IAIN ROBERTSON 

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From an initial intention to create 42 consecutive monthly reports on a personal use vehicle, Iain Robertson has bowed to circumstances and taken advantage of an even more cost-effective transport proposition, which is unlikely to be repeated.

With every drive I undertake in my Suzuki Baleno, I regret two aspects: 1. Returning the car to Suzuki and 2. Cutting short the original intention to produce the longest reported long-term test of one model, over 42 months, in the UK. The car has been a total delight to live with. As a sensible means to reducing vehicular overheads, Baleno has been a thorough success. Running any motorcar is an expensive exercise but Baleno has demonstrated amply, with its 51p/mile costs, that indefatigable reliability and total driving pleasure can be happy bed-partners.

DSCRegardless of climatic conditions, the ability of the car to fire-up with the first depression of the starter button each time, every time, and for the supremely efficacious 1.0-litre BoosterJet engine to warm-up speedily but not greedily is much to its credit. I cannot recall how many well-intentioned people warned me about the potential failure risk of the compact three-cylinder petrol engine but it has simply never missed a beat. It whisks from 0-60mph repeatedly in less than 10.0s and has registered well in excess of 130mph (indicated; on the continent, naturally) on many occasions; a feat made feasible by its low weight and 109bhp. The car has never felt less than eager and has surprised my passengers consistently.

DSCIt has never been garaged, yet retains its ‘as new’ glisten to the paintwork, regardless of sap, acid rain, dust and salt deposits, which a weekly trip to the Romanians at my local Super Hand Car Wash (in Lincoln; £6.50) removes in a trice. It has been polished three times in its life. I anticipated that its interior might show some signs of wear but, apart from a small patch in the driver’s footwell carpet, there is none. In fact, for a budget-priced 5-door hatchback (new prices range from a lowly £11,499), which is packed with equipment (all the current safety gubbins, plus air-con, smartphone connectivity, decent stereo, sat-nav, alloy wheels, first-rate Xenon headlamps), in SZ5 trim, it surprises me that it has not been the runaway success that I felt it ought to be from the outset.

DSCNo remotely comparable hatchback can offer as much interior space as Baleno. It is generous to a fault, bearing in mind that it can accommodate me, a 6’ 6” tall driver, and still have space for another six-footer behind me, plus two others and even a small one between them in the back seat. Its practical, split-level boot floor is perfect for family use. Yet, I have been using the car as a business tool as well as a pleasure vehicle, a task it devours with remarkable ease and it has received zero special treatment.

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Baleno has been used as a test platform for two sets of different tyres: Kumho winter and the amazing Bridgestone Turanza T008 covers that have been on the car for over a year but show minimal signs of wear, thanks again to the car’s lightweight but sturdy construction. The original tyres are only lightly used. I can recommend either tyre manufacturer without question, although the hard-wearing but consistently grippy Bridgestones have become my personal all-season favourite. Baleno’s handling is excellent, being compliant, yet sporty enough to provide a sound ride quality and well-balanced road manners, proven recently by a most enjoyable drive from Lincoln to Scotland and back.

DSCReplacing Baleno has been a major conscience wrench. I truly love this compact car. However, as Suzuki GB is removing the model from UK sale later this year, considerably before my initial long-term plan was due to end, for the test reports to be on a model that potential customers would be unable to purchase after September 2019 seemed pointless. Yet, the reports stand as a testimony to the car. My example will make a superb used car for its next owner.

DSCI have praised the Suzuki Vitara to the rafters since the current range’s introduction, considering its superb chassis dynamics to be among the very best available of any crossover vehicle. I remain loyal to Suzuki for the simple reason that its dealers are accredited as being the best in the UK. Therefore, my next car, on which I shall continue to report, will be a 1.0-litre (same engine as Baleno) Vitara with manual gearbox. While I am sad to say farewell to Baleno, I know that its next owner will enjoy its vast range of strengths and cost-effectiveness. Long live Baleno! Welcome Vitara!

Costs incurred over 30 months:

*£5,790 total finance payments (£0.31/mile)

18,652 miles on odometer

*54.8mpg average fuel return (340g 2-star petrol; £0.10/mile)

*£402.11 total service costs (£0.02/mile)

*£120 total road tax (£0.06/mile)

*£386 total insurance (£0.02/mile)

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

£200.00 for front bumper replacement (scraped by road debris)

*TOTAL RUNNING COSTS: £0.51/MILE (not inc. ‘extras’)