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Frankfurt show: Suzuki's reborn Baleno revealed

Familiar name: Suzuki's Baleno hatch could return to Australian dealerships next year, marking the return of the nameplate after it was discontinued in 2002.

Segment-straddling Suzuki Baleno hatch a chance for Australian debut

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Suzuki logo16 Sep 2015

By TIM NICHOLSON

SUZUKI has unveiled its Baleno light hatch at the Frankfurt show that will debut the company's latest architecture, a new three-cylinder turbo engine and its first mild-hybrid system.

The Baleno resurrects a nameplate that was killed off in most markets apart from South-East Asia in 2002, and follows Suzuki's strategy to use old monikers on its latest models.

It has recently brought the Vitara badge back and, as reported by GoAuto, the Ignis name is set to adorn a sub-compact crossover based on the iM-4 concept that was revealed at this year's Geneva show.

Speaking with GoAuto last week, Suzuki Australia general manager Andrew Moore said that the Baleno was “not confirmed at this point” for the Australian market, but the company has expressed interest in adding it to its roster.

“We've told the factory we want it,” he said at the Vitara media launch. “We have so many customers that love Swift but want something a bit bigger. We have got so many satisfied Suzuki customers, and we retain about 20 per cent of Swift customers into another Swift, but we struggle to retain them into anything else because there hasn’t been the right step up.

“I think a lot of young girls becoming young mums will move into Vitaras and things like that, but Baleno is another opportunity again. For me it would be great to have here. Fingers crossed.”

Suzuki says in its press materials that the Baleno is a B-segment car – quashing suggestions it may have been a C-segment Toyota Corolla rival – which puts it in the same category as its Swift stablemate, as well as the popular Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris.

The Baleno, however, is slightly larger in most dimensions compared with the Swift, measuring 3995mm long (+145mm over Swift), 1745mm (+50mm), with a 2520mm wheelbase (+90mm), while the Baleno is lower at 1470mm (-40mm).

In production guise, the Baleno remains faithful to the iK-2 Geneva motor show concept with is squat stance, defined wheel arches, blacked-out A-pillars, character lines running down the sides and unique small grille.

Under the surface, the Baleno is based on a new Suzuki platform, which the company said was developed by “radically reviewing the basic structure of the vehicle underbody in pursuit of achieving lighter weight and enhancing fundamental vehicle performance”.

Comparing it with the current B-segment platform underpinning the Swift, there is a 10 per cent improvement to body rigidity, while total vehicle weight is down by 15 per cent thank, in part, to the use of a continuous skeletal structure.

Suzuki also says that it has made gains in noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels by using optimised underbody components.

Three powertrains will be offered internationally, starting with an all-new 1.0-litre Boosterjet direct-injection turbo-petrol engine that produces 82kW and 170Nm, matched with a five-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed auto.

The turbo unit is good for high power performance and better fuel efficiency via wastegate valve control, which closes to ensure higher boost pressure under heavy load and stays open during regular driving.

A 66kW/120Nm 1.2-litre four-cylinder Dualjet dual-injection engine is also available with a five-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission (CVT).

The Japanese car-maker is also using the Baleno to debut is new Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS) mild-hybrid system that uses an integrated starter motor/generator to help the engine under acceleration as well as generating and storing energy through regenerative braking.

It pairs the 1.2-litre unit with a small lithium-ion battery, and Suzuki says it has an emissions target of 93g/km for the Baleno.

Suzuki is yet to announce fuel economy or performance figures for any of the powertrains.

Underneath the Baleno is a MacPherson front and torsion beam rear suspension set-up, which the company says has been fine-tuned over numerous test runs in Europe.

Inside, the cabin features a high-definition colour LCD instrument cluster display showing energy output, energy flow in SHVS variants, and other details, a 7.0-inch display audio touchscreen housing a reversing camera, connectivity to Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.

It offers 355 litres of cargo space in the boot, which Suzuki says in the best in its segment. It is certainly more than the European-spec Hyundai i20 that is not available in Australia, but with dimensions slightly larger than a B-segment hatch, the Korean hatch can take 326 litres.

Other slightly smaller fare such as the Mazda2 has capacity of 250 litres and the Volkswagen Polo can carry just 205 litres.

In terms of safety, the Baleno will be available with adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, six airbags and ESP.

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