Suzuki Baleno 1.5 GLX joins our fleet
Even if your affinity with the Suzuki brand is modest, you have to concede that its growth story in South Africa is quite remarkable.
From being a small volume, fledgling player at its reintroduction in 2008, to chasing down well-established rivals that have been operating in the country for as many as 70 years, the “glow-up” is impressive.
What accelerated the sales success of the Japanese manufacturer was a portfolio of compact, robust, well-equipped and affordable products, most of which are sourced from India.
Last month Suzuki celebrated a milestone, exceeding new sales in excess of 5,000 units. We should be more specific here — as the 5,235 units it recorded was not considerably far off from matching the 5,522 reported by Volkswagen South Africa.
This week we welcome one of the stars of the Suzuki family into our long-term test garage. The Baleno needs no introduction, being a popular choice among buyers wanting a competent, reasonably priced B-segment hatchback.
The sales charts show that most consumers end up choosing the Toyota twin, the Starlet, which accounted for 1,479 units last month. This is in comparison with 652 Baleno copies.
Back in 2022 we had the showdown in our own arena, putting the models toe-to-toe.
Suzuki boasts the upper hand in the warranty and service plan department. It has a five-year/200,000km mechanical warranty and four-year/60,000km service plan. Toyota offers a three-year/100,000km warranty and three-year/45,000km service plan.
A marginal price-saving and slight superiority in standard kit also helped the Baleno edge ahead in our battle.
Of course, Toyota has more outlets and a reputation in the market spanning decades. At the time of reporting, the number was 220, versus 69 for Suzuki.
“It’s really a case of six of one and a half-dozen of the other,” we said in that July comparison test. “Either way, you’re getting a sensible, well-built, frugal and seemingly durable hatchback with above-average road manners and inoffensive styling.”
Our Baleno is the range-topping GLX grade model, with a five-speed manual transmission. It costs R299,900.
Being the GLX, our tester is equipped with all the amenities expected from value-focused buyers spending R300,000 on a new vehicle in 2024.
Interior highlights include a leatherette-wrapped steering wheel, nine-inch infotainment system, 360-degree camera, automatic air-conditioning, keyless-start and a useful head-up display, a feature formerly a preserve of high-end luxury cars. No deficiencies to be noted from a safety perspective, with the fitment of six airbags, anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control.
On the outside, it has an upmarket-aspiring look, thanks to chrome garnishes, diamond-cut 16-inch alloys, LED projector headlamps and privacy glass all-around. Our car is finished in the classy shade of Splendid Silver Pearl Metallic.
The brand has become known for frugal fuel economy across the board and we look forward to testing the claimed average of 5.4l/100km. What will also prove less frightening at the pumps (compared with the string of double-cabs we tested over the past year), is the relatively compact fuel tank size of 37l. In ideal conditions, the Baleno could yield a cruising range of 685km, quoted by the manufacturer.
Suzuki keeps it simple when it comes to powertrains and the Baleno makes use of the proven 1.5-litre, normally-aspirated petrol unit so ubiquitous across the range. Output is 77kW/138Nm, claimed 0-100km/h acceleration is 11.2 seconds.
With space for five, it makes for suitable transportation where the needs of a small family are concerned, but the luggage compartment of 314l could prove tricky on longer jaunts. A fix could be fitting an aftermarket roof box for those occasions.
The automatic GLX goes for R319,900. Pick the basic GL manual and you will pay R247,900; add R20,000 for the automatic.
Stay tuned for our missives on life with the sensible B-segment Suzuki.
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