It seems to be a growing trend in South Africa that when the petrol price goes up, everything goes up. Bread and milk are nearly twice what they were a few years ago, yet the petrol price is just about the same. With the new car market in South Africa feeling the pain of consumer penny pinching, it is refreshing to see Suzuki coming out with an affordable car that is specifically mandated to come in at an attractive price point. This will mean certain compromises will need to be made, but as we found out, they were the right kind of compromises.
The Baleno has been launched to replace what we think is the second best Suzuki of all time, the Swift. (Only the original SX4 is better). The Suzuki Swift was a compact hatchback that became extremely popular in South Africa because of its affordable price and impeccable quality. The Baleno is set to walk straight into those shoes and take over where the Swift left off, although it will do this with a little less weight and a much sturdier feel.
It seems to be a growing trend in South Africa that when the petrol price goes up, everything goes up. Bread and milk are nearly twice what they were a few years ago, yet the petrol price is just about the same
The exterior styling of the Baleno is somewhat different to what we have come to expect from Suzuki. In the past, Suzuki had retained an identity that meant you could tell what car it was from the front, rear and side, yet the new Baleno is rather generic. Generic isn’t bad – it’s just not unique. Blending into the pack might be part of a new marketing strategy for the brand, but it doesn’t look Suzuki enough for us. The pretty but ordinary looking Baleno, on the other hand, is incredible inside. The Baleno is well laid out and the dash is both practical and functional. There are wonderful accents and lighting touches that bring the Baleno into the new age. The interior is nothing short of hip and sexy and has all the basic features you’d want and expect for a car built in the 21st century. The instrument display has some cool features allowing you to see the torque and power that the Baleno produces under different driving conditions.
As with all hatchbacks, the boot space is not out-of-this-world big, but it is well within industry norms and perfectly acceptable for a family car of this size. Being able to fold the rear seats down does give the driver the ability to load nearly three times as much into the back of the Baleno.
The Baleno also drives very well, and although it is not built to win a drag race, what makes it so good –like all Suzuki cars so good – is that they drive much better than other cars in the same price range. If we were to compare the Suzuki to some of the German competition of a similar size, the Baleno would probably come up second best. But then those German hatchbacks that everyone loves so much are likely to smash the bank account, so comparing them would be like comparing apples and oranges. If it is apples with apples, the Suzuki is a leader. Priced from R199,900, it is hard to argue with Suzuki’s Baleno value proposition.
Fiat have a bakkie?
When we first heard the news, we were shocked. The brand that brought us the Fiat 500 has produced a bakkie that promises to deliver on the demands of a market that knows a thing or two about single cab and double cab workhorses.
The Fiat Fullback launched during 2016 in South Africa, and although sales figures do not threaten the stranglehold that Toyota and Ford have on the market at the moment, the single cab starts at R199,900 and has a load capacity of 1 ton. With sleek finishes and a decent name behind it, the Fullback could take some of the shine off the crowns of South Africa’s two heavyweights.
Look out for an in-depth review of the Fullback, where we will put this Italian worker through some South African trials, in a forthcoming issue of Spotong.