The new Baleno was launched only a few weeks ago in SA and Leadfoot attended the launch for MotorMatters. Having missed out, I was very happy to receive a test car so soon after the launch event.

The new version has been sharpened in looks, especially at the front with redesigned grille and lights making it look more modern and aggressive in my opinion then the previous version.

The real changes are under the bonnet and on the interior of the car. Starting with the engine, it increases from 1.4 to 1.5l of naturally aspirated power. An increase from 68 to 77kW (almost 15%) with torque increasing to 138Nm from the previous 130. These increases may seem small but they make a significant difference on the road to the overall drivability both around town and on the freeway. The car just feels far more relaxed overall than before.

As always, fuel economy is typical of Suzuki and even Leadfoot couldn't affect the figure of 5.8l/100km that the car showed at the end of the test. The best part is that most owners will be able to achieve similar figures with very little effort. This is a major factor to buyers in this category with current, ever increasing fuel prices.

The Baleno is an interesting model, larger than most competitors in this price segment and the new version continues with this tradition. There are 2 spec levels available being GL as tested and GLX. The spec levels have been improved from the old version and the new model offers even better value for money. From my perspective, the price difference between GL and GLX puts the 2 versions into completely different categories, so it's difficult to compare which I would actually choose between them.

The new GL offers a touchscreen with reverse camera and Android Auto/ Apple Carplay. Auto air-conditioning replaces the previous manual system and has LED headlights. The current price is R225 000. This makes the GL an absolute bargain, almost putting the car into the budget category yet providing far more space, spec and power than many other contenders at this price point.

Adding R50 000 to reach a price of R275 000, the GLX adds 4 extra airbags for a total of 6, heads-up display, keyless entry and push-button start and 16" alloy wheels to the package. I repeat that this is an unfair comparison and the GLX should be evaluated completely separately.

A 4 year/ 60 000km service plan and 5 year/ 200 000km warranty complete the package.

Alan Rosenmeyer:   MotorMatters: