IAIN ROBERTSON 

Being grateful for the value of a three years, new car warranty and the efficiency of the supplying dealer (Cropley Suzuki, Boston), highlights Iain Robertson, Baleno is returned to fully operational mode after a mere 150-minutes booked-in appointment.

There are moments in a car owner’s life, when he feels like a spoilt child. Something goes wrong with the vehicle and he slumps into a form of torpor and no longer wishes to drive the car of his choice. While I am sure that there exists a perfectly sound and possibly Freudian reason for such a deflationary and depressing condition, indubitably linked to a probable emergency spend, it afflicted me in the early part of August, even as I was driving Baleno to the garage, to effect repairs.

The psychology attached to arriving early and being first into the workshop borders on overwhelming. As reported last month, the air-con had packed in and, although I had probably not mentioned it, the small rubber ‘button’ on the driver’s door handle that forms part of the ‘keyless entry and start-stop’ function was also ‘on the blink’. The car had been checked in late-July and the only delay was a fortnight awaiting the parts’ arrival from Germany. A new condenser (the air-con radiator) and complete replacement door handle were required.

Ascertaining the cause of these failures (wear and tear) would also result in whom would fund the repairs. Fortunately, further investigation, using a trace fluid that shows-up under UV light, revealed that a connection union to the condenser was ‘at fault’ and that I was not responsible for its failure. A warranty job…that would save me around £300. Phew! The second relief was similar. The door handle sensor was broken but covered by the car’s warranty. Another £209 saved!

Two-and-a-half hours and three very fine coffees after my 7.45am arrival at the workshop, I took a relaxing and pleasantly chilled drive home. In fact, it was so chilled that I returned an astonishing 70.3mpg, which underscores my logic for acquiring the Baleno in the first place. My previous lease car, a Skoda Citigo, powered by a non-turbocharged 1.0-litre-triple, never attained better than 56mpg. Life with Baleno is back on a satisfying track.

Interestingly, having experienced our first bad weather conditions for the best part of two months, I was keen this month to monitor the performance of the Bridgestone Turanza tyres in a mix of road conditions. It is all very well testing tyres on the unique and linear tarmac of a racing circuit but ‘real-life’ testing on give and take public roadways can reveal some ‘unusual’ characteristics.

Firstly, the overall ride quality on both bone dry and streaming wet surfaces is exemplary. Although not standard fitment on the Baleno, the T005s are quiet in operation (i.e. no squeal arising from tread flex) and provide a compliant and free-running connection to the road surface, as they are perfectly matched to the Monroe damping used by Suzuki.

Secondly, even splashing through standing water causes neither unwelcome steering pull, nor unsettling feedback through the steering wheel. Grip levels are exceptionally high, even though less than 1mm has been shaved off the tread depth through normal wear and tear since fitting the covers in March. In fact, the wear rate suggests that the Bridgestones have a potential life expectancy well in excess of 24,000-miles, before needing to be replaced. Interestingly, despite the Baleno being front-wheel-drive, its lightweight construction means that tyre wear has been negligible and even all-round.

Finally, being able to rely on assured responses from the car, whether the surfaces are wet, or dry, provides an aura of confidence in its dynamic responsiveness. Regardless of conditions, the Baleno’s steering responses are surgically crisp and, even under extreme duress, such as making an emergency stop, there is no untoward behaviour and the stopping distances are both consistent and dependable. I have seldom been so impressed with a new car tyre and I am looking forward to experiencing its responses over this forthcoming winter, as I am not going to refit the Kumho winter tyres that my dealer is holding for me. If the Bridgestones can provide high levels of competence in adverse and lower temperatures, their value will be even more deeply underscored.

So far, almost two years into Baleno ownership, I can state categorically that, despite driving all manner of new cars from competing manufacturers, a true joy exists, whenever I hop back into the familiar driving environment of my Suzuki. It always cleans-up impeccably, is still showing very few signs of typical wear and is not just comfortable but always provides the ideal balance of decent performance, tremendous frugality and other qualities that impress immensely. Living with Baleno as everyday transport remains a delight.

Costs incurred:

£193 month twenty-two finance payment

13,835 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)