Budget cars are often associated with a cheap build quality, poor safety ratings, and even with a poor driving experience. That s not the case with this new Suzuki Baleno. The latest iteration Suzuki Baleno has received a much-needed upgrade, cosmetically and even mechanically. I spent a week with it to find out.
Engine: 1.5L 4-cylinder N/A petrol
Transmission; 5-speed Manual, FWD
Torque: 138 Nm
Fuel consumption: 5.4 – 5.7l/100km (claimed)
Price: R275 900
The exterior has received subtle yet very noticeable changes that have shifted the looks of the Baleno. It looks classy and more premium than its predecessor. The front facia now features a wider front grille bumper that’s fitted with a front-facing camera, which is part of the 360º park assist in the GLX model. LED headlights along with LED DRLs are now also part of the package. The rear has also kept up with the upgrades, with new C-shaped LED taillights, as well as a restyled rear bumper.
To complement the premium look, the new Baleno rides on 16-inch two-tone (Black&sliver) polished alloy wheels as standard. While the GL model rides on 15-inch wheels with covers.
Notable changes have been made to the interior, mainly at the front. The dashboard has been redesigned, it now looks more classy and premium.
The steering wheel is sleeker and now wrapped in leather, with a refreshed instrument cluster and a new heads-up display. A new, high-definition infotainment screen has been fitted, 7-inch in the GL, and 9-inch in the range-topping GLX Model. Both, are compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, via the front USB port.
2 additional USB ports have been fitted behind the center console for the rear passenger. (1x USB Type-A and USB Type-C). I would have appreciated a Data USB port of Type-C in front, as I found myself being unable to use Apple CarPlay because there’s no USB Type-C port in front and the one at the back is for charging only.
The seats are comfortable, with height adjustable capability for the driver. A lumbar adjustment feature could be appreciated, as I experienced some lower back pain during long drives.
Powertrain and Performance
Is it all looks?
No, it’s not just about looks.
Under the bonnet now lies a new and more powerful engine. With displacement bumped from 1.4L to 1.5L. The four-cylinder engine now develops 77kW and 138Nm of torque. That’s 9kW and 8Nm more than the predecessor.
The power increase may not look significant on paper, but it’s very noticeable behind the wheel. The engine is paired with either a 4-speed automatic transmission or a 5-speed manual transmission (our test).
The combination proved to work well most of the time around the city. the transmission could use a higher gear (6th), as I have noticed that while driving at speeds above 110km/h, the engine revs sits at around 3200rpm, which is not ideal, it’s noisy and a bit concerning for the engine health in the long run.
Although the displacement and power of the engine have increased, the Baleno remains fuel efficient. My fuel consumption averaging at 5.5L/100 in the mixed cycle of city and highway driving.
Practicality & Comfort
The overall cabin feel has improved and feels much more comfortable and quieter than the previous generation.
Boot space has remained unchanged, still at the practical 339L of capacity. Which I found pretty functional and capable to fit a whole set of suitcases ( L, M & S ). The boot space can also be extended when needed to fit long items such as a bicycle or surfboards, by simply folding the rear seats. They can split into 60:40 configurations, which can be useful when there are one or two passengers seated at the back.
In terms of safety the Baleno GLX cabin is kitted with 6 Airbags, (front, side, and curtains), it now features a 360º park assist camera with front and rear parking sensors. The Baleno is also equipped with ISOFIX child seat anchorage points on the rear seats, as well as ABS and ESP.
The Suzuki Baleno is really hard to fault. It works well and ticks all the right boxes.
Now, with the recent update it received, it’s well packaged in terms of style and features you get as standard, especially in the GLX trim. In all, the refinements made to the Baleno offer a very pleasant driving experience, at a very competitive price point. It’s arguably the best value-for-money car in its segment and deserves to be on your shortlist.