Baleno, the Suzuki ‘gift’ that keeps giving
A good measure of an outstanding motorcar is how it looks after spending 30 months in the open air, with little more than an annual polish and weekly car washes to keep it in presentable fettle. Its ‘pewter’ paint finish still glistens like a new pin. Having owned a run of Skoda models, I still cannot get my head around the fact that Suzuki brake discs do not rust, when parked-up for several days at a time.
To be fair, I did worry, when Suzuki revealed the Baleno and declared that, at 870kgs, it was the lightest car in its class. It is. Yet, as a result, it makes fantastic use of its 1.0-litre, 109bhp, turbo-triple shared with the Swift. Believe it as you wish but I have witnessed just under twice the UK motorway speed limit on its speedometer (adjusted for ‘error’, it is still 131mph!). Yet, it returns a consistent 58.7mpg, tank-to-7.7gallon-tankful, and is my overall fuel consumption figure for the past 30 months.
Until I invested in the optional, rubberised, protective side strakes (they are in the Accessories Catalogue), the propensity for the Baleno’s side panels to get dented in car parks was disturbing (explain to me why, should I park as far away from the supermarket’s front doors as possible, some twerp would still park directly and carelessly alongside?). Were it not for the fact that Baleno is being removed from Suzuki’s model list this autumn, I would recommend that the strips be fitted as standard to all models…no question.
A club exists for Tall People. I am six feet six inches tall. I can recommend Baleno to tall drivers. Suzuki ought to sponsor the club. The seats are exceedingly and orthopaedically comfortable (as many of my longer drives in the car have proven conclusively) but, more to the point, the car can carry an equally tall person immediately behind my driving position. Baleno is one of the roomiest compact family cars sold today…bar none. Its boot is also very accommodating.
Baleno breezes through its annual services, two so far, and I have only suffered one minor fault; the small dimple that works the ‘keyless-entry’ system ceased to operate (the keyfob continued to work but the ‘effort’ to retrieve it from my pocket was enormous...!) but was replaced in less than 10-minutes (by the way, it did take four days for the new door handle to arrive from Germany). Tyre wear is significantly better than anticipated and the Bridgestone Turanza T005s fitted to my car would appear to have a legal life expectancy of around 40,000 miles at current wear rates (another benefit of light weight).
Despite driving all makes and models of new cars, in my role as a transport journalist, I have never felt short-changed, when returning to my Baleno, even though some of those vehicles cost four to ten times the Suzuki’s list price. That is a major achievement in its own right. The bottom-line is that I adore my Baleno. It is comfortable, chilled (and heated), easy and rewarding to drive, well-equipped, frugal and great to look at. For all the right reasons, Baleno is one of the best compact cars sold in the UK today.
Luscombe’s summary: Okay. We sell Balenos but Iain’s glowing recommendation supports a brand ethos that overarches the entire Suzuki line-up and that makes us really proud to be a leading dealer for the company.
Next week: New Swift and a ‘love:hate’ relationship
Suzuki and subtlety are happy bed-partners
In real terms, with annual UK sales hovering around the 40k level, Suzuki remains a relatively small player but, as Iain Robertson explains, it is not a car company possessing a reputation for push-push marketing and its growth remains organic.
A special aura surrounds Suzuki Cars. It is unique in the motorcar business. A great example lies in the company’s recent successes with the all-new Jimny model. Despite a mad rush for its retrospective image and subsequent consumer demand for it, Suzuki is remaining stoical about its relative non-availability, working to a premise of what is imported will sell but, responding to demands for more, it is sticking resolutely to its annual allocation. In a very trying market, this might be termed an error of judgement but Suzuki GB knows its business well.
The current Swift is another case in point. It is a strong seller. However, unlike Honda, which, for years, sought to lower the average age of its customers and failed abysmally (the average age of a Civic buyer being 58 years!), Suzuki maintains a keen price advantage but appeals equally to younger, as well as older customers (average age is low-40s). Swift manages this quite tough demographic by producing a car that looks great to car enthusiasts of all ages. However, it supports its superficial appeal with a level of running cost affordability that tips most of its potential rivals into the dirt.
Talking of dirt, a car that is as capable in it, as on road, the Vitara is a zeitgeist model. In fact, Vitara has always extolled a ‘spirit of the time’, whether carrying fat tyres on huge alloy wheels, wearing bolstered body-kits, or offering both front and 4WD variants as it does today. It almost shares equal billing with Swift as the biggest seller in Suzuki GB’s line-up, in a market sector that overflows confusingly with contenders. Even the cracking S-Cross, given its head, can overwhelm any of its competitors at the price.
In all cases, Suzuki has neither been led by, nor has it followed, the market. It is a standalone brand that owes nothing to its rivals and, yet, is unrivalled. Unlike a Ford that butts up against an equivalent Vauxhall, or Peugeot, or Toyota, or Nissan, in a ‘photofit’ competition to be a ‘nation’s favourite’, it is seriously hard to find a like-for-like comparison for Suzuki motorcars, which is an incredible brand strength. Yet, it is one that remains subtle.
Luscombe’s summary: Always managing to provide an alternative view, one that most Suzuki customers may never have considered, we appreciate Iain’s views of our brand.
Next week: Suzuki’s Blind-Spot mirrors
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