Road Test: Suzuki Baleno Boosterjet SZ5
The Baleno is a great supermini with a trick up its sleeve, says Alex Grant
SECTOR: Supermini PRICE: £13,999 FUEL: 62.7mpg CO2: 105g/km
With its sights set on doubling its UK fleet sales, and the infrastructure coming together to support those ambitions, traditionally retail-focused Suzuki has realised that its talent for low-cost, high reliability, highly functional small cars and SUVs has potential in the corporate sphere. They’re strengths the Baleno plays to very effectively.
Positioned above the Swift, though still within the supermini segment, the Baleno makes a great case for itself on paper. It’s available in two highly-specced trim levels, both including satellite navigation, Bluetooth and air conditioning, the CO2 emissions are competitive and this top-spec SZ5 version comes in under £14,000 with almost no gaps in the equipment list. Adaptive cruise control? Check. Apple CarPlay? It’s there. Keyless entry? That too. A pared-back runaround this certainly isn’t.
It’s also cleverly engineered. There are two engines – a mild hybrid, and the Boosterjet version tested here – and with a weight-optimised structure the latter tips the scales at a mere 935kg. To put that into perspective, it’s comfortably the lightest supermini on sale, with a kerb weight close to some cars in the class below. All without quietly removing safety kit to cut kilos.
That’s a foundation for an unexpected surprise, because the Baleno accelerates like a warm hatch. The 1.0-litre turbocharged three-cylinder engine makes 109bhp, and kicks out peak torque of 125lb/ft between 2,000rpm and 3,500rpm – right where you want the sharpest throttle response. It feels far quicker than the 11.4-second sprint to 62mph implies, and all the more entertaining for the growly off-beat three-cylinder engine note under load.
Low weight also benefits fuel economy. Resist the sparky in-gear acceleration and the Baleno can return over 60mpg at motorway speeds – despite having only five gears. This was the best-performing non-hybrid petrol car at last year’s MPG Marathon, but you don’t need to be a hypermiler to get almost 500 miles from a 37-litre tank of petrol. A good reason for Suzuki not to include a diesel engine in the line-up.
Unfortunately, the Baleno hasn’t been built to meet European-market expectations of cabin materials. The steering feels unnaturally light and the interior is awash with hard, shiny black plastic – that’s a Suzuki trait, steered by Japanese customers who see this as a sign of long-lasting quality. The infotainment system takes a little getting used to as well, particularly the lack of a simple knob to adjust the volume – it’s done via slider on the touchscreen. Others do this better.
But it’s picking holes. Suzuki has a supermini with plenty of fleet potential here, provided it can get drivers and operators to look beyond the typical brands. It’s roomy, fun to drive and comes with everything most business users could need – all foundations for that fleet growth it’s chasing in the UK.
What we think:
Look elsewhere if you want soft-touch plastics, but the Baleno manages the seemingly ipossible task of being highly specced and impressively light on its feet, with benefits for economy and driver enjoyment. There are few better arguments for not needing a diesel engine in this class.
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