THE Baleno is Suzuki’s new five door hatchback, more spacious than its Swift stablemate and featuring a punchy yet economical 1.0 litre turbo-boost petrol engine.
Prices start at £12,999 (€14,607) and while there is no diesel version, there is also a 1.2 petrol model with a hybrid system which offers a combined fuel figure of 70.6 mpg.
Suzuki says most buyers will opt for the 1.0 litre turbo model, and this is the version I tested recently. It delivers nippy performance: top speed is 124 mph, 0-60 mph time is 11.4 seconds and it returns 62.7 mpg combined.
The stats are fairly typical of the sector, which includes rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Skoda Fabia and Hyundai i20, but the Baleno scores well with generous equipment levels and greater interior space.
All models get air-conditioning, satnav and Bluetooth, and my test model, in SZ5 trim at £13,999 (€15,731) featured 16-inch alloy wheels, chrome detailing to grille, door-handles and tailgate, door mirrors with built-in signalling and rear privacy glass. It also had tyre pressure monitoring, adaptive cruise control, keyless entry with push-button-start, a gear-shift indicator, DAB radio and USB and AUX connectors.
On the road, the three-cylinder 1.0 litre turbocharged engine has 110 hp, so it offers decent response and gives a nimble feel without having to work it hard.
Baleno is a well-balanced car, displaying plenty of grip and composure, and while the suspension set-up is a little softer than some, it gives excellent comfort without compromising the handling.
The Baleno’s elegant exterior is sleeker than most rivals and the cabin is well designed, with a simple, straightforward dashboard layout.
The infotainment unit is set high up to be seen and operated easily. Occupant space is outstanding by class standards both front and rear, and the boot is big, 320 litres with the rear seats in use, and folding them down more than doubles capacity.
The Baleno is a welcome addition to the hatchback sector. Though not the cheapest, it does offer more standard equipment than most with more useable space, and the bonus of Suzuki’s fine record for reliability.