IAIN ROBERTSON 

With innumerable other motoring tasks on his plate, Iain Robertson has simply not had sufficient time to put many miles on Baleno in the past month but as the car is now well into its second year of existence, it is a chance to reflect on its value.

In uplifting a car driver (on a collecting duty) from the station the other morning, I had my first seasonal experience of clearing frost from the Suzuki’s windscreen. Of course, we are ‘not allowed’ to start-up the engine to warm it through, as we once were, because someone is sure to complain about pollution and waste of fuel! As a result, the windscreen was ‘dry-scraped’ using my trusty ice-scraper, which duly snapped!

Fortunately, the 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Boosterjet unit warms very speedily, even (as I discovered) in sub-zero temperatures. In fact, within 30 seconds, the interior demist was working efficiently and less than 90 seconds after starting, I could select gear and head off to the station. Within a mile of home, the screens were clear and the car’s interior was becoming more welcoming…even though my spoilt bottom hankered after ‘bum-warmers’.

It is on these little occasions that I start to appreciate the Suzuki. Standing, as I do, two metres tall, there are really very few cars that I can clamber into and out of, on a daily basis, that provide genuine ease of access. The Baleno does, even though it has four cabin doors, which can compromise accessibility. It is not often that I mention the Suzuki’s ergonomics (the science of interior layouts that meet human operational requirements). They are excellent. The relationship between driver’s seat and foot-pedals is perfect, while all priority controls and switches fall readily to hand and are intuitive to operate.

Yet, I still have a minor issue with the rear wash-wipe, which requires a clockwise twist of the right-hand column stalk, with a further twist to engage the washer jet. While I remain a proponent of main controls standardisation in ALL cars, thereby ensuring that confusion is removed and safety enhanced, while a twist control is fine, the washer function should be a stalk push away from the driver and not a further twist that demands a hand be removed from the steering wheel rim. It is a small thing but, in my book of control layouts, it could be an important one. Thank heavens that the rear wiper is of a decent size and not the ridiculously ‘diddy’ type that seems to be fitted increasingly to new cars.

The Baleno’s lightness of its controls matches the lightness of its construction. Of course, in order for the car to meet crash regulations, it needs to be sturdy and I have no issues with the rigidity of the car and there is zero body-flex, even traversing the worst of local road surfaces. However, I do wish that Suzuki would make its body panels of a material that did not ‘ding’ as soon as you look at them! Suffering (as I think I do) from ‘Automotive OCD’, I keep noticing little ‘dents’ that appear in the car’s flanks and even the bonnet. The new side protection strips do alleviate the mental anguish somewhat but that does not stop the inconsiderate oaf parked next door at the supermarket from leaning on my car, before getting into his own! Result… another ‘ding’. I watched it happen!

The psychological effect of acquiring a value brand plays its part and, with a regular diet of test cars from other manufacturers, comparisons become inevitable. Yet, every time I return to the driver’s seat of the Baleno, I appreciate that I made the right decision. It is comfortable, supportive, easy to drive, undemanding, ridiculously frugal, refined, spacious, different looking, safe and dynamically sound. It also starts without churning, first depression of the starter button. While I can expect some of those benefits from several makes and models of motorcar, that they are omnipresent in the Baleno is a worthy feather in its compact hat.

 

Costs incurred:

£193 month thirteen finance payment

7,641 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

£206.01 first service charge (£65 hourly labour rate)

(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now dealer refitted until March 2018 at a cost of £78, dealer is storing summer tyres)

(£200 for incident damage repair, front bumper, yet to be dealt with).