Juliet reviews…the Suzuki Baleno

A couple of weeks back I reviewed the recently launched Toyota Starlet, which is essentially a Baleno with a Toyota badge on it. I thought it only fair that I review the Suzuki Baleno to give it equal airtime. But also, just before the Starlet made its debut, Suzuki upped its game by adding stability control to the Baleno, which is something it was missing. Well played Suzuki.

An updated version of the Baleno arrived at the end of 2019 offering a new look, more standard spec and upgraded trim. The exterior changes made quite a difference with a revised grille with a wider 3D chrome strip which ran through the headlamps. A new colour was also made available in the form of the Magma Grey Metallic.

The two-tone colour upholstery inside gives it a modern look and feel which is highlighted by the brushed aluminium trim across the dashboard and on the air conditioning vents, steering wheel and instrument cluster. But what makes the Baleno such great value for money is the standard spec on offer. Unlike the Starlet, which is offered in a three-grade strategy, the Baleno offers only two. The entry-level GL still boasts an array of standard features such as air conditioning, electric windows front and rear, a multi-function steering wheel, keyless entry and a radio with Bluetooth. The GLX adds a colour touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, cruise control, rear park sensors with a rear camera, as well as keyless entry with a push start button, automatic climate control and an armrest.

What is noticeable about this compact hatch is the rear legroom. There is ample back there. The entire cabin feels spacious and the boot is also a great size. This car competes with the likes of the Volkswagen Polo Vivo and Ford Figo, so it has to offer a lot if it wants to stand out.

The Baleno shares the same engine as now found in the Starlet which is the 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine. It produces 68 kW and 130 Nm. It is certainly nippy, especially around town. I have loved driving this car. It is fuss-free and the 5-speed manual transmission is just effortless. And like the Starlet, the Baleno is also super capable on the highway and feels very solid, even in strong crosswinds. The fuel consumption is claimed at between 5.1l/100 km and 5.4l/100 km. I found myself achieving closer to 5.9l/100 km, but I was pushing the car quite hard.

I feel sorry for Suzuki in this situation because as much as the Baleno is a great car, the Starlet comes with the Toyota badge which is synonymous with reliability, not to mention Toyota’s dealership footprint. And then considering that the Starlet comes in cheaper than the Baleno, it is hard to make a case for it. But, I can say, that no matter which you go for, you are going to end up with a fantastic compact hatch that delivers in so many ways.

Pricing of the Suzuki Baleno

Baleno 1.4 GL MT: R221 900

Baleno 1.4 GLX MT: R259 900

Baleno 1.4 GLX AT: R274 900

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