BMW April 2022

Suzuki is aiming for monthly sales in the region of 500 units with its new Baleno, and the way Suzuki is climbing up the South African sales charts, there seems to be little reason why this won’t be achievable. In June Suzuki cemented its third place in the overall sales race with over 4 600 units, another record, and placing them again behind Toyota and Volkswagen, and ahead of Hyundai.

The all-new Suzuki Baleno launched here in mid-June Ð the introduction coinciding with the launch of Toyota’s Starlet, which is essentially the same car with a different grille and subtle styling changes. Much has been made in the media of the fact that Toyota’s previous-model Starlet sales have far out-shone Suzuki’s Baleno efforts here so far.

Yet it is quite possible that the Baleno will benefit from the Starlet being launched at the very same time. As Suzuki notes in its media launch literature,  the new Baleno’s engine, up from 1,4-litres to a 1,5-litre displacement, is “also used in the Suzuki-built Starlet, Urban Cruiser and Rumion”. So, Suzuki is subtly emphasising the point that the Baleno is Suzuki-built, and that Toyota sees it as good enough to carry its all-powerful nameplate!

The new, larger engine (also used in the Jimny) develops 77 kW and 138 Nm of torque, and this will give the Baleno acceleration figures of 0-100 km/h in the 10,5 second to 11,2 second range. I am being vague here, as Suzuki don’t quote any performance figures, but they do, more significantly. quote an average fuel consumption figure of 5,2 litres/100 km.

With the rising cost of fuel, low consumption figures are much more important than robot-to-robot bragging rights these days, and here Suzuki has had the upper-hand over many manufacturers in the past few years by producing cars that, in the real world, usually out-perform their claimed consumption figures. This was also the case with the trip we undertook in the new Baleno to the KZN Midlands, where we averaged 5,2 litres/100 km for the round trip from King Shaka Airport, during a 300 km test drive.

Low fuel costs indeed gladden the heart more than anything these days, but I was pleased to see that Suzuki’s philosophy of low body mass and smallish naturally-aspirated engines well-chosen gear ratios  still work so well in performance terms for light cars. The Baleno comes in at between 955- and 980 kg, and thanks to extra use of high tensile steel it still feels amazingly solid. Suzuki claim their power-to mass ratio is class-leading in this car category, and their pricing is definitely competitive too!

For the record, the new Baleno costs between R225 900 for the 1.5 GL 5-speed Manual and R295 900 for the range-topping 1.5 GLX AT. The pricing is very aggressive and almost matches the outgoing model. The 2022 Baleno we drove on launch was the GLX 5-speed Manual, and costs R275 900. Incidentally, these models all under-cut the Toyota Starlet equivalents on pricing, and what’s more, Suzuki also outguns Toyota in terms of its warranty, at five-years/200 000 km and its service plan, at four-years/60 000 km.

As for other aspects of the Baleno it is pleasant enough looking, but not particularly stylish to my eye. But it is well-finished in terms of interior trim and spec, and the extra money you pay for the GLX model gets you four extra airbags, a 360-degree camera, a bigger touch screen and LED projector head lights, amongst other items. Extras in cars costing under the R300 000 mark add a lot to the percentage of the overall cost, and I would definitely look at the very well-priced GL manual model.

By Stuart Johnson