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Suzuki reveals more Baleno specifications

Fighting chance: Suzuki’s new Baleno small-car will compete directly against segment juggernauts including Toyota’s Corolla, the Mazda3 and Hyundai’s i30.

Baleno details emerge as Suzuki eyes July-August local launch with no hybrid plans

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Suzuki logo20 May 2016

SUZUKI Australia has revealed more details about its Corolla-fighting Baleno small hatchback, ruling out a rumoured mild-hybrid powertrain, ahead of its local launch in July or August.

Although local specification is yet to be confirmed, the UK market Baleno kicks off with the entry-level SZ-T and tops out with the SZ5 – the only variant available with an automatic transmission.

Unlike many small car segment competitors that keep standard equipment levels low to retain a lower barrier-to-entry price, Suzuki has loaded the Baleno SZ-T with six airbags, 16-inch alloy wheels, HID headlights, air conditioning, front electric windows, satellite navigation, digital radio, 7.0-inch touchscreen with USB, Bluetooth, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay connectivity at no extra cost.

Moving up to the range-topping SZ5 adds automatic climate control, rear electric windows, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking and a 4.2-inch colour trip display.

Speaking to GoAuto, Suzuki Australia general manager Andrew Moore could not confirm how many variants or which features would make their way to the local market, but said buyers would find the features attractive.

“The consumers in Australia are pretty savvy and we want to provide a vehicle that meets all their needs and doesn’t leave them wanting for more,” he said.

“Our aim is to have a very strong spec level for Baleno and provide the sort of value that you’ve seen with Vitara on that vehicle.”

Although pitched against small-car mainstays, including Toyota’s perennial Corolla, the Mazda3 and Hyundai’s i30, Suzuki’s Baleno measures less than four metres in length, shorter than any of its competitors.

Mr Moore explained the reason behind the shorter length, but said the Baleno matches passenger space with the Corolla despite its more diminutive proportions.

“In India, Suzuki has 46 per cent market share,” he said. “This vehicle is going to be a volume seller in India, and there are tax breaks for vehicles under four metres, so for Suzuki it’s very important to get such a car just under four metres, whereas a Corolla is 4.2 metres.

“From an interior space and boot space perspective, the boot is larger than a Corolla. So it’s (Baleno) 355 litres, and I think a Corolla is around 320. The leg space is similar to Corolla, so it’s a true small segment hatch from a passenger space perspective.

“It’s a step up from Swift for our current Swift owners and for those customers who might be looking at Corolla, i30, or Mazda3, we think this will be a much better value proposition.”

The UK-spec Baleno is powered by an 82kW 1.0-litre Boosterjet turbocharged three-cylinder engine, derived from the 1.4-litre powerplant found in its Vitara S Turbo stablemate, with peak torque of 170Nm from 2000rpm in manual guise and 160Nm available from 1500rpm when paired with the automatic transmission.

Mr Moore verified turbo power for the local Baleno and hinted that the Australian appetite for more power could even see a more potent version arrive.

“There will be a turbo variant available in Australia,” he said. “Australian consumers tend to like a bit more power, so we look for opportunities there.”

In the UK, the SZ5 trim can also be ordered with a mild-hybrid 1.2-litre Dualjet four-cylinder engine, which will not be available at the Australian launch and may never be brought to market due to the lukewarm reception hybrid vehicles have had in this country, according to Mr Moore.

“It’s not going to come to Australia at launch,” he said. “It is something that we’re talking to the factory about.

“Obviously you’ve seen hybrid sales in Australia have struggled due to the dollar premium. This hybrid system doesn’t have the same dollar premium as other hybrids do, as you can see by the UK pricing, but we’re still not sure about Australia’s appetite for hybrid at the moment.

“So we want to obviously bring the car out, launch it and then we’ll keep discussing with the factory the potential for hybrid based on volume and things like that.”

Early feedback for the new Baleno is strong, according to Mr Moore, and Suzuki is using social media to promote its new car.

“In terms of our dealer network, we’ve had very positive feedback on the vehicle,” he said.

“Some of the guys have driven a vehicle that we’ve got here at the moment and there is a lot of customer interest, a few we’ve done on Facebook and so forth have had very positive responses, but at this point we’ve found it too early to market the car yet, we’ll be doing more marketing to current owners in June.”

Although still too early for Suzuki to confirm local pricing, small-car segment leaders Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30 start at $19,790, $20,490 and $20,990 respectively before on-road costs, and the new Baleno is expected to cost a similar amount.

The Baleno will be the first car built on Suzuki’s all new platform, announced during the 2015 Frankfurt motor show, which will underpin its future models and makes use of a lighter construction for improved performance and efficiency.

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