The new Suzuki Baleno has been launched in a 4 model line-up and very soon after our test of the GL manual model, the high-spec GLX version arrived complete with automatic transmission.

Powered by the same 1.5L 4 cylinder motor with 77kW and 138Nm driving the front wheels, the auto box provides a rather old-fashioned sounding 4 speed torque convertor technology. Shifts are smooth and generally comfortable in normal driving, but we were constantly aware of the feeling that this box really does need at least 1 more ratio in todays motoring environment. Apart from the transmissions tendency to hunt between 3rd and 4th gears on a freeway, cruising at the national limit is at far higher revs than usual in most other cars today.

YET......the Baleno is such a compelling offering with regard to value for money that the points above pale into insignificance when looking at the car as an overall package. Space, power and especially specification are almost beyond belief at the asking price. Items like 7 airbags, 16" alloy wheels, 9" infotainment screen with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, 360 deg and overhead camera system, Heads-up display and auto air-conditioning, keyless entry and start are among the standard items that the GLX adds to the already well-equipped GL model.

Based on Suzuki's Heartect platform provides good handling plus the recipe of lightweight construction that always adds up to exceptional fuel economy and yet again the GLX didn't disappoint here. Overall fuel economy of 5.8 L/100km is typical of the brand.

Considering the overall package, the Baleno GLX Auto is an absolute bargain at the current asking price of R295 000. Remember that this includes a 4 year/60 000km service plan and 5 year/ 200 000km warranty.

As a personal opinion, I feel that the GL Auto at R245 000 minus many of the extra items as mentioned above is an absolute winner in its category. However, if I was shopping and had a budget that allowed the extra for all the added spec of the GLX, then I would find an additional R10-15 000 that may be added to the price if Suzuki could provide an automatic transmission that was more suited to modern needs.

Alan Rosenmeyer:   MotorMatters:   www.motormatters.co.za