Road Test: Suzuki Baleno 1.4 GLX Manual

A fun alternative can be found the peppy Suzuki Baleno


So you have R229 000 burning a hole in your pocket. You want a brand new car, it has to  be manual and have a normally aspirated engine, good fuel economy, be fun to drive when you want it to be, but more importantly be modern(ish) and highly specced. Sjoe, that’s quite a list. But thankfully, Suzuki have just the car for you.

With Suzuki winning multiple awards over the past few years, the manufacturer can no longer be ignored as a serious competitor in the compact market.  When the Baleno first arrived at our offices, I did a walk around and although the car is attractive, it is – and one does start to realise this after a few days – rather non- descript. It doesn’t look sporty, it doesn’t look like it has a lively chassis and it definitely doesn’t look like it has a peppy engine that revs all the way to the red line. But it does have all these things. And more.


Inside Baleno GLX is quite sparse, with a very basic layout and controls.  The three spoke leather steering wheel is just the right size and feel and it houses the controls for the radio and cruise control and the 6.2” touchscreen fits snugly in the dash. The dials and dash are very Corolla-esque, which is exactly how I suspect Suzuki is hoping to lure Corolla buyers. Thanks to the keyless entry Baleno fires up with just the push of a button. I still haven’t figured out how to activate just the ignition, which I’ll need to for those times when the windows are left down my mistake. The interior feels “solid” and inside Baleno doesn’t make promises it can’t deliver on.  Baleno’s interior has a sense of quality and robustness that other Japanese manufacturers have practiced for decades.

Boot space is a generous 339 litres, around 50 more than its competitor, the Hyundai i20, but the high sill of the boot (an issue it shares with its sibling, Swift) means that some lifting is required to get goods in and out. The GLX comes standard with SRS side and curtain airbags.


Looks and exterior

Baleno GLX has a striking front end but unfortunately this was toned down by the Navy blue colour the test car came in. I suspect this car would look way more fetching in bright red. GLX comes with HID projector headlights and LED daytime running lights. The rear bumpers have tiny circles which house the old tech, but perfectly functional, rear park distance control.  The outside package is completed by the attractive and proportionate 16” alloys.


On the road


This is where Suzuki shines. It’s good. REALLY good. Let’s start with that engine.  Because of low weight of around 900kg, Baleno’s 68kW 130Nm mill revs freely, and due to the power being made right at the rev limiter the car urges one on.  Through the first three gears I had to be careful not to bounce off the rev limiter, as the car feels like it could rev higher still. The Manufacturer claims 0-100 in 10.9 seconds and Baleno is said to top out at 180km/h. Now one would think that the chassis wouldn’t comply but it does.  Through corners Baleno is fun and grippy, and the only real fault I found was the car’s tendency to float a little when it corners over bumpy surfaces. Find a smooth road and Baleno GLX is the perfect car for a spirited drive.  Deceptively fun at slower speeds, cars like these are hard to find these days and Baleno, strangely, feels like a cross between a Toyota 86 and a Tazz.



A dependable car with a no frills approach to interior and exterior design. An engine that has class-leading fuel consumption of 5.1l/100 and solid performance. There’s not much not to like about the Baleno. A solid prospect in this segment and a car I would gladly live with every day.



A four-year or 60 000 km service plan is also included with intervals of 15 000 km.
Baleno GLX comes standard with a three-year or 100 000km warranty

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