Suzuki disted off one of their 1990s model names and bestowed it on their new compact hatch, that size-wise sits above the Swift.
The new Baleno will come in two specifications – the GL tested here, and the better-equipped GLX.
The GLX is powered by a 1.0-litre turbo three-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed auto. The GL borrows the Swift’s 1.4-litre four-cylinder engine with either a standard five-speed manual like our test car, or an optional four-speed auto that will add a modest $1000 to the price.
It’s not the cheapest new car on the market, but the Baleno is still sharply priced. Despite the cheap cost, there’s still some cheer on the standard equipment front. A reversing camera, Bluetooth, integrated navigation, daytime running lights, dusk-sensing headlamps, Apple Car Play and Mirror Link smartphone infotainment interfaces, follow-me-home lighting, cruise control, power windows (front and rear), and six airbags are all included.
Despite the Baleno’s compact dimensions, interior and boot space is as good or better than many small cars, including sales hero the Toyota Corolla. Seating front and rear offers a basic but acceptable level of comfort.
The interior is simple, practical and functional albeit in a slightly dated-looking way. The colour centre screen has touch functionality and the steering wheel carries control switches for cruise control, speed limiter, audio (including mute) and hands-free phone operation. Steering reach adjustment isn’t included; only tilt on the base model. You will need to upgrade to the GLX if you want both for a better seating position relative to the wheel.
The clutch and gearbox are easy to use, though I did snag the footrest a few times with the edge of the left shoe when depressing the clutch pedal, as clearance is limited.
The 1.4-litre engine provides an acceptable level of performance, with official fuel consumption figures slightly lower than sibling Swift. On the road, the Baleno proves sufficiently capable to fulfil its intended function. The steering was a little disappointing though, exhibiting an odd dull vagueness around the centre position.
The Indian-built Suzuki has been built to a price, but fit and finish is neat enough, and we figure it should live up to the brand’s reputation for reliability.
Overall, the spacious Baleno is an honest offering that gives buyers more than might be expected at its fiscally-friendly price.