Be the first to rate this article
Suzuki's first entry into the small-medium car market in this country was with the Baleno that was introduced back in 1995.
In 1999 the Suzuki Baleno was up-dated to increase the value of their models and provide better competition against their Japanese and Korean rivals. The range included the GL three-door hatch and GLX sedan and wagon, all with 1.6 litre engines and a five-speed manual or four-speed-automatic transmission. There was also the 1.8 litre GTX manual sedan and a limited edition Cavaliero 1.6 manual three-door hatch in 2000/2001.
The new model with improved equipment levels has a revised frontal appearance featuring a smoother, more modern look with a new bonnet, bumper, grille panel and asymmetrical headlights. The base model hatch's standard equipment included airconditioning, power steering, digital radio cassette with four speakers, adjustable steering column and power mirrors. The GLX added central locking and power windows.
The automatic transmission is smooth and generally well matched to the power and torque of the engine. However test driving found the engine to be a little harsh when revved high in its range, and the automatic was a little lazy to kick out of overdrive, preferring to labour the engine in the higher gear which reduced vehicle speed.
Around town, the sedan we tested negotiated uneven surfaces easily and is equally stable at highway speeds, displaying predictable handling characteristics. The hatch is equally as predictable under dry conditions; however in damp conditions the tyres were challenged in some circumstances to maintain traction.
The sedan has good interior space, giving front and back seat passengers adequate leg and head room. The hatch has a smaller interior, giving sufficient room to average-sized front seat occupants but is a tight squeeze for adult rear passengers when the front seats are set back.
The Baleno has well laid out instruments and controls that are light and simple to operate. They are easy cars to drive and park, with good visibility and compact turning circles.
The 1.6 litre engine provides acceptable performance on the road and with the auto sedan we recorded an overall fuel consumption of 7.1 litres/100 km, slightly less economic than the lighter hatch's 6.9 litres /100 km. The 1.8 litre engine with extra power and torque and a double overhead cam, provides much better performance and therefore when looking at second hand versions consider how hard they are likely to have been driven.
Even though the Baleno is generally regarded as a reliable vehicle, check for signs of noises from the cam shaft area that could be caused by a blocked oil feed. The 1.6 litre engine has a cam belt that should be changed every 5 years or 100,000km, which ever comes first. Parts can be a bit expensive as nearly all parts have to be imported, and lifter noise on initial start-up is not uncommon but if it only last for a couple of seconds it should not be a problem.
Overall, the Baleno is a good quality, easy to drive small-medium car with good fuel economy.
Used car buyers can expect to pay around $8,500 for a 1999 GL manual hatch from a private sale. From a dealer expect to pay $18,000 for a 2001 GTX sedan.