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Suzuki Baleno GLX Car Review

Author: NRMA MotoringDate: 2 January 1997

To coincide with an update on the 1.6 litre sedan and hatch lineup, Suzuki has now added a wagon derivative to complement its successful range of Baleno models. Two levels are available in the wagon: a GLX and a GTX.

To confirm its relationship with the sedan version, the GLX wagon shares the same 1.6 SOHC (Single Overhead Cam) 16 valve engine and a modified version of the same floor pan. Although the GTX sits on the same floor pan, it shares its 1.8 DOHC (Double Overhead Cam) 16 valve powerplant with the GTX sedan and hatchback.

Suzuki has endeavoured to make its vehicles more attractive by offering high levels of equipment at a competitive price, making them better value for money. Starting price for the GLX manual is $22,990 and $25,990 for the GTX.

There are not a lot of wagons in this class making the Baleno an attractive package with numerous extras included in a price that is pretty well line ball with its competition.

Features and equipment

Standard features on all Baleno wagons include power steering, power windows, central locking, rear window washer/wiper, roof rails, power exterior mirrors, tachometer, 4 speaker sound system, tilt adjustable steering column, retractable cargo cover, height adjustable driver's seat and tinted glass.

In addition to the above, the GTX offers front sports seats, higher grade interior fittings, rear spoiler, side skirts and front air dam. Two tone paint and alloy wheels are optional. Air conditioning, alloy wheels, antilock brake system and dual SRS air bags are optional on both models.

Very little attention has been applied to either security or major safety items as standard equipment on either the GLX or the GTX wagon.

Both models are available with a 5 speed manual gearbox or an optional 4 speed automatic transmission which has a lock up facility on 3rd and 4th gear.

Disc front and drum rear brakes are standard on the GLX model whilst four wheel disc brakes are fitted to the GTX. Front discs on both are ventilated for better cooling and a load sensitive proportioning valve is incorporated in the rear system.

MacPherson struts and coil springs are used at all four corners of the Baleno giving it a comfortable yet forgiving ride and handling package. 'L' shaped lower suspension arms are used at the front whilst the rear consists of parallel links and trailing arms with both front and rear ably controlled by stabiliser team.

The GTX model has a suspension control system consisting of adjustable shock absorbers with a 'sport' and 'auto' mode. In 'auto', the computer receives signals from a number of sensors and adjusts the firmness of the ride to suit the conditions. In 'sport', the ride is stiffened up constantly.

Body and finish

Styling of both models is pleasing with attractive lines and a rear side window treatment that flows into the overall design without appearing to be an add on. Our GLX test vehicle looked quite smart in white, topped off with black trimmings. The additional skirting, bumper extensions and rear spoiler that are fitted to the GTX do not blend very well with the overall styling, and in my opinion, detract from its otherwise good looks, appearing very much like an after thought.

I was quite impressed with the standard of panel and paint finish on the Baleno range, although there is obviously a fitting problem with the rear doors and seals, as both test vehicles allowed dust past the seals.

Comfort and space

Seating is provided for five in the Baleno wagon and whilst there is adequate room in the front for most people, the rear is more restricted. Front seating is well shaped for taller adults with firm side control, although some adverse comments were received from those of shorter stature who found the head restraint to be poorly placed. Sports seats with integral head restraints are fitted in the front of the GTX, offering even better comfort and support. Rear seating is really suited to two small adults or children, due to the limited leg room and seat cushion contour.

Storage facilities are a feature of the Baleno wagon, particularly in the rear spare wheel compartment. Every available space has been utilised in this area with various sized compartments, including a bucket, being provided in and around the wheel well. A substantial wheel cover is fitted in the rear providing a good floor area for the luggage compartment and a retractable cover offered some security. Although the rear seats fold forward to provide full length luggage space, they do not fold flat to provide a level floor.

The rear seats are split 60/40 to provide a partial full length load area if required. Four retaining hooks in the rear floor make it easy to secure items that are likely to move around. Two integral roof rails are provided for additional luggage space which can be adjusted to size by adding the accessory bars that attach to the rails.

Storage area in the front compartment consists of a lockable glovebox and a large open compartment in the dash above it, two small door pockets, a console glove compartment which doubles as a cup holder and a small compartment in the front section of the centre console.

Behind the wheel

The standard tilt steering column and height adjustable seat in the Baleno make it possible to find a comfortable position for drivers of all sizes.

The dash and instrument layout is fairly conventional and the standard layout of all the controls make it very easy to adapt quickly to driving this vehicle.

On the road

The 1.6 engine is quite torquey at low engine speeds although it is inclined to be a little harsh sounding particularly when the load was removed on gear changing. This harshness is not noticeable in the 1.8 engine possibly due to the automatic transmission.

The disc/drum brake combination on the GLX operates very well, stopping it quickly and effectively without exceptional heat or fade. The GTX however, with its four wheel disc brakes, did not stop any better and produced additional heat and some fade during our performance test.

The manual transmission is easy to use and ratios are well suited to the 1.6 engine performance. The automatic transmission in the 1.8 model is smooth and quiet in operation and certainly equal to any I have experienced in the small vehicle class.

Instruments are clear and easy to read and all round vision is quite good, complemented by the power assisted mirrors.

Due to its firm ride and predictable handling, I felt quite at ease driving the 1.6 manual Baleno a little harder through some stretches of road than I normally would. The adjustable suspension dampers on the GTX were marginally effective in the 'sport' position, stiffening up the ride and cornering a little. However, only the astute would pick the difference.

Servicing

In line with other current vehicles of this size the regular maintenance schedules have been set at 10,000 km intervals. Service access under the bonnet of both models is very good with only the alternator being difficult to access.

A 36 month or 60,000 km warranty applies to the Baleno, covering all components against defects in manufacture.

Towing a trailer with the Baleno is not recommended by Suzuki. However, they have stated that if towing is undertaken with these vehicles it must be done in accordance with the local regulations. This would allow the Baleno wagons to tow up to 1020 and 1070 kg respectively, in NSW.

Summary

The Baleno is one of those vehicles that does not excel in any particular area, but rather does everything well with a minimum of fuss.

The GLX is quite smart in appearance, has a high level of standard equipment and is competitively priced. Additional safety items can be specified as required to bring it up to a high standard which would satisfy most buyers with a small family.

On the other hand, the sporty appearance and performance of the GTX would be appealing to younger buyers who are looking for a nippy little wagon.

Test vehicle supplied by Suzuki Automotive.

By NRMA Motoring, January 1997.

Quick Facts

Make Suzuki
Model Baleno GLX
Category Medium
Year 1997
Body type Station Wagon
Price of vehicle tested $25,990
Pluses

Body and paint finish
Performance and handling
Level of standard equipment

Minuses

Rear seats not folding flat
Rear seat room & comfort
Fairing and spoiler on GTX

Country of manufacture Japan
Warranty 3 years, 60,000km
Models Available

1.6 Man Wagon
1.08 Auto Wagon

Prices

GLX: $22,990
GTX: $25,990

Specifications

Engine

 
Number of cylinders 4
Engine size 1.590 L / 1.839 L
Induction Electronic multi-point injection
Fuel ULP
Claimed max power (kW) 72 kW @ 6000 rpm / 89 kW @ 6200 rpm
Claimed max torque (Nm) 127 Nm @ 3200 rpm / 152 Nm @ 3400 rpm

Transmission

 

Wheels

 
Wheel type Steel / Alloy
Wheel size 13 " / 14 "

Tyres

 
Type Dunlop SP / Bridgestone
Dimensions 175/70 R13 / 185/60 R14

Steering

 
Turning circle (measured) 9.96 m / 9.94 m

Dimensions

 
Mass 1020 kg / 1070 kg
Length 4345 mm
Width (including mirrors) 1690 mm
Height 1460 mm
Seating capacity 5
Fuel capacity 51 litres

Towing

 
Max towed mass (trailer plus load) 1020 kg / 1070 kg

NRMA Theft Rating

 
Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best) 26

Acceleration - Test results

 
50 - 80km/h 5.8 secs / 5.6 secs
60 - 100km/h 8.0 secs / 8.1 secs
0 - 80km/h 7.5 secs / 9.5 secs
0 - 100km/h 12.3 secs / 13.8 secs

Fuel Consumption

 
Best recorded during testing 7.6 L/100km / 9.0 L/100km
Worst recorded during testing 8.2 L/100km / 10.9 L/100km
Average on test 7.8 L/10km / 9.6 L/100km

Braking

 
Distance to stop (from 80km/h) 30.8 metres / 34.2 metres

Noise

 
Interior noise at constant 80km/h 68 dB(A) / 67 dB(A)

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