14,990

Mechanical: 110bhp, 998cc, 3cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 5-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 124mph

0-62mph: 11 seconds

Combined MPG: 64

Insurance Group: 62.8

C02 emissions: 16

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