If you’re on the hunt for a small car and have a shortlist of potential suitors, there’s something else that might be worth scribbling onto the end: the new Suzuki Baleno.
Deliveries don’t start until May next year, though, so is it worth holding out for?
Suzuki is proud to tell us that its new entrant – which will be sold alongside the similarly sized but sportier Swift – has all the hallmarks of a credible alternative to the Ford Fiesta and Skoda Fabia. It’s potentially efficient, and therefore cheap to run, spacious, and well equipped.
The only issue is we can’t be sure, because the pricing, equipment levels and some of the specifications haven’t been released yet, but here’s what we know so far.
There’ll be two trim levels, priced between £12k and £14k, and even the basic version should come with sat-nav, electric front windows, a reversing camera, DAB radio, Bluetooth and air-con.
Upgrade and you’ll add climate control, electric rear windows, adaptive cruise control and an automatic city braking system.
Both trims will be offered with a choice of petrol engines: a 1.2-litre with ‘mild’ hybrid technology to lower CO2 emission to around 93g/km, and this 1.0-litre turbocharged Boosterjet three-cylinder unit. It’s this that’s expected to be most prolific, and is claimed to return average fuel economy of 62.8mpg and emit 103g/km of CO2.
What’s the 2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet it like to drive?
Although the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost has more power, the Baleno is so light at around 905kg - more than 200kg less than the Ford – it feels really perky to drive. Whether you’re nipping around town or flying along the motorway, you'll never be short of pace.
The engine is quite vocal but most of the noise is a pleasant raspy thrum, although hit the upper reaches of the rev range and it gets quite boomy.
The manual gearbox has only five forward gears (a six-speed automatic is also available), which doesn't help engine noise on the motorway, where's there's also a fair amount of wind noise.
The ride is pretty compliant though - at least on Spanish roads – but it isn’t as polished as a Fiesta’s. Speed bumps or patchy roads are dealt with expertly, but a sharp rut mid-bend sends a pronounced thud through the cabin. It also nudges the Suzuki off line and sends a jolt through the steering wheel, neither of which are issues you’ll notice in the Ford.
Nor does the Baleno handle as tidily as a Fiesta, but to be fair not many small cars do. It’s agile and grippy enough though, and although the steering isn’t particularly feelsome, it’s accurate and light enough when manoeuvring around town.
What’s the 2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet like inside?
The high-set driving position takes a while to get used to, but there’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering wheel to fit most sizes, and the seats are supportive.
Cabin quality isn’t a strong point because the plastics and switchgear feel a bit low rent, but there is lots of storage space.
The standard infotainment includes Mirror Link and Apple Car Play, which allows you to operate your smartphone from the 7.0in touchscreen. The main menus are easy to fathom but can be slow to respond, and the small icons aren’t easy to hit on the move.
Move to the rear and Suzuki’s claim of spaciousness comes true. Wide-opening doors and low sills allow easy access to rear seats that are even more spacious than the Fabia’s. Two six-footers will have plenty of space, and even a third passenger won’t grumble much.
The Baleno also gets a class-leading boot that’s big enough to swallow a large pushchair, with space left for some shopping. The false floor gives you added flexibility to stow loose items beneath, and creates a nearly flat load area when you fold the 60:40 split rear seats.
Should I buy one?
There’s no doubting the Baleno’s practicality, and if Suzuki lives up to the promise of all that equipment for the suggested price then it looks like it could be a decent buy.
However, until the specifications are confirmed and we have an opportunity to drive it in the UK, keep the Fiesta and Fabia firmly at the top of your shopping list.
What Car? says...
Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet
Engine size 1.0-litre petrol
Price from £12,000 (est)
Torque 125lb ft
Top speed 124mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg