Over Achiever | Suzuki Baleno RS Review

In business, there are a multitude of ethical vision statements that both entice the consumer and focus the attitude of the workforce, but one of my all-time favourites is to ‘under-promise and over-deliver’. To me, this simple ethos shows an underlying confidence in a company’s product or service that ultimately results in a very happy client or customer, and it’s this exact sense of over-achievement I felt when getting behind the wheel of the new Suzuki Baleno RS.


The new Baleno doesn’t claim to have the room of an SUV, however, it comes with plenty of cabin and luggage space. It doesn’t claim to have the handling of a sports car, but it does tackle corners with vigour and aplomb. It doesn’t claim to be lavishly adorned in fine leather, but its finishing is modern and uncluttered (plus, it has a leather wheel), and it doesn’t claim to have a powerful V8, but its one-litre, three-cylinder engine will more than just raise your eyebrows.


What the Baleno does claim to be though, is an exceptional ‘everyday’ car, and that is indeed, what it over-delivers on.


First of all comes its size and style. This (sub four metres long) compact, four-door hatch is shapely, well contoured and bite-sized. It nips in and out of traffic, handles central city congestion well and is very easy to park. My RS model came with a sportier bodykit, a chrome blade across the tail, 16-inch alloys, a little more bright wear and 145mm of ground clearance (25mm more than the standard Baleno). However, despite its pertness, the cabin will seat four with ease and five if they’re comfortable with each other, plus 355 litres of luggage space (756 litres with seats folded flat).


When it comes to technology and safety, the team at Suzuki have managed to deliver there too. LED projector headlights that are self-levelling, Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (impact absorption), electronic stability, cruise control, hill-hold control, reverse camera, Apple and Android connectivity, a six-speaker stereo, SatNav and (in the case of the RS) a performance screen that shows engine/turbo data and G-Force — phew.


Then there’s that engine. Being a fan of large cc’d powertrains, the thought of 998cc (one-litre) propelling the vehicle I am driving generally leaves me a little cold. However, not so with the Baleno RS. 82kW and 160Nm outputs makes the Baleno rather swift, especially when delivered through the six-speed auto box (that has paddles too) and with its three-cylinder soundtrack, it emits a more powerful exhaust note under higher revs that’s more in tune with a ‘V-shaped’ engine.


Having a week to explore the merits of having a Baleno in the family, I reset the odometer (and fuel consumption) and used the nifty hatch to the nth-degree. It shopped with us, it travelled to Orewa and beyond, it played in the city and carried a few member of the kids’ football team to the game. In all, the kilometres used headed towards 500 while the fuel needle dipped gently to a quarter of a tank. This is a frugal little hatch, offering (for me) an average consumption of 5.6L/100km, not far off its advertised 5.2 and with CO2 reported to being 121g/km, it’s both wallet and environment assisting.


The Suzuki Baleno RS offers space, style, performance and tech. It’s nippy when it wants to be and very efficient when not being revved to the limit. Exception ‘everyday’ car is Suzuki’s way of putting it, I’d prefer to call it a little over-achiever.