Suzuki Baleno

Debut: 2015
Maker: Suzuki
Predecessor: No

 Published on 7 Dec 2015
All rights reserved. 

"We set our sights on developing the ideal hatchback, one that makes no compromises, giving it an elegant, sophisticated and grown-up character…” said Kunihiko Ito.

What a bold statement! Ito is a chief engineer of Suzuki, and the car he referred to is the new Baleno. It is not the first time Suzuki employs the name Baleno. As I remember, the first Baleno was a compact sedan built in the mid-1990s, but you can forget it because the new Baleno has nothing in common. It is a B-segment hatchback, being slightly larger and positioned higher than the existing Swift. While it is produced in India like many other cheap Suzukis, it is not as cheap. As revealed by the statement of Ito, it tries to be seen as modern, sophisticated and upmarket, breaking away from the tradition of Suzuki small cars. In other words, it wants to be the Japanese version of VW Polo. Is it that good?

Judging from the styling I would say the claim is marginal at best. Although Suzuki calls its design theme as “Liquid Flow”, it doesn’t flow into our hearts. There is some style up front, but the way its waist line flows up and down is counterproductive to aesthetic. The thick black window frames don’t help visual quality, too. Ditto the cheap taillights which are so ugly that I prefer to skip its pictures here. Why can’t the Suzuki design team repeat the nice job of Swift?

More positive is the underpinning. It sits on a new generation platform that will also form the basis of the next Swift. Its chief achievement is lightweight, which is claimed to be 15 percent lighter than the class norm. Don’t believe? A Baleno with 110 hp engine weighs only 905 kg. A similarly powerful Opel Corsa weighs 1124 kg. It also claims to be 10 percent stiffer than the current class norm, though which car it benchmarked is unknown.

By class standard, its size is quite generous. The 2520 mm wheelbase is among the longest. Moreover, the Baleno’s boxy shape and the Japanese company’s traditional know-how of squeezing maximum interior space out of limited exterior size should not be underestimated. Open the doors, yes, you will find an unusually spacious cabin. Four adults are no problem, while the fifth is possible for a brief ride. The boot is also incredibly large at 355 liters, more than a Ford Focus (not Fiesta)!

The interior design is simple to the extent of Spartan. Plastics are hard and roughly grained, but at least the IT features are modern. The infotainment system has a decent 7-inch touchscreen, whereas sat nav, Bluetooth and reverse camera are standard.

Surprisingly, it also gets an advanced engine. The 1.0 Boosterjet is a modern turbocharged 3-cylinder with direct injection. It produces a good 110 hp and 125 lbft of torque, enabling brisk performance for the lightweight Baleno. Although the motor is not as rev-happy as Ford 1.0 Ecoboost, it is tractable and smooth. Like the Ford engine, it skips a balance shaft for extra counter weights at the crankshaft and an upgraded engine mount to dampen vibration, which is quite effective. Cruising on highway, the Baleno’s cabin is also quite well insulated from wind and road noise. Only at high rev the engine noise becomes intrusive.

The 5-speed manual gearbox that the 1.0 turbo works with has long throws and stiff gearchanges. The alternative 6-speed automatic is a better option.

Another engine choice is the conventional 1.2 Dualjet with 90 hp. To boost fuel economy, Suzuki also offers its mild hybrid system from the domestic Wagon R, which utilizes a 2kW starter-alternator and a small Li-ion battery to capture brake energy and assist acceleration.

The car rides on conventional MacPherson struts and torsion-beam suspensions. By European standards, its handling and ride is poor. Tuned to favour comfort, its suspension allows excessive body roll in corners (the high sitting position doesn’t help this feel), while understeer comes early as expected. The electrical steering feels numb, failing to engage the driver. The soft damping absorbs big bumps, but up the pace and the car bounces a lot. Strangely, its ride and handling is nowhere near the level of Swift, which is a shame. Being boring to look and to drive, this car is hard to recommend. Ito san, sorry, we can’t agree with you.

Length / width / height
Valve gears
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Baleno 1.2 Dualjet
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3995 / 1745 / 1470 mm
2520 mm
1242 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
90 hp
88 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
865 kg
112 mph (c)
11.6 (c)
Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
3995 / 1745 / 1470 mm
2520 mm
998 cc
DOHC 12 valves
110 hp
125 lbft
5-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
905 kg
124 mph (c)
9.6 (c) / 9.8*

Performance tested by: *Autocar

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