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
Long-term test (Update): Suzuki Baleno 1,4 GLX
Shortly before departing for a cross-country trip to Musina, the Baleno completed its first service, at Suzuki Table View. The experience was prompt, professional and hiccup-free. Unfortunately, the service did not include wheel rotation and alignment, so I took the Baleno to Tiger Wheel & Tyre Century City for these tasks. After fours hours of working on the car, the Baleno was declared ready and set for its journey to Limpopo.
With a Thule roof box installed, we set off early on Friday morning along the N1. Taking it easy, three days later we passed through Louis Trichardt. Just outside the town on a pockmarked gravel road, the Baleno sustained two punctures.
In the middle of nowhere on Christmas Eve with no cellphone reception, we were forced to replace the damaged front tyre with the spare wheel and leave the flat rear in place. The Baleno soldiered on through to our accommodation at a nearby nature reserve, where we had to park the vehicle until the tyre shops in Louis Trichardt reopened after Christmas.
Several phone calls later, we realised nobody carried stock of the Baleno’s OEM tyres. Our original plan was to leave early on Boxing Day and we had to resort to fitting two 185/65 R15 tyres generously donated to us by Surat Trading of Louis Trichardt.
With the Baleno back on its wheels, we set off for Johannesburg, where stock of the Bridgestone Ecopias continued to be an issue. Eventually, we settled on two Continental Premium-Contact rubbers in the correct size, plus wheel alignment.
Thankfully, the return journey to Cape Town proved far less perilous and my respect for the Baleno continued to grow.
After 10 months
Mileage now: 19 086 km
Fuel consumption (litres/100 km): 7,10 L/100 km
We like: impressive open-road ability
We dislike: tyres are scarce