The two-and-half-year marker has arrived and Iain Robertson has determined that his intention to create the longest long-term test car report has already been achieved but that circumstances also change, as he explains in more detail…

As mentioned in last month’s running report, I shall be changing cars at the three years’ point and not six months later, as originally planned. While there may be some viability for a continuance, notably from potential buyers of second-hand Balenos, of which there a few around the UK, 36 months of consistent coverage (once I make the swap) is still a valuable resource for them to dip into.

The subject of which direction my motoring life will take is almost pre-ordained. Having compiled reports about my personal transportation for much of the past forty years, from Escorts and Avengers, to Saabs and Lotuses, with a long run of Skodas for a surprisingly spicy mix, a few key determining factors are playing their parts quite raucously. 1. I shall never ‘own’ a car again; 2. I want a regular, non-specialised, uncomplicated motorcar; and 3. Having been spoilt by 50+mpg fuel returns in both Skoda Citigo (my first lease car) and the Suzuki Baleno (my second), I want to remain in that territory.

DSCOf course, I could be enticed by a new Seat Leon, or a Volvo V40, both of which brands comply with my mindset. The innate boy-racer within me would love another hot hatchback, which puts the Suzuki Swift Sport, VW up! GTi and Ford Fiesta ST into the firing-line. I have even contemplated the best all-rounder that I have driven in years, the Suzuki Vitara (in 1.0-litre automatic form), as a possible mobile foil. However, my decision has been reached…it will be a highly-specified, red Suzuki Swift 1.0t mild-hybrid SZ5 instead and I shall sign-up for it at the premises of my client, Luscombe Suzuki (Leeds), sometime around early-October. It all feels right.

Yet, I am not finished with Baleno just yet and taking a long, lingering look at the car, I have to say that, while I am disappointed that more examples have not sold in the UK (mostly because Suzuki GB has not promoted it strongly enough), it is a truly magnificent compact family hatchback. For a start, the car stands out from every other car in its category.

Its design is of an organic nature, with scarcely a flat panel visible anywhere. Compared with a Skoda Fabia, Seat Ibiza, Kia Rio, or even a Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra, they could have emerged from the same studio but with their brand badges applied for differentiation. The Baleno sits low and wide, accentuated by positioning the head and tail-lamp installations at the car’s corners and placing a strong style-line between them.

DSCYet, crack open the doors and the Baleno has every one of its possible rivals beaten. Lower the false floor in its boot and there is more luggage room than in any of the aforementioned models. The amount of leg and head space in both front and rear seats is generous to say the least and makes its rivals look cramped. While I had early misgivings about the plastic dashboard moulding in Baleno, it has proved resistant to marks and damage and looks as shapely as when the car was brand new.

However, its most important aspect is that it has lived outdoors for all of its life and, even with spring bird droppings, summer dust and autumnal leaves, let alone winter salt, its paint and lacquer has been resistant to any efforts to age the finish. One decent handwash and it looks as good as new and, if that is a suitable testament to a tough-as-boots Baleno, then Suzuki should be more than delighted.

More on life with my Suzuki Baleno in a month’s time.

DSCCosts incurred:

£193 month twenty-nine finance payment

18,207 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

£206.01 first service charge (£65 hourly labour rate); £196.10 for second service.

£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 current year)