Its spaciousness and good visibility make the Suzuki Baleno great urban family transport. Still, you’ll have more fun driving a Ford Fiesta…
The Suzuki Baleno is the more spacious and practical sibling to the popular Suzuki Swift, intended to be a viable alternative to the likes of the Hyundai i20 and Vauxhall Corsa. And while there’s no denying the car’s good reliability and economy, it definitely isn’t as exciting to drive as other small, five-door hatchbacks.
The Baleno is by no means an ugly car, with curving lines on its bonnet and front complementing the headlights and grille respectively. However, while there’s certainly nothing wrong here, the looks aren’t exactly inspired, either.
Inside, the sweeping design of the dashboard is lifted from other Suzuki models and the large swathes of hard, monochrome plastic – while firm and durable – make the car feel less homely than a VW Polo. In spite of this, the seats are far from uncomfortable. Plus, their high positioning gives great visibility – ideal for urban rush-hour traffic. The buttons for the infotainment and other in-car features are all well-sized and clearly laid out, and using them will quickly become second-nature.
Speaking of the features, the Baleno comes decently-equipped. On the entry-level trim, as standard, you get a built-in satnav, reverse parking camera, DAB digital radio (with Bluetooth connectivity) and air conditioning. Forking out an extra £2,000 for the top-of-the-range version will also add climate control and safety features like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking, which will prevent low-speed crashes.
The best aspect of the Baleno’s interior, though, is just how spacious it is. The driver’s seat is comfortable and the front passenger has plenty of room. And even with these seats pulled back to a generous position for taller people, the rear can still comfortably fit two adults. It would be pretty hard to feel cramped in the Baleno, which offers more space than a Swift or Skoda Fabia. Storage space is great, too. The Baleno has a 355-litre boot, which wipes the floor with the 285-litre Corsa and 290-litre Fiesta.
If you have a small family and want a cheap, economical, practical hatchback, the Baleno should suffice – even though it’s not a fun car to drive.
The Baleno has various engine options. The 1.2-litre petrol engine is worth highlighting, as it is the most economical option and cheapest to run. However, the downside is that this engine isn’t exactly gutsy if you want to spend a lot of time on the motorway or haul a good amount of luggage. For that, you’d be better off switching to the nippier 1.0-litre petrol alternative, which is turbocharged and produces 110hp. That stat may not sound like much but, when you consider how light the Baleno is, it certainly does the job.
When on the road, the Baleno is pretty quiet, with the only really annoying disturbance coming from wind noise while you’re cruising at higher speeds. It’s decently comfy too, adequately wrestling with Britain’s multitude of bumps and potholes. You’ll have no complaints about the manual or automatic gearboxes, either, but the Baleno’s steering is more of a mixed bag. Sure, it has a tight turning circle – which is ideal for town driving – but it’s never communicative enough to be called fun.
So, the Suzuki Baleno is a bit of a jack of all trades, but a master of none. However, it is cheap, family-friendly and at its best in the clatter of the urban jungle. If that fits your needs, then this hatchback deserves your attention.