Car reviews - Suzuki - Baleno - GL
Price, spacious cabin and boot, comfortable ride, solid engineering quality
Room for improvement
Uninspiring engine, hard plastics in cabin, bland styling
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22 Dec 2016
By NEIL DOWLING
Price and equipment
THE Baleno GLX is a swift, quite charming hatchback boasting good comfort, heaps of cabin space and a pleasant $21,990 plus on-road costs price point.
The Baleno GL isn’t. This is the entry-level model so misses out on many of the GLX’s niceties that, in fact, give the GLX the punch necessary to combat its aggressive rivals.
Unfortunately, the GL doesn’t have a lot of attributes that will make heads turn. If this was a beauty pageant, the Baleno would get a ribbon for turning up and the chance to watch from the sidelines while something like the Mazda2 or Kia Rio would be sashaying down the catwalk to the sound of applause from an overwhelmed audience.
But let’s not write the GL off quite yet. At $15,990 plus on-road costs in its manual variant, it’s certainly affordable. Tested was the automatic model at $16,990 (yes, only $1000 more for the auto) plus on-road costs that deletes the clutch pedal and infuses a welcome slice of simplicity that will go down well with commuters and reluctant shoppers.
The price buys a surprisingly accommodating car (see Suzuki Baleno GLX test for details) with features that include satellite-navigation, cloth seats, six-speaker audio, split-fold rear seats, six airbags and two Isofix anchors in the back seat for child restraints.
The Baleno GL differs only marginally from the GLX in trim spec and colours, though the GLX has superior seats.
Even the sat-nav remains as standard and that is a strong selling point in the budget end of the light-car category.
Rear seats boast excellent head and legroom for adults and though the initial impression of the angled side glass indicates it could limit visibility for those in the back, it proved not to be true.
For all other details, read our Baleno GLX review.
Engine and transmission
Suzuki swept the shelves to find the GLX’s 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and did likewise for the GL.
This gets the Swift-Vitara 1.4-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine that has a modest 68kW of power at 6000rpm and 130Nm of torque at 4000rpm. In comparison, it’s on the mark and rivals have similar output figures and generally feel as responsive.
The Baleno does, however, have low body weight in its favour, which will make it feel more energetic and possibly promote spirited driving. Not that Australia needs more spirited driving by hatchback owners.
The engine is mated to a four-speed automatic, showing its separation from the six-speed auto in the GLX.
Ride and handling
Ride and handling are among the best in the class, despite the suspension technically bordering on simplicity personified.
But Suzuki manages to give a rewardingly compliant ride with confident handling clipped only by a vague steering feel.
Again, check out the Baleno GLX review for more.
Safety and servicing
The specifications of the safety inventory are identical to the GLX.
However, the capped-price service is slightly cheaper at $1334. The same complaint remains as with the GLX, with the price expensive and the twice-yearly intervals not as accommodating for owners as the annual intervals available in many rivals.
The GL is a well priced and sweet riding hatchback but is outshone in driving dynamics by the turbocharged GLX. Then again, it also comes up against a string of competitors. It is, however, very roomy and comfortable and the sat-nav is a welcome addition in the light-car class.
Mazda2 Neo from $16,990 plus on-road costs
The automatic Mazda2 hatch is an attractive contender with a strong reputation that has created an audience swell. The Neo has the same drivetrain as its more expensive siblings (81kW/141Nm 1.5-litre aspirated engine driving through a six-speed automatic transmission) and only shows its status with more basic cabin trim, infotainment, safety (no rear camera) and its steel wheels.
Toyota Yaris Ascent from $16,820 plus on-road costs
This one is getting a bit long in the tooth, particularly compared with the Koreans. But it has solid engineering and has good resale value. It has a smaller engine and a less technical four-speed automatic compared with its competitors – including the Baleno – and performance and fuel economy is a little off the mark. Nice car but not a great car.
Honda Jazz VTi from $16,990 plus on-road costs
The flexible seats are a bonus and really make this car appealing to people who need a flexible cabin. Performance and economy are much the same with these automatic cars though the Jazz has a less common CVT system. The Jazz is on par with cabin room as the others but can’t match the relative cavernous dimensions of the Baleno.
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