Is the Suzuki Baleno set to become the Kim in their Kardashian line-up? The member of the family famous for its rear? Kar-dashians … see what I did there, totally cracked myself up with that gem!
Jokes (bad ones) aside, Suzuki models with that small boot is kind of a turn-off for South Africans. We have this tendency to load the boot with stuff, all kinds of things. That means small boots are not popular.
Not all models from Suzuki have this issue, but the Swift hatch is one which has suffered in this regard. The sedan helped to rectify that a bit, but the issue with the hatch remained. Obviously this is an issue only to people who want as much space as possible, but mass-market appeal means satisfying as many customers as possible.
Enter the Baleno …
Suzuki recently launched their latest model into the South African market. In the first 11 months of international sales, not only did they sell 100 000 derivatives in India but also raked in 13 different awards internationally.
The Baleno is exported to more than 30 global markets.
Suzuki South Africa opted to launch this latest model in Port Elizabeth, so it made a nice change not being faced with an aeroplane trip before laying hands on the car. An additional bonus was driving it on familiar roads which makes a big difference to assessing what the car is like.
The Baleno stresses lightness. Powered by the tried and tested 1.4 litre engine, the Baleno really doesn’t feel like a small-powered hatch. There’s a feeling of something just a little bit stronger. With a new build platform which stresses rigidity while focusing on being light, the Baleno weighs in at just 915kg. That makes it 110kg lighter than Suzuki’s Swift while being 145mm longer.
This also means the boot is bigger than the Swift, capable of holding 355 litres – making it the best in its class.
What all of this translates to is a light, spacious, nippy performer that revs quite happily and doesn’t feel particularly weighed-down with that capacious rear-end.
Likely this was also helped by carrying just two of us at the launch, nothing in the boot and sea level driving. It was undeniably keen to get going with some firm pressure on the accelerator.
There is a bit of a wrinkle with the Baleno though – it is in the numbers. The 1.4 Swift retails for R222 900 and R239 900 (manual and auto). The Baleno is available in three models and retails for R199 900 (1.4 GL), R229 900 (1.4 GLX manual) and R244 900 (1.4 GLX auto). Here’s the problem. The Baleno pricing is very, very close to the 1.4 Swift models, it has a larger boot and is lighter on fuel (5.1l / 100 km for the manual and 5.4l / 100 km for the auto).
This potentially could translate into cannibalised sales for the Swift – and if you’ve ever driven the Swift you’ll know exactly why I’m quite fond of them.
So, the trick here is, which one is right for you, the new Liquid Design-styled, lighter and more rigid Baleno or the hatch with the familiar face and track record, the Swift?
I’m still on the fence about where I would go, but at least I get another try at deciding which is my preference when I drive the Baleno in December again.