Baleno makes consummate sense as an ‘L-car’
Teaching new drivers demands enormous patience, nerves of steel and intense belief in the integrity of their choice of training vehicle. However, the driver education industry has become predominated by three, or four, large companies, to which overall profitability has become a precursor. With their increased ‘buying power’ (although most of them lease, rather than outright purchase their cars), a handful of major car companies determined that they should have a healthy slice of the Learner Car market.
There is an inherent danger in such commercial circumstances. When you consider that an hour’s worth of driver education costs an average of £20.00, once the instructor has paid for fuel and his car’s running costs, the actual profit margin, from which wages are earned, is quite small. Even teaching up to seven pupils a day (an optimum figure) demands a modestly priced training car.
As a result, the most basic versions of Corsas, Polos and Fiestas tend to proliferate. However, they are not the most compliant of motorcars, in which to learn how to drive. They tend to be ‘clunky’, lack finesse, are short of space and are intolerant of daily abuse. Yet, a Suzuki Baleno is the complete antithesis of the motor industry norm.
Renowned engineering standards and positive reliability are customary aspects of the Suzuki proposition. Yet, when you drill down into the driving experience, whether with the 1.2-litre mild-hybrid, or 1.0-litre turbo-triple models, the Baleno elevates itself into pole position. Apart from a sweetly fluent, 5-speed manual gearshift quality (remembering that there is also a 6-speed automatic transmission option), the bottom-end pull from either engine means that miss-gearing, or just being in the wrong gear at the wrong time, is seldom an engine stalling issue, as the Baleno will tolerate low engine speeds, without complaint.
New drivers need to be taught how to deal with the latest semi-autonomous features of new cars and the aforementioned mainstreamers simply do not have them. On the other hand, an affordable Suzuki Baleno in SZ5 trim can satisfy all of the requirements and also sat-nav training. Factor-in first-rate comfort, a multi-adjustable driving position, durable trim and even space in the rear seat (should mum, or dad, be ‘riding shotgun’) are all practical benefits.
However, the most important aspects lie in the five-door car’s dynamics: firmly comfortable handling, precisely weighted steering, brakes possessing more than adequate pedal responses, balanced controls and a consistent clutch performance are all responsible for helping the novice to appreciate their actions better. None of Baleno’s rivals can equal Suzuki’s performance with the same levels of competence.
Finally, sensible pricing and even agreeable lease rates support the Suzuki proposition for driving professionals. The fact that Baleno is right-sized and, thanks to its light weight, is also easy on the fuel, relieves the instructor of at least one major headache.
Luscombe’s summary: We have supplied a number of Learner Driver cars (with dual-controls) to independent instructors and both them and their pupils are better for the resultant relationship.
Next week: Vitara automatic…a perfect company car?
Suzuki’s teensy treats
Collecting model cars, notably in the most popular 1/43rd scale, is one of the hobbies of Iain Robertson, who owns up to possessing around 3,200 examples acquired since he was a child and his Suzuki models are among his most prized examples.
When people ask me what hobbies I have, I feel sometimes like the archetypal holidaying busman. Cars are my life. I do not even like flying to places, as I prefer to drive. I read books and magazines about cars, I love classics and I collect model cars. Good Lord! What a total bore!
Yet, I am proud of my collection, some of which, although it is not a prerequisite, are worth an absolute fortune. Take a German Schuco tin-plate and clockwork model (1/20th) of Jim Clark’s Formula One Lotus racing car of the 1960s. Complete with its original box, it has a market value of around £1,000. While a Corgi box set of Ecurie Ecosse Commer transporter and three racing cars (all 1/43rd), which cost originally around £2.50 (in the late-1960s), is now worth over £450 mint-and-boxed.
A number of the collection possess special features, such as removable wheels, Ackermann steering geometry and even coil-spring suspension, as well as opening doors and other apertures. While such aspects are expected on the larger 1/18th scale Burago models, the finer details are really appreciated and prized on the 1/43rd versions.
While the vast majority of small-scale model cars are built in China these days, a brief ‘Google search’ for Suzuki toy cars revealed innumerable models representative of the company’s history, from the earliest Fronte 360 model (£17.45 in 1/64th scale, ideal for model railway dioramas), to the latest Suzuki Swift Sport (£44.99 in 1/43rd). Some genuine collectors’ treats in the form of the tiny Suzuki Cappuccino (1/43rd) are available at around £60, while various Suzuki Vitaras and Jimnys range from less than a tenner to well over £100, dependent on rarity of colour and quality of mouldings.
My current Suzuki collection includes some unpainted ‘white metal’ models of the mid-1990s Vitara and early-2000s SX4 and all bar the Celerio of the present showroom line-up. They are not ‘cheap’ to buy, as the recommended retail prices are around £15-£20 for the resin examples and up to £60 for the plinth-mounted, 1/43rd scale collectibles. However, as they appear to retain outstandingly high values, they may have a future that the full-size examples cannot sustain!
Luscombe’s summary: We have a representative selection of model cars in our comprehensive Suzuki merchandise catalogue. Next time you visit the dealership, take a look, you are sure to find something that you will like.
Next week: From silk to success, a potted history of Suzuki.
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