REVIEW: Suzuki Baleno is a hard-to-beat value proposition in these tough times

Published Jan 3, 2023


Review: Suzuki Baleno 1.5 GLX

Pretoria – You would be hard-pressed to find a bad word or negative review about any Suzuki product locally over the past few years. They have cornered the market with their fun, no frills products like the Jimny, Celerio and the wildly popular Swift.

And although every person and his dog wants an SUV, there’s still room for a well-priced comfortable hatch such as their Baleno. By now most people will know that Toyota’s Starlet comes from the same Suzuki factory in India, and between the two almost 1 600 found new owners just last month.

The Baleno recently received an update including a new design, interior, suspension upgrades and a new 1.5-litre engine that replaced the previous 1.4-litre mill. We drove the 1.5 GLX manual and came away highly impressed with the overall package.

The engine produces 77kW and 138Nm of torque and is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox in the case of our test unit or a four-speed automatic transmission.

The exterior has wider front air intakes, a three-dimensional grille, LED projector-style headlamps, LED daytime running lights, and stands proudly on 16-inch polished alloys.

The interior has been significantly upgraded with a nine-inch infotainment system in the GLX spec that we drove, a 4.2-inch colour display in the instrument cluster, reach adjustable-steering, automatically dimming rear-view mirror and a handy 360 degree camera.

It’s also fitted with a retractable head-up display which is probably nice to have, but a little elemental.

A few years ago, we had the previous generation as a long-term test car and I said then it proved a fantastic companion that provided a well-priced balanced combination of economy, space and aesthetics… Not to mention a surprising amount of space. We drove it extensively including on a December holiday trip to the South Coast, with four people and their luggage.

Tweaks to the suspension, steering and drivetrain and increased rigidity courtesy of more high-tensile steel provides an improved overall ride experience.

While there’s not a ton of extra power it’s a welcome addition, especially with four adults. It’s not meant to be a hot hatch by any means, so you have to wring its neck a bit for some get up and go which raises the interior noise slightly. I don’t think the average owner is going to be too concerned though.

Playing on the roads around the Cradle of Humankind, the Baleno had very little objection to being thrown around a bit. The clutch is light and gear changes quick and smooth, although there is some rev overrun especially between second and third gears.

Steering feedback was generally decent given where it slots into the segment with some braking fade towards the end, before I eased onto the highway.

A welcome addition would be an extra gear for long drives. It revs quite high at the speed limit and although it doesn’t seem to affect fuel consumption significantly which showed just over 6L/100km, a sixth gear would make for easier cruising.

Overall though the Suzuki Baleno would be a welcome addition to any household and at R281 900 there is not much in the segment to beat it in terms of outright value for money and with the economy squeezing us from every angle, the Baleno should be on top of your list.

FACTS: Suzuki Baleno 1.5 GLX manual

Price: R281 900

Engine: 1.5-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol

Gearbox: 5-speed manual

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Power: 77kW at 6 000rpm

Torque: 38Nm from 4 400rpm

Fuel use: 6.0 l/100km (tested)

Fuel use: 5.4 l/100km (claimed)

Fuel-tank capacity: 37 litres

Kerb weight: 980kg

Boot volume: 314 litres

Warranty: 5-year/200 000km (promotional)

Service plan: 4-year/60 000km