IAIN ROBERTSON

Two years (almost) into the three-and-a-half years, Baleno lease term and Iain Robertson admits that not only has time flown but his levels of brand satisfaction appear to have been reflected in a national survey that placed Suzuki on pole position.

Every year, various motoring titles and organisations ferret for ownership information on as many brands as can be provided. Unlike the situation in North America, where survey firm, JD Power, is able to access public information freely, we have a few degrees of protection that restrict access to our details. This can limit consumer responses and make surveys less viable. Yet, a good number of Suzuki owners allowed their experiences to be aired by What Car? Magazine, which produced the excellent winning result for the brand.

As it happens, the S-Cross model was given top billing, with a reliability score of almost 100%, but all other Suzuki models featured highly in the ratings. Apart from a couple of fairly minor issues, dealt with speedily and cost-effectively (i.e. ‘under warranty’), my experiences in this, the longest long-term test ever carried out by a British motoring writer on a new car, allows me to state categorically that Baleno does not let down its owner.

While our phenomenal summer has now come to an end, I have been taking advantage of the car’s tremendous reliability to tackle a few essential journeys. I never cease to be amazed at Baleno’s long-distance competence and capability to consume miles in unerring comfort and at tremendous average speeds. Having driven on most roads in the UK in a wide variety of motorcars, to be able to average some journeys at speeds in excess of 55mph has been little less than miraculous, especially when some comparable trips have been in Porsches, Jaguars and high-performance Fords. Suzuki even eats into their times, with ease.

Of course, as you are aware, I have been using a set of Bridgestone’s exquisite Turanza T005 tyres since earlier this year. Unlike previous years, I shall not be swapping them for Kumho’s seasonally impressive Wintercraft WP51 tyres for the forthcoming winter period, as I want to see how good the Bridgestones can be in adverse conditions. Drivers who fit winter covers to their cars are still in a minority, despite endless preaching, but they understand the benefits of making the swap. So far, the T005s have provided remarkable grip, where they should have slipped and slid on greasy road surfaces. Their response consistency seems to match the dynamic qualities of the Baleno to perfection.

Having already encountered the first light frosts of the year, I get the impression that we shall probably have to endure a tough winter in coming months. Already, sugar-laden leaves are littering our B-roads and posing their usual compromising threats. The T005s feel impervious to the loss of grip in shaded bends, where autumnal sun seldom dries out the road surfaces. The next few months are going to be interesting.

I have been carrying out some exclusive writing work for the website of Leeds-based Luscombe Suzuki (the UK’s top dealer), which has given me some extra investigative tasks on Baleno. It is amazing how, with all of my previous cars, I have never used their cruise control functions, dismissing them as ‘distractive’ and often ‘annoying’. Yet, the radar-controlled system on Baleno is one of the more popular functions that I use regularly, although I only appreciated the fact, after writing all about it for Luscombe Suzuki.

Yet, if there is one aspect about it, on which I am not keen, it is the way that the car applies its brakes autonomously, when a vehicle ahead appears within the radar system’s view, also illuminating the lights at the rear. Modern brake lights, combined with the high-level LED cluster, can cause a shockingly bright distraction to following motorists. Okay. I fully understand the safety implications but safety also means not upsetting other road-users. The same applies to the modern phenomenon of the electric parking-brake, especially on cars equipped with ‘start:stop’ technology, which can illuminate the area at the rear of the car, when at standstill.

With winter and longer, adverse weather driving conditions due imminently, searing the retinas of following motorists is a ‘joy’ with which I feel very uncomfortable. Fortunately, no Suzukis are fitted with electronic handbrakes…at the moment. I deal with the tail-light situation by switching off the cruise control, whether in day, or night-time traffic conditions, relying on my own throttle control to maintain speed and a safe distance from the vehicle ahead. More on Baleno in a month’s time.

Costs incurred:

£193 month twenty-two finance payment

14,759 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

(£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)