The new Suzuki Baleno comes from a comparatively small company but don’t be surprised if it makes itself heard in a big way.
While the familiar family hatchbacks are probably well known, the new five-door from Suzuki is less so but it’s technology is headturning.
Launched earlier in June, the simple four-model range from about £13,000 to £15,350 offers a choice of 111ps 3cyl 998cc Boosterjet engine or 90ps 4cyl 1.2 litre engines, mostly with five-speed manual gearboxes or a single six-speed automatic.
This is a completely new three-cylinder engine from one of the most experienced and effective makers of triple-pot powerplants and it packs a surprisingly hefty punch from rest and when overtaking.
The power flows immediately thanks to its low inertia weight turbocharger and this quickly draws in more air and fuel to give it strong acceleration.
Other manufacturers have similar small engines but really few can match this for power output and smoothness, which means its also surprisingly quiet nearly all the time and it is very economical at all times.
The comparatively quiet composure of the engine means you notice more road noise than might otherwise be the case, while transmission whine and wind noise are low.
We had the higher SZ5 trim and this brings with it Radar Brake Support and Adaptive Cruise Control, features you normally find only in much more expensive cars. It really is a technical tour de force, but we found the infotainment system accessed through the touch screen was not as straightforward as it could have been.
The sophisticated powertrain came with a nicely weighted steering action and a good turning circle as well as strong brakes underfoot and to hand when parking.
The secondary stalk controls were well placed and worked with a feeling of quality and precision, backed up by fascia switches, warning lights and simple instruments ahead of the driver.
Temperature controls were comprehensive too for a car in this class and you had a good range of settings as well as distribution options and it seemed to stay as desired, backed by powered windows all round.
Oddments room was adequate and the boot a useful size but not immense behind a low rear sill.
Our Baleno provided a rear reversing camera to overcome a blindspot but vision was clear to the sides and front with good wipers and lights for poor conditions.
The four doors allowed good access throughout and it was adequate for four people but a squeeze in the back if a fifth person was inside. Seat covering was cloth and they were well shaped, with a comfortable wrap-around style on the front pair and adequate adjustment for all but the tallest users.
Ride comfort was very good in the front and back. The Baleno smoothed out the bumps in nearly every surface, although you could hear how hard the system was working, and it would occasionally roll around some bends.
Grip was fairly good and the handling very predictable and safe.
The short gear ratios were good for acceleration and making the most of the comparatively small engine capacity, but I really wished on a few occasions that it had a sixth gear, both to reduce a buzz at motorway maximum and also to push the economy even further above the 54mpg we achieved.
I liked the interior and exterior styling, marvelled at its powertrain performance and economy, and was really impressed with its technology. There is no doubt in my mind that the Suzuki Baleno has moved on the game in this class and it will be interesting to see how rivals catch up, if they can at this price.
|Fast facts||Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet SZ5|
|Price: £13,999||Insurance group: 11E|
|Mechanical: 111ps 3-cyl 998cc turbo-petrol, 5-speed||Consumption: 54 mpg|
|0-62mph: 11.4 sec||Maximum: 124 mph|
|Emissions: 105 gkm||BIK: Ved band B|
|Luggage capacity: 320 to 756 litres||Warranty: 3 yrs/ 60,000 miles|
For: Lively, economical, comfortable, good handling and very good equipment list as standard
Against: Five speed, road noise, non-intuitive infotainment system.