The little-known Suzuki Baleno should be more famous - mainly for its roominess and reliability. Instead it’s a rare sight on our roads. The small 5-door supermini has a smart understated design and a roomy, practical and well-equipped cabin. This Japanese hatchback has few distinctive features or luxuries – it’s simply a well-built and sensible car.
The Baleno has none of the quirky styles of its Suzuki siblings, the Ignis and Swift. In fact, this supermini has fairly anonymous looks, with a neat and tidy design lacking distinctive features. That’s fine for many drivers who don’t need the vanity of head-turning looks.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the exterior may be its name badge – few car spotters will know anything about the Baleno. The car looks fine from all angles though and has a design that won’t go out of fashion. Previous generations had an estate version. The more recent Baleno only comes as a 5-door hatchback – there is no 3-door option.
This supermini has fairly anonymous looks, with a neat and tidy design.
What’s it like to drive?
Suzuki is world-class at building small cars. They have a long record of impressive, long-lasting and reliable diminutive vehicles. The Baleno fits right in with that sequence. It comes with a choice of 2 small petrol engines and the option of manual and automatic gearboxes (which have paddle-shifters on the steering wheel).
In a lightweight car, these punchy engines make the Baleno a nippy, agile little performer. Keep in mind the hybrid engine trades great fuel economy for a slightly more sluggish acceleration.
The car is very easy to drive though, with light steering and a soft suspension that cushions most of the worst bumps and potholes on our roads. There’s little for sporty drivers to get excited about. Most occupants will find it at least as comfortable as other superminis.
Safety focused drivers may appreciate sophisticated optional extras like adaptive cruise control and automatic emergency braking.
Suzuki is world-class at building small cars
Suzuki designed the interior of the Baleno cleverly. The Japanese supermini offers more space than you’d expect from the small exterior. It also rivals bigger cars for roominess, particularly in the back seat where these can feel cramped in rivals. In the Baleno, there’s plenty of head- and leg-room – even behind a tall driver.
Overall, the cabin is a simple, practical and durable environment. There are few luxuries and don’t expect plush soft-touch materials as Suzuki saves money by using basic plastic where it can. Instead, the car comes with a very healthy list of kit. All models get air-con, Bluetooth, DAB and sat-nav as standard. Top-spec versions have keyless operation and climate control.
The maps appear clear and bright on a large colour touchscreen that’s high and easy to see in the centre of the dashboard. Up-spec models get an additional colour display between the instruments. It all helps keep the array of buttons and switches to a minimum. Because of this, the Baleno’s dashboard appears neat and uncluttered.
The driver grasps a chunky little steering wheel with multi-functional buttons on the spokes. In many versions, the wheel and driver’s seat adjust in various ways to allow the driver to create a perfect position, whatever their shape and size.
Lift the tailgate and you’ll find an impressive boot for this size of car. The Baleno will easily swallow a pushchair, great for family days out. It also has a 2-level floor so you can choose to bring the floor up to the lip for easier loading or to maximise the space by lowering the boot floor.
Fold the 60/40 rear seats for maximum loading space and you’ll enjoy a well-shaped, flat area too. Generally, the Baleno interior is a hard-wearing, if not plush, environment.
The Baleno scored fairly low marks in the Euro NCAP safety tests, between 3 and 4 out of 5. Note that these tests prioritise the fitment of expensive safety gadgets. The option of a reversing camera is, however, a major practical boost for many drivers.
Running costs and reliability
The Suzuki supermini should be easy and economical to own and run. The hybrid Baleno model can reach fuel economy of 71mpg, the other petrol engines have official combined figures of up to 63mpg.
Tax, insurance and servicing will be well below average.
What cinch loves
Not everyone wants to burn rubber, skid round corners and make passers-by gawp. Some motorists just want sensible, reliable transport. The Suzuki Baleno doesn’t try to be anything it isn’t. You’ll get a very spacious, economical and well-built supermini. There’s lots of equipment, few luxuries or gimmicks – plus not many others will have the same car as you.
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The Baleno is spacious, full of kit and has great rarity value. You’ll also probably be the only person you know with one. Yet the Suzuki supermini offers great durability and practicality in a timeless package from the experts at building small cars.
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