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SUZUKI BALENO: A WORTHY SUCCESSOR

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Hatchbacks are the most commercially sold car body configurations in the country; and for good reason too. Considering the size, efficiency, and value for money these cars fit perfectly into the lifestyles of the majority of people in Nepal. Because car distributors know this very well, there is a plethora of choices in the segment. On this front, Suzuki had their strongest suitor in the form of the Swift. The loveable hatchback was immensely popular and loved by many. It was sporty, large, well designed, and a fine all rounder. The Swift has reigned as Suzuki’s premium hatchback for a very long time, maybe a little too long. Entering the competitive segment, with what could be the most awaited hatchback in a very long time, is Suzuki’s Baleno.

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Possessing the potential to be the successor to the throne, the Baleno could be a smash hit for Suzuki. Going by the rapid bookings and inquiries we’ve heard CG|NXT GEN (CG|Motocorp’s endeavor to provide a premium experience) has been getting, it could create quite a stir. We had high hopes for the Baleno, which meant it had a lot to live up to in this test drive. Here is how it fared.

EXTERIORS:

The Suzuki Baleno is no tiny hatch. It is the longest and widest car in its class. Surprisingly though, it is also the lightest. Weighing in at just 865kgs, Suzuki insists that safety has not been compromised and the weight reduction is the result of hi-tensile steel for the platform. This, on the contrary, makes the car 10% stronger than its conventional platform.

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Suzuki has not styled the Baleno aggressively, mostly resorting to curves to give it its aesthetic appeal. In fact, you’ll be hard pressed to find any sharp edges in its design. The front end has been disguised to look less like the Swift, but it does resemble its predecessor in some manner. V shaped honeycombed mesh grille has been incorporated into the front, but that has left a lot of empty space in the bumper. Flanking either side of the bumper are swept back HID projector headlamps with LED daytime lights. A massive Suzuki badge sits on the grille and fog lamps are housed inside large air dams on the bumper.

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Its large presence is more pronounced when you look at it from the side. The Baleno has a rounded shape without a very prominent shoulder line but a defining character line running across the lower portion of the doors. A-pillars have been blackened, door handles get chrome finishes, and the ORVMs get integrated indicators. The top of the line Alpha runs on 16” alloys. Although it does have a 170mm clearance, it is extremely surprising that there is no underbody protection.

The body shape tapers well into a very nicely designed rear. Once again, it is not an extravagant affair of angles and edges but a more tasteful blend of curves that make up the rear. The rear windshield has a significant curve under which a chrome strip runs its entire length. The LED tail-lamp cluster are also pretty simple.

INTERIORS & FEATURES:

Push the request sensors on the front door handle to step inside the Suzuki Baleno. The keyless entry & go system allows you to do all this without having to take your keys out of your pocket. Inside, the cabin is spacious for the front passenger. Although the beautifully sloped roofline and a sharply angled c-pillar give the appearance of the Baleno a significant boost, it compromises on the rear headroom of passengers.

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It is an all black affair with silver and chrome accents on the dash and controls; beige has been worked into the upper half of the cabin. The three spoke steering wheel, which the Baleno gets from the Ciaz, is leather covered and nice to hold. Audio and telephony buttons are integrated into the steering wheel. The driver’s seat gets height adjustment and, with the steering wheel’s four-way adjustability.

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The instrument cluster gets a tachometer on the left, a 4.2” colour TFT MID in the middle and the speedometer on the right. The MID offers the usual data: real-time & average fuel economy, distance to empty counter, temperature & time etc. Uniquely, it also shows you the power & torque being used (pictures below). Various settings (security, lights etc.) can be tuned via the MID.  Entertainment duties are undertaken by the Smartplay Infotainment system where a 7” touchscreen with USB, AUX, SD card and Bluetooth connectivity plays the star. The touchscreen doubles as a reversing camera.

There is plenty of storage spaces in the car and an impressive boot-space of 339liters, second only to that of the Jazz.

PERFORMANCE:

Remember, we’re talking about the possibility of the Baleno proving to be a worthy successor to the Swift which was one of the best hatchbacks to drive. The bar was set high and the Baleno was up for the task.

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Powered by a 1197cc 4 cylinder K12 petrol engine, the same one you find in the Swift, the Baleno is a delight to drive. It produces 83 BHP @ 6,000 rpm and 115 Nm of torque @ 4,000 rpm which translates well when you take it around the city. However, because it weighs so little compared to others in the class, the power to weight ratio is a massive advantage.

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The combination of Baleno’s light weight and Suzuki’s well engineered K-series engine makes it easy to drive in traffic and a lot of fun when the tarmac opens up. Steering is light but not so much that you don’t receive any feedback at all. It maintains good composure around corners and is stable on the highways. You won’t find yourself struggling to get to triple digits and maintaining it.

It has a well weighted clutch and a buttery smooth gearbox. The dead pedal provides good function and is useful in longer drives.Front visibility is very good and the IRVM has an auto-dimming function. Rear visibility could be better since the window area is small and over the shoulder visibility is slightly hampered.

For anyone doubting the safety aspects, in retrospect of its extremely light weight, the hi-tensile steel claims to be 10% stronger than the contemporary platform, and ABS and dual airbags come as standard.

VERDICT: 

Suzuki’s Swift was extremely popular, and rightfully so. It was a great little all rounder. But it has been here for quite some time and people are expecting something exciting from Suzuki. The Baleno ticks all the boxes in terms of potential to become the next big thing for Suzuki.

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Although not as stylishly designed as the Swift (in its time), the Baleno is not bad to look at. In fact, it has a sublime demeanor which makes it standout despite its subtle aesthetics. The Baleno’s road presence is very good and although you might not turn too many heads, you’re sure to receive a courteous nod or two.

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What it lacks in exterior appearances, it makes up for in drivability and performance. There won’t be many dull moments with the Baleno. Now, we’re not saying it’s a scorching fast hatchback that will have you holding on to dear life, but it is a pleasant car to drive in the city and interesting enough to keep things exciting on the highways.

There is very little to keep against the Baleno, and it seems that it is about time the Swift gracefully steps down from the throne for the new successor.

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