Long-term test (Update 1): Suzuki Baleno 1,4 GLX
Having first experienced the Baleno while testing it for our January 2017 issue, along with my colleagues I’ve been impressed with this honest and affordable offering. Now that I’ve taken over the key from my colleague Gareth Dean, and even more so since it bested the Toyota Yaris in a September 2017 comparative test, I am quite intrigued to see how it performs for the remainder of its stay with us.
During my short time with the Baleno, the standout feature has been the naturally aspirated, 1,4-litre, four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual gearbox.
The setup does sound dated, but in practice it’s responsive, entertaining and, with an average fuel consumption of less than 7,0 L/100 km (and spending most of its days in urban driving), it’s proving to be efficient, too. Of course, the fact that the vehicle weighs only 916 kg does help its cause significantly.
Thanks to the light controls – steering, pedals and gearshifting – the Baleno requires little effort to operate on a daily basis, especially when sitting in traffic.
In the perceived-quality department, the Baleno is putting up a good show. Six months into its tenure and despite the interior being predominately composed of hard plastic, there aren’t any noticeable rattles and all the trim pieces have stayed in place. Criticism, however, must be directed at the electrically assisted power steering that offers little in the way of feedback and makes reading the road conditions more of a challenge, especially when mated to the eco-friendly and hard-wearing Bridgestone Ecopia tyres. While these tyres don’t affect the quality of the ride, they do not offer prodigious grip – especially in the wet – and aren’t the quietest, either.
After 6 months
Mileage now: 8 864 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 6,97 L/100 km
We like: responsive engine; light controls
We dislike: lifeless steering
Long-term test (Introduction): Suzuki Baleno 1,4 GLX
When we reviewed the Baleno 1,4 GLX in our January 2017 issue, we were quite taken with what we saw as a solid, spacious and comfortable newcomer to the B-segment fraternity.
However, we also lamented the fact that it would likely have to fight tooth and nail to stake a claim in a cutthroat market, where such capable staples as the VW Polo and Ford Fiesta have long held sway; and that’s a real shame.
Thankfully, Suzuki has loaned us a unit for 12 months, giving the Baleno a touch more of the exposure we feel it deserves and allowing us to discover just how well it will acquit itself over a varied and challenging year-long stint with the CAR team. And, with almost 5 000 km to its name in just one month’s service, our Baleno 1,4 GLX has undergone a veritable baptism of fire and come out pretty much unscathed.
The bulk of the mileage comprised a round trip to the Eastern Cape, taking in East London and some of the more rustic locales such as Craddock. On the open road, the virtues of the Baleno’s compliant ride and refinement were countered only by its revvy but rather thin-feeling naturally aspirated 1,4-litre engine. This engine’s modest 68 kW and 130 N.m outputs meant that overtaking at motorway speeds required some planning. Fortunately, close-set lower gearing linked to a snappy shifter and a waif-like 916 kg kerb weight mean that the Baleno feels fairly nippy round town. While it may not be the most striking-looking member of its segment – although our example’s metallic paint and gunmetal alloys do lend it an upmarket air – the Baleno’s packaging is impressive.
The rear legroom matches that of some compact SUVs and the boot was deep and capacious enough to swallow the good deal of road trip chattels thrown its way, although the size comes at the expense of a full-sized spare wheel in favour of a space-saver.
The latter, unfortunately, came into play after a stint of dirt-road driving, with a puncture to a 185/55 R16 Bridgestone Ecopia tyre bringing with it an 80 km drive and hot-sealant repair at the nearest tyre vendor.
Otherwise, the Baleno hasn’t missed a beat; the interior feels well screwed together, GLX specification means it doesn’t feel spartan and its refreshing honesty has already seen it endear itself to the team. Let’s see how that appeal will hold up over 12 months.
After 1 month
Mileage now: 4 811 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 6,71 L/100 km
We like: spacious interior; solid build
We dislike: somewhat reedy engine