Compact does not mean ‘pokey’, when it comes to the mighty Suzuki Baleno
When you stand 6’ 6” tall in your stocking soles, one of the first aspects of car ownership has to be, can I fit? Well, in Baleno, I do, what’s more, there is even space for another six-footer behind me, let alone abundant room elsewhere in the cabin. Were I Robin Luscombe, I would feel inclined to advertise the Baleno to ‘The Big and Tall Club’!
After paying my deposit on the new Baleno almost two years ago, my fixed monthly payments of £193 ensure that it remains affordable. However, as the car can return a consistent 60mpg, almost regardless of how I drive it, its range of around 450-miles means I am not stopping to refuel it all the time. In almost two years, its one-litre, turbo-petrol engine has not demanded even a drop of oil, or water, and even the screen-wash bottle only requires a top-up once a month.
The BoosterJet engine is a gem. It pulls strongly from little more than idle speed, in any of its five forward gears, demands no lower than third for most on-road deviations (roundabouts and junctions) and carries out punchy overtakes, without a need to drop down a gear. It feels as meaty as most 1.8 to 2.0-litre units. It is a marvel and survives on an annual service basis.
As it is in SZ5 trim, it is exceptionally well-stocked, with the large Suzuki touch-screen in the centre of the dashboard, from where I can access readily the sat-nav, stereo system, my iPod music selection and mobile-phone connection. Its voice control means that I can keep my hands on the leather-wrapped steering wheel for added safety. Yet, it also features a number of semi-autonomous gizmos, like the radar distance control, which applies the car’s brakes automatically, if I get too close to the vehicle in front, as well as the excellent cruise control.
One of Baleno’s most outstanding features is its amazing suspension. It rides like a much larger family car and irons out road surface imperfections fluently. However, the ride comfort is firmly compliant, without crashing, or bottoming-out on the worst bumps. Although it is not something we think about too often, the car’s suspension is perfectly matched to the car seats, which ensure high levels of comfort that make long-distance drives a real pleasure.
Living with a Suzuki Baleno has been a sheer delight so far. Driving other cars regularly, as part of my job as a motoring journalist, I find myself comparing Baleno with them and, regardless of price, status, or size, hopping back into my car never introduces an ounce of regret. That alone speaks volumes about its overall capabilities.
Finally, the Baleno is a good looking compact five-door car. Its HID headlamps provide superb nocturnal illumination and its capacious boot, complete with adjustable floor height, provides an amazing carrying capacity. Despite living outside, its pewter paintwork shows negligible signs of wear and its smooth outline polishes beautifully. Am I hooked on Baleno? You had better believe it.
Luscombe’s summary: Suzuki has recently taken the top honours for reliability in the ‘What Car?’ magazine dependability study. Iain’s experiences with his Baleno, which he reports on social media, are in full support of those findings.
Next week, Iain relates an around-Britain drive undertaken in an S-Cross.
Lane discipline – Is it annoying, or a practical safety feature?
Increasing amounts of electronic safety aids are being incorporated within ALL motorcars these days and, despite Suzuki’s stance as a ‘value brand’, many of its latest models include safety addenda that would make a Volvo owner proud.
Using technology that can read the lines on a road surface and telegraph any deviations directly to a driver’s fingertips on the steering wheel, is definitely not witchcraft! However, if you are unfamiliar with the lane-keep assist system, it can be hackle-raising and annoying, when it announces its status with a bleep, a warning message in the dashboard and transmits a gentle reminder through the steering wheel.
When we pass our Driving Tests, we have the knack of lane discipline impressed upon us. Therefore, we should be familiar with it. While wandering all over the road may be intrinsic to driving in some parts of the world, on our sceptred isles and their overcrowded roads networks, sticking to your lane, except when overtaking, of course, is an important safety aspect.
Most lane-keeping systems do not work until you are travelling at speeds in excess of 40mph, so deviating from your lane in town is less likely to result in the annoying bleep and steering wheel tug. While it can still prove to be annoying on country and main roads, you can always switch it off and never be troubled by it again. Using the indicators to highlight a direction change also cancels the system for the manoeuvre. Personally, I prefer to leave it switched on.
While the system does presage the introduction of even more advanced, fully-autonomous steering on cars of the future, it is reliant on sensors (and, in the more advanced and expensive systems, cameras) that detect the white lines on roads. The problem is, many of our roads have damaged edges and faded, or missing, white lines, even in the important centre of the roadway. For the systems to work efficiently, the roads do need to be in a better condition.
The drivers benefiting most from lane-keep assistance will be on motorways and major trunk roads. While it is a system that cannot be relied on consistently, for reasons stated earlier, while we no longer suffer from ‘peasoupers’, those intense, zero-vision fogs of a few decades ago, as long as the road is not covered in snow, or something else that obliterates the lines, the lane-keep assist can be beneficial in adverse weather conditions. If it is an ‘active’ system, such as fitted to the latest Suzuki Swift in its highest trim levels, the tactile warning through the steering wheel will have the effect of helping you to keep the car within its lane.
However, there are vital safety implications related to the windscreen-located sensors. Should your car be equipped with them and you are forced to replace the windscreen due to incurring damage to it, bear in mind that the sensors will need to be recalibrated and your Suzuki dealership is the best place to do that. If they are located behind the ‘S’ grille logo, the same remedial action must be applied.
Lane-keep systems were devised to address the main causes of on-road collisions, by tackling driver error, distractions and drowsiness. They work using radar, cameras, or infra-red sensors. Citroen was the first brand to employ lane warning technology in its cars in 2004, although Nissan, Toyota and Honda had similar devices since 2001. When the steering wheel reacts, it is known as ‘haptic’ technology, because it provides feedback to the driver’s fingers.
Luscombe’s summary: If you want to learn more about Suzuki’s lane-keep technology, a member of our team will help you to understand it and its safety relevance.
Next week: Iain takes a closer look at Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems.
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