2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet review

The Suzuki Baleno promises to be a spacious and exceedingly well-equipped small car for the money. We try the turbocharged Boosterjet version in the UK...

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Alan Taylor-Jones
11 May 2016 10:08 | Last updated: 14 Jun 2018 00:03

Those of you familiar with Suzuki’s UK car range may see the introduction of the Baleno as a bit odd. The Japanese brand already has a car in this segment, the Swift. So, why introduce another? According to Suzuki, the Swift is a car you choose with your heart, the Baleno with your head.

The Baleno has been designed to maximise interior space; compared with a Swift, there’s a lot more room for rear seat passengers and also a much bigger boot. To highlight this practicality, you can only buy the Baleno as a five-door, not as a three-door.

Suzuki expects the majority of buyers to choose the 1.0-litre Boosterjet engine. It may not be the most powerful or greenest engine out there, but it combines punchy power output with competitive economy and emissions figures.

What is the 2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet like to drive?

Thanks to a turbocharger, the little three-cylinder engine produces around the same amount of power as the most potent 1.2-litre Skoda Fabia. In a car that weighs less than a tonne, performance is peppier than the numbers might suggest.

You don’t have to work the engine particularly hard, either. By 2000rpm it is well into it’s stride, and you rarely have to venture above 4000rpm. If you do, the engine emits the distinctive but not unpleasant thrum we’ve come to expect from these little turbocharged three-cylinder units.

There is, however, the telltale vibration that can be felt through the steering wheel and pedals. It’s no worse than in rivals, but may come as a surprise to those coming from traditional four-cylinder superminis. We’ve no complaints about economy, though; we saw an indicated 45.0mpg on our test route without trying to be light-footed.

As for handling, there’s lots of grip so it’s unlikely you’d ever come unstuck at normal road speeds. If the car does slip, then it’s always the front that washes wide first. So the Baleno is secure, but it isn’t fun. The steering doesn’t give much feedback from the front tyres and there’s a lot of body roll in corners, too.

Despite the soft suspension, you do feel a lot of the road’s surface and the suspension is noisy when it’s moving up and down. You also hear plenty of road and wind noise at speed.

What is the 2016 Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet like inside?

This is where the Baleno really scores. Front seat passengers have plenty of room and the driver shouldn’t have any issue getting comfortable. The instruments are clear and top spec SZ5 models gain a colour information display between the speedometer and rev counter.

Move to the rear, and it’s hard not to be impressed by the amount of room. Even with a tall driver up front, you’ll still get a full sized adult behind them with leg room to spare. Rear head room isn’t quite as generous, but it is still bearable for adults of above average height.

Open the rear hatch and you’ll find a boot that’s almost as big as that of a Skoda Fabia. A two-level floor is standard; it reduces the load lip and provides a near-flat load area when the rear seats are folded. Even so, the lip is still high, if not as bad as some rivals. Seats up, there’s easily enough space for a bulky pushchair in the boot.

All models come with a sat-nav, Bluetooth, air-con and a DAB radio. Top spec versions also get keyless entry and starting, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and climate control. However, interior quality is some way behind the likes of the Skoda Fabia and even the Seat Ibiza. For the money, we'd prefer a little less equipment and a more solid feeling dashboard.

Should I buy one?

The Baleno is certainly a very sensible choice should you be looking for a spacious small car. There’s loads of space inside, the engine feels peppy and the level of standard equipment is impressive for a car costing less than £13,000.

Despite this, we would still suggest you look at the Skoda Fabia instead. It may be less powerful and come with less standard equipment, but the interior feels of a higher quality, it’s still quick enough and it handles better, too.*What Car? says...**

Rated 3 out of 5*Rivals**

Skoda Fabia

Ford Fiesta*Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet**

Engine size 1.0-litre, turbocharged

Price from £12,999

Power 109bhp

Torque 125lb ft

0-62mph 11.4sec

Top speed 124mph

Fuel economy 62.7mpg

CO2 105g/km