2016 Suzuki Baleno Review

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I was lucky enough to get the Baleno GLX turbo for an extended test drive and by the end of my two weeks with it I was actually really starting to like it but there were still some things I didn’t like about it which left me in two minds.
The Baleno is priced smack bang in the middle of the light car segment difference between it and the others is it offers a very generous amount of interior room. So much so it rivals some of the cars in the bigger small car segment in certain aspects.

It’s with sharp pricing and generous interior dimensions Suzuki is hoping to steal some buyers looking for a small car, and that’s not all the GL comes generously equipped for an entry level model including a 7inch touch screen, apple carplay, sat nav, rear view camera all for $16,990.
GLX has some of the qualities as the GL has but takes them just a little further  which is good, unfortunately that it has the same issues the GL has which puts a downer on it as well given that it’s priced by so much more than the GL.

The Baleno does shape up as an interesting prospect on paper specially in GL form, but sometimes things that do look good don’t carry that on in the real world and unfortunately that is the case with the Baleno.
Stepping inside the GL my first thoughts were I’ve stepped into a time warp, while the interior is functional and decently set out it just feels like it’s a generation behind other cars on the market.
Interior materials are not its strong point there is just a mass of hard plastics everywhere with a spattering of soft squishy bits on the door trims. The steering wheel is a decent thickness the cloth seats are comfortable but lack lateral support in corners.
The instrument panel is easy to read in any light, the small LCD screen in between the gauges displays basic info such as fuel economy and range.

The GLX comes better equipped with alloy wheels shod with better Bridgestone tyres, multi colour info screen between the dials and paddle shifters behind the leather clad steering wheel. The main problem is that the rest of the interior is the same as the GL so same mass of hard plastics and unsupportive seats which is a real shame as I found the GLX fun to drive.
The one bright point in the interior for both models is the 7inch touch for the multimedia system, I found the system to not only be easy to use but the sound was pretty good as well.
The satnav system was easy to use and worked extremely well, the funny thing is the voice guidance is different in both models, the GL gave me night mares about the dodgy telemarketing phone calls we’ve been getting at home so I muted it after a km. Thankfully it was different in the GLX so I left it on.
The system is also apple car play compatible as well but sadly no android auto capability so I cant comment on well that works.
The Baleno is blessed with more room on the inside then what you would expect from it’s small outside dimensions and has a decent amount of leg room.
The boot space is great while not being exceptionally long it is deep so with 355L of space available it actually has more boot space then the bigger Mazda 3 and while the back seats don’t fold flat the boot space increases to 756L with them folded.

Under bonnet the GL is powered by a 1.4L naturally aspirated 4cyl petrol engine developing 68kW and 130Nm.
Although despite being low on power the 1.4L engine can be a little snappy off the part of that is due to the lower final drive gearing and it’s low kerb weight with the Baleno tipping the scales at a light weight 915kg.
The engine is decent little engine and likes to rev and surprisingly has a better exhaust note then you would expect, but despite it’s good points it’s hamstrung by its lack of overall power and torque so it does seem to struggle with 2 or more people on board specially on hills.
Fuel economy is remarkable and the Baleno is the most fuel efficient car I’ve tested returning a very low 7L/100km for my commute for the week, on the freeway the economy got even better with it getting down to the low 5’s.
While most other small cars feature either a CVT or 6 speed auto, Suzuki have gone the old school route with a 4 speed auto and while the shifts are somewhat smooth it could benefit from a 6 speed transmission specially on the freeway where it sits on 2500rpm at 100km/h.

The turbo 1.0L 3 cylinder engine in GLX on the other hand is a revelation compared to the 1.4L N/A engine, while developing 82kW and a 160Nm its goes about its business differently with its torque available from a low 1500rpm compared to 4000rpm for other engine.
The little 1.0L is snappy off the mark and developing its torque low means it doesn’t have to be pedaled as hard to keep up with traffic especially off the mark.
It does suffer the from the same problem as the other engine as it does struggle a little on hills with passengers on board.
But the fuel economy is also a strong point for it with returning 6.6L/100km for the week which was slightly better figures then the 1.4L engine in the GL. Which suggested to me that while being smaller the turbo engine was better suited to my commute thanks to the torque coming on lower.

On the road the ride most of the time seems to be composed and very stable in both models, for some reason the GLfelt a little jiggly and floaty over some of the uneven surfaces around my area but the GLX didn’t feel as bad. Overall the GL and GLX seem to be sprung more for comfort than sport and they did provide a comfortable drive to work everyday.
Both models  feel very stable while corning there a little bit more lean in the GL compared to the GLX which I put down the better tyres on the GLX, the lean however does feel more than it actually is in both models because the seats don’t offer you a lot of lateral support.
The steering is light making it easy to park but feels a little vague, certainly nowhere near the sharpest I’ve tested but I would have been surprised if it was as it’s not a sporty car.
The one annoying thing is the electric power steering seems to self centre to aggressively at low speeds.

Safety wise both models come standard with Front airbags, Side airbags, Curtain airbags, Anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), Brake assist system (BAS), Vehicle stability control (ESP®), Traction control.
While they lose points for not having reverse sensors but gets some back for the standard fit rear view camera.

While I wasn’t too crash hot on the Baleno GL at the start of the week I started to warm to it a touch by the end of it. The GL Baleno is a good honest little car, It’s well equipped, the multimedia system is good and it’s great on fuel (I could probably go a month or more between fills on my normal commute) and it’s well priced.
I was lucky to get the GLX Turbo for an extended test drive and buy the end of my 2 weeks with it was really starting to like it, its 1L turbo 3cyl engine might be small but it is engaging and fun to drive with a brilliant exhaust note as well.
Both models however doe have a few bad points, it’s not as refined as some other small cars and both models are let down buy a cheapish interior, the lack of lateral support from the front seats spoil what would be a more fun drive in the GLX.
However the GL’s sharp pricing means that it’s good proposition for somebody looking for their first car or a cheap car to use on the weekly commute to work.
The higher pricing of GLX while it is a step up from the GL with a better drive line combination and the better of the 2 to drive, so its right in the firing line of the cars at the higher end of the light car segment and at the bottom end of the small car segment which are better equipped and more refined on the inside.
The other things was the build quality seemed to be a bit hit and miss the panel gaps were uneven and all over the place on the GL while the GLX seemed to be a lot better despite coming from the same factory.
The Baleno comes with 3 year or 100,000 km new car warranty and capped price servicing so you will know in advance how much your services will be for the first five years.

Suzuki Baleno GL
Price: $16,990
Engine: 1.4L Petrol 68kW 130Nm
Transmission: 4 speed auto
Standard Features:
6 airbags, Air conditioning, Satellite navigation, Touch screen, Voice command, Steering wheel controls, Apple carplay, Bluetooth® connectivity, Rear View Camera.
Anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), Brake assist system (BAS), Vehicle stability control (ESP®), Traction control, halogen headlights, Electric mirrors, Electric windows, Roof Spoiler.

Suzuki GLX Turbo
Price: From $23490
Engine: 1L Turbo 3 cylinder Boosterjet petrol
Transmission: 6 speed auto with paddle shift
Standard features:
6 airbags, Air conditioning, Satellite navigation, Touch screen, Voice command, Steering wheel controls, Apple carplay, Bluetooth® connectivity, Rear View Camera.
Anti-lock braking system (ABS), Electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD), Brake assist system (BAS), Vehicle stability control (ESP®), Traction control. Halogen headlights, Electric mirrors, Electric windows, Roof Spoiler, 16” Alloy Wheels, advanced 4.2-inch colour LCD screen multi information display.

 

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