IAIN ROBERTSON 

Although promising that he is not counting, Iain Robertson cannot help but notice that he is precisely halfway through his Suzuki ‘ownership’ programme and while leasing relieves some pressures, responsibility tends to enhance others.

Make no mistake, I hate nature! Do not panic. I am not about to launch into a damning diatribe against the sainted Sir David Attenborough. He is a ‘national treasure’; I would never recover from the assault. My gripe is about trees.

While I would be in the vanguard of notional protesters railing against any authority wanting to chop down trees in our urban environments, I would gleefully remove the swining foliage that spreads its protective umbrella above my Suzuki. The clues were evident, when I moved into my new home precisely a year ago.

A neighbour across the courtyard uses a car cover. To be frank, I have never been a fan of these elasticated devices. Not dissimilar to a fitted mattress cover, they rely on a series of ties (missing on the elderly car cover gifted to me by a friend) to ensure that they remain in-place, once fitted. Without them, introduce a breeze and, more conclusively than Marilyn Monroe’s dress, the cover hikes up, up and away…only being returned to me by another neighbour, whose prize dahlias provided a far-from-perfect landing strip.

One of my responsibilities for Baleno lies in keeping it as clean as possible. As a car-proud person, I have no issue with that. However, it does make the one-man-comedy-show, of attempting to draw the cover across the car, even tougher. When the wonderfully lightweight Suzuki’s propensity to ‘dent’, often by just looking piercingly at a body panel, is factored into the equation, even holding down a corner of the cover raises concerns of an impossible balance between sap damage and incurring inadvertent indentations.

Now halfway through the lease programme, I am resigned into the knowledge of engaging with a ‘Dent’s Away’ operative, just prior to handing back the car to Suzuki Finance. In the meantime, as long as I do not look too closely, the car is actually wearing very well. While there is no evidence of body rot (not so unusual these days), apart from a once-a-year comprehensive valet and at least two (annual) applications of car wax, Baleno’s paintwork continues to glisten like a new pin, despite the sap onslaught that must be removed regularly to avoid paintwork damage.

Despite its resilient plastic-moulded interior trim, there is no discernible wear inside the car either, which, for a half-term report, is most gratifying. I still believe that the application of ‘soft-touch’ trim would improve the ownership proposition overall on a car that is presently listed at one Pound shy of £16,000 (although dealer savings of £2,500 soften the blow). The floor mats, unsurprisingly, are protecting the carpets.

It has been a high-mileage month, the car covering 1,430-miles with unerring reliability and in total comfort. I promised a comprehensive test of Bridgestone’s Turanza T005 tyres and, as they are now bedded-in properly, I can confirm that their dry weather performance is every bit as impressive as the wet weather, which makes them significantly less compromising than any other tyre that I have tested in more than forty years.

While discernible wear is minimal, a regular weekly pressure test shows that, despite the occasional sudden shock of hitting unavoidable potholes, there is no loss of pressure either and the inner edges of the tyres are also still 100% intact, which is good news after just over 3,000-miles usage. The ride comfort remains excellent, despite a 10mm increase in aspect ratio. Grip levels are outstanding, regardless of weather conditions and the Baleno feels exceptionally well-planted and a confident delight to pedal along some of my favourite A and B-roads.

Interestingly, while I expected a minor decrease in overall fuel economy, it has actually improved slightly tankful-to-tankful. On one trip in the past month, I attained an outstanding 68.9mpg driving from my Lincolnshire home to the Cotswolds and back, while maintaining an average speed of 54mph. Most impressive.

Recently, I have heard of some worrying unreliability tales of 1.0-litre/three-pot engines. While Ford Motor Company does appear to have suffered more than other manufacturers, Suzuki has raised no warranty issues for its BoosterJet units. The engine in my car purrs sweetly and imperceptibly at idle and cruises happily (29mph/1,000rpm in fifth) at 2,500rpm all day long. It feels as lively as it did 21 months ago, which bodes well for the next 21 months.

Costs incurred:

£193 month twenty finance payment

13,365 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

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

£200 for front bumper replacement (now completed)

(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now stored in readiness for a third winter but replaced by a set of Bridgestone Turanza T005s – £288.96 + £33.98 fitting – for the next year)