2016 Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo review
Robert Pepper’s 2016 Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Baleno is a modern but basic small-medium hatch with handling and an exhaust note to set it apart.
2016 Suzuki Baleno GLX Turbo
Price : from $21,990 (plus ORC); Warranty : three-year, 100,000 kilometres, can be extended to 5 years; Safety : not rated by ANCAP, 4-star EuroNCAP (2016); Engine : 1.0L 3-cylinder petrol turbo, 82kW @ 5500rpm, 160Nm @ 1600-4000rpm; Transmission : six-speed automatic, front wheel drive; Body : 3995mm (L); 1745mm (W); 1470mm (H); Turning Circle : 9.8m; Seats : 5; Tare Weight : 975kg; Fuel Tank : 37L; Spare : space-saver; Thirst : 5.2L/100km ADR81/02 combined cycle; Fuel : petrol, 95RON
What is it?
THE SUZUKI BALENO is a nameplate familiar to Aussies but it’s been a while since we’ve seen new ones on the road. This all-new model has been designed from the ground-up for light weight and to run a small engine, so it can maximise the space for occupants and cargo in its sub-four-metre length. It now competes with other small-medium cars at the lower end of the market, and Suzuki is targeting, in particular, Toyota Corolla buyers.
All Balenos are front-drive, five door hatches with two grades on offer, and ours is the top model, the turbo petrol GLX. We have also reviewed the most basic of the Balenos, the GL manual.
For context, here’s a brief comparison of the GL Baleno against two other base-model hatches:
|Toyota Corolla Ascent||Mazda 3 Neo||Suzuki Baleno GL|
|Fuel cons (combined, L/100km)||6.1||5.8||5.4|
What’s it like inside?
Basic but workable. This is no premium vehicle; there’s absolutely no sense of luxury, no ambience. It feels cheap, but not nasty; there’s no flowing design, materials are not high-end, the sound system is adequate, lighting is effective but not subtle. Practicality is good; there’s the usual compartments up front, including a nook for your phone, and a coin holder.
There’s a USB port and a 12v port for charging things, and a small centre console. The front seats are rather flat-bottomed, but the steering wheel is tilt/reach adjustable on the GLX; interestingly, only reach on the lower-spec GL. This means that not everyone can find their ideal driving position.
The second row is unusually spacious and comfortable. Teenagers across the nation will lobby hard for the Baleno GLX as it sports a 12v socket in the second row, and there’s also a seat pocket on the back of the passenger seat. The seats split 40:60 and the backs fold down, which is pretty standard for this class of car.
The boot is, according to Suzuki, “similar to Corolla, bigger than Mazda 3” so for “similar” read “a bit smaller”. It’s impressively large but also has a very deep lip, so you can’t slide things in and out easily. Other Suzukis such as the Vitara have a clever false floor system; it’s a pity this wasn’t designed for the Baleno too. The boot isn’t particularly well lit either. There is the usual cargo shelf that’s detachable.
One small point I didn’t like was the way the lock protrudes from the bottom of the door; knocked my head on it a few times. It would be better for it to sit flush with the natural line of the door.
There is a keyless entry system but it’s quite basic. It doesn’t work on the rear doors, and you need to touch a black square on the handle to unlock, not just grasp the doorhandle. Only the driver’s window is auto up/down. As ever, what appears to be equivalent specifications on two cars at different ends of the price spectrum are not the same in reality.
What’s the infotainment like?
It’s the now-standard Suzuki Mirrorlink system which we have reviewed in detail here. It’s a basic touchscreen with sat-nav and Apple CarPlay but not Android Auto, and the volume control is touch-screen. Does the job but not wonderful to use or particuarly feature-rich, although sat-nav is included.
The dash on the GLX can show a few different things:
Yes, that’s a G-meter which shows you how hard you’re braking, accelerating or cornering and when at rest, your maximums. After some consideration, the consensus is that’s a gimmick with no use whatsover. It’s kind of cool, but generally most owners would quickly tire of it. There’s also a real-time power and torque meter… also a gimmick. The other displays are a bit more useful. In a sign that this is no premium car, the display screens are operated by an old-style push-stalk on the dash display itself, not a steering wheel control.
Performance, Ride and Handling
Around town: I am not going to make any apology for making the same point I did about the Vitaras, Jimny and Swift because that point is the key to understanding the Baleno. And that would be lightness. The Baleno is a scant 975kg on the scales, less than the smaller Swift – and that shows the advances in car design since the Swift was new to market. The Baleno is even lighter than that supposed paragon of lightness, the Mazda MX-5. Now this lightness is important. Lightness means agility, low fuel consumption and then you only need a small engine. And so it is with the Baleno, which is about as engaging a drive as you’ll find this side of a sportscar, certainly in this segment. Grip is impressive, as is agility thanks to the weight and Suzuki’s usual decent chassis engineering which delivers a nicely neutral and balanced drive.
There’s not vast reserves of power, but there’s enough and it’s smartly delivered for the most part through the six-speed automatic gearbox which is happy to use what feels like more torque than its 160Nm to lug along in low gears. Even wet roads don’t faze the front-drive transmission. Not a fan of the steering though – or rather, the steering is ok but it’s not up to the standards set by the rest of the car’s dynamics.
And then there is the noise. The Baleno turbo doesn’t sound like a small car. I can’t quite describe what it does sound like; it’s not a supercharger whine, a turbo howl, a boxer burble or a big-bore grumble. It’s an odd but endearing sort of noise unique to the Baleno turbo; it sounds a bit sporty and interesting without being too try-hard and artificial. Whatever it is, I quite like it. If you have to drive around town for purposes that aren’t fun, you could put a bit of life into your travels with a Baleno turbo.
Open roads: The Baleno doesn’t hurt for power even four-up, but it is noisy. Sitting in the back seat while crusing at 110km/h (I wasn’t driving) it was a bit of a struggle to hear the driver. It’s general noise from the wind and tyres that’s the issue. It’s not terrible, just not the best.
The cruise control is effective but the automatic gearbox doesn’t always know what to do with itself, and can make unecessary changes. Stability is good, and the Baleno is an easy drive but those rather flat-bottomed seats are not ideal for me at least and others noted the same thing. If you have a lot of interstate cruising to do this would not be your first choice.
The headlights on the GLX are HIDs and very effective, much better than you’d expect if you’re used to the older halogen designs. Not that Balenos will tow very much, but they are rated to 1000kg braked although the towball mass is only 60kg so the realistic limit is 600kg. I am now going to reveal a small fact or two you may not be aware of. First, the Baleno has 82kW, which is not very much but remember that light weight. Second, that 82kW is produced by a 1.0L engine with three cylinders. Yes, a 1.0L engine. With a turbo. Australia, you need to get over the obsession with engine displacement. Small engines can work perfectly well, and the Baleno is rolling proof. Contrast this car with the Holden Astra of 2002 which managed 90kW from 1.8L, and weighed 1130kg, nearly 200kg more. In short, don’t let the fact the Baleno has a small engine put you off. Nobody who drove or rode in the car picked it for a 1L or a three-cylinder, and most were frankly amazed when told. It’s interesting that Suzuki are keen to highlight the turbo but not, of course, the tiny capacity.
The Baleno hasn’t been ANCAP-rated yet, but it has scored 4 stars in Europe. However, that appears to be mostly due to a low level of advanced safety aids, so it might score 5-star over here and Suzuki boss Andrew Moore said he was “hopeful” of a top rating to match Vitara and Swift. As you’d expect for the price there are no advanced safety features; no AEB, lane departure warning or blind-spot warning, and indeed there are no safety features of note at all beyond the basics such as stability control and airbags. If advanced safety is what you want then you need to move up into more expensive vehicles and forget Suzukis.
There are the usual three child restraints, sensibly located in the back of the seats, and two ISOFIX attachments on the outboard seats. Both cars have space-saver spares.
Pricing & Equipment
There’s two specifications of Baleno, differentiated not so much by their trim level but the engine. There’s a four-cylinder 1.4L good for 68kW (not much, but remember that 935kg weight) and a 1.0L petrol turbo, 3 cylinder, good for 82kW. Not only is the GLX more powerful, but it gets a six-speed automatic which gives the engine much more chances to stay in its best power or efficiency rev range than the GL’s four-speed unit or five-speed manual.
Here’s what the GLX turbo offers over the GL:
GL – driveaway $16,990
- 68kW engine, 5 speed manual or 4 speed auto, 91RON petrol
- 15″ steel wheels
- Front disc brakes, rear drums
- Tilt-adjustable steering wheel
GLX – driveaway $22,990
- 82kW engine, 6 speed auto, 95RON petrol
- 16″ alloy wheels
- Disc brakes all round
- Tilt and reach adjustable steering wheel
- Keyless entry (basic system)
- Climate control
- HID headlights
So the GLX is another six grand, and really what you’re getting is the bigger engine, and you’ll need premium fuel. We will have a drive of the GL in a couple of weeks and see if it is as underpowered as it looks – the Turbo is only adequately powerful, so losing 14kW and at least one gear ratio is going to be a tough ask.
Here’s the colour schemes. All fairly dour, but we must say that blue looks lovely in the metal.
Why would you buy one?
The buyer for the Baleno is clear; you want a small but spacious car that’s inexpensive to buy and run, or you might want something a bit more interesting than a Corolla. Provided you don’t mind the basic interior and design, then the Baleno may be for you.