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South African's love super-minis! These are small, compact city hatches. Today's versions of these little, friendly cars have now become fashion statements. They look good, are installed with up-to-date infotainment systems that allow Bluetooth connectivity with telephony, and some, like the Renault Clio, even offers standard navigation.
Because superminis are popular, manufacturers have created a big selection of them to choose from. There are the old kids on the block: the VW Polo, Toyota Yaris, Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Opel Corsa and the Honda Jazz, and there are new kids too like the Renault Clio, Hyundai i20, and the KIA Rio.
A firm favourite amongst those who enjoy driving is the much-loved Suzuki Swift. It is a gem - fun to drive, ease of ownership and positive customer feedback. Although very good, it isn't flawless - suffering from compact dimensions, interior accommodation is tight for four adults and their luggage. Suzuki says, no problem, and created the bigger and lighter Baleno.
Yes, it is slightly bigger than the Swift. It provides very usable accommodations, most appreciated in the rear of the car with class-leading legroom and ample shoulder room. Head room is okay – a sacrifice allowed for the aesthetic sloping roof profile. Something the Japanese manufacturer refers to as ‘Liquid Flow’ design. This design style has created the most aerodynamic Suzuki to date. Open the boot, and you'll find as much space as the bigger Golf, although its load lip is as substantial as Kylie Jenner.
From a design perspective, the Baleno is modern and handsome - in the same way as you think about actor Jason Bateman. But, it's no Cristiano Ronaldo. Double take, you won't! It's chrome accents add to the upmarket feel of the car.
Open the Baleno, and you'll notice a cheerful cabin that's somewhat cheap. Plastics are hard and light, but to be fair, other cars in the supermini category also have cost-cutting interior trims. The noticeable benefit of the interior is its space. It has in fact over 7cm more spacing from front to rear backrest which results in handsome rear legroom.
Standard features on the GLX models includes electric windows, keyless start/stop, climate control and cruise control, ABS anti-lock brakes, electronic brake force distribution and emergency braking assistance. Dual front airbags are standard too, while GLX models also get side and curtain airbags. There is an infotainment system albeit it's not a Suzuki system, but offers Bluetooth connection and hands-free telephony. There is also a sexy set of 16-inch gray-tinted rims.
The Baleno features a chassis, mated to comfort-orientated suspension - the result is a calm, collected drive that handles our local roads with aplomb. It isn't as much fun to drive as its smaller brother the Swift, but it's certainly more convenient.
Locally, Suzuki has opted to bring in only one engine: the reliable, fuel-efficient and nimble 1.4-l that features 68kW of power and 130N.m of torque - numbers for adequate power. Robot dices aren't recommended, but if you decide to put the pedal to the metal and splice through the light 5-speed manual gearbox, you can expect to hit 100 likes in 11 seconds.
I spent most of the 250km with the Baleno in the city. Driving cars in a heavy urban cycle usually yield poor fuel economy. Luckily for the Baleno, which is light so, too is its fuel consumption. I recorded a figure of 6.9l per 100km.
Note, the Baleno is popular; there is even a waiting list.
Not as fun to drive as the smaller Swift.
Cheap but cheerful interior.
1.4 GL R199 000
1.4 GLX R229 900
1.4 GLX Auto (4-Speed) R244 900
Service and warranty
The new Baleno is covered by a standard three-year/100 000 km warranty, as well as a four-year/60 000 km service plan. Services are at 15 000 km/12 month intervals.
1.4 GLX manual R229 900
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