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Suzuki Baleno test drive – A well-kitted hatch

Suzuki’s latest hatchback, the new Baleno, has arrived in South Africa at a starting price of R225,900.

We attended the launch of the Suzuki Baleno to find out where all the improvements have been made.


The new Suzuki Baleno is offered in two specifications, the entry-level GL and the top-end GLX, and we got to take both versions on an excursion through Durban and Pietermaritzburg.

While the GLX is naturally better equipped than the GL, the entry-level car is by no means light on features.

Hopping behind the wheel, you’ll find a variety of steering-mounted controls and a 7-inch infotainment system with support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which did a good job of helping us navigate our way around Kwa-Zulu Natal with Google Maps.

Additionally, the car is fitted with automatic climate control with front and rear ventilation, which excellently maintained a cool 20 degrees in the cabin on a bright and sunny day.

A rear camera is available and works just fine, as does the cruise control which is easily adjustable with the multifunction steering wheel.

Where the Baleno really differentiates itself from the market though, is with the range-topping GLX.

The GLX adds keyless entry, a colour driver’s display, and most notably, a 360-degree camera and heads-up display which are both extremely uncommon in a car at this price point.

The heads-up display is a fun addition that projects useful info onto a small glass panel above the instrument cluster, but it can be disabled entirely if you prefer, whereby it retracts down into the dash.

Finally, the 360-degree camera with birds-eye-view angles was particularly helpful for most parking situations.

Bigger engine

Upgrading from the 1.4-litre engine seen on the previous model, the new Baleno sports a 1.5-litre petrol unit which delivers 77kW and 138Nm to the front wheels – 9kW and 8Nm more than before.

The car is available in both five-speed manual and four-speed automatic specifications, however, we only spent time with the manual derivatives.

The manual has a low advertised combined fuel consumption of 5.4l/100km, which seemed pretty close to the mark as it averaged 5.9l/100km on the fresh engine during our route.

The increase in performance over the outgoing generation is noticeable, too, with responsive acceleration and enough power that it had no issues tackling a hill or overtaking a truck on KZN’s busy highways.

Furthermore, the manual transmission felt smooth and pleasant to use, even when the journey slowed to a crawl as we got caught in rush-hour traffic.

I found myself making regular use of the car’s cruise control which reacted quickly, and the heads-up display on the GLX version was an appreciated addition for viewing my speed without taking my eyes off the road.

Good looks

Suzuki described its design approach to the new Baleno as “crafted futurism” with more defined physical characteristics compared to the old model.

This includes a wider front air intake, a three-dimensional grille design, and on the GLX, chrome accents such as below the grille and above the LED foglamps.

The GL is fitted with 15-inch steel wheels, while the GLX comes with more attractive 16-inch alloy wheels, LED projector headlamps, and LED daytime running lights that help the top-end model stand out.

Attention has also been given to the interior, as each Baleno features a leather steering wheel and navy accents along with its dark fabric seats.

There is considerable legroom for the rear seats for a vehicle of this class, and the boot is a respectable size at 314 litres.

One complaint is that there is very little surface storage space for the front seats, and we struggled to find a place to leave items such as our phones without obstructing something like the handbrake.

All said and done, the Baleno’s new body and cosmetic additions make for what we think is one good-looking hatch.

Overall impressions

With its attractive starting price, the new Suzuki Baleno will be going up against cars such as the Toyota Starlet and VW Polo Vivo.

In its segment, the Suzuki offers good performance and a considerable number of features, including those rarely seen in this price bracket.

It also comes with a 5-year/200,000km warranty and a 4-year/60,000km service plan, which is noticeably more than many of its peers.

Considering Suzuki’s growing popularity in the South African market, the Baleno looks set to be a strong competitor in today’s bustling hatchback segment.

Suzuki Baleno GLX


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