‘Abused’, ‘neglected’ and (largely) ‘ignored’, his Suzuki Baleno is typical of the 99% of modern family cars, reports Iain Robertson, that are acquired by people that seldom analyse what their precise motoring needs are and could be in the future.

Realising that I could be damning myself both as a working motoring scribe and as an enthusiast, I have been reflecting on the logic behind my personal vehicle choice. Firstly, I urge you not to misunderstand. I remain a stoical fan of Suzuki, as a brand, and the Baleno, as an ideal personal car. However, as I have been observing the subtle changes that have crept into the car retailing scene and how we, as a nation, are starting to shed our predilection for ‘ownership’, it is not so much the car that is the primary consideration but how we acquire it.

Baleno costs me £193 per month. It is a rental payment and I do not own the car, as I am merely the guardian. While there is a notional mileage restriction placed upon its usage, as you may have noted, I am nowhere near to breaching the 10,000-miles annual limit, at around 7,500-miles covered in my typical year (I also carry out additional mileage in a plethora of test cars). Its condition, when it is returned 42 months after having collected it from the supplying dealer (Cropleys Suzuki, Frith Bank, Boston, Lincs), will take normal wear and tear into account, as it needs to be re-saleable.

Yet, since relocating in domestic terms, while my home is in a private courtyard, I no longer have access to a garage. In fact, Baleno has never been garaged. Fortunately, its excellent quality of paintwork is resistant to sap, pigeon droppings and, so far, all four seasons’ worth of temperature and other fluctuations. Despite being fifteen months old, the car could be placed easily on a used car forecourt and sold as a ‘one careful owner’ example, a factor of which I am very proud.

Due to pressures of work, testing other cars and then writing them up, I might return from a foray from Lincolnshire to The Cotswolds and back but not obtain the opportunity to let my local Latvians loose on hand-washing it of salt and grit deposits for several days (the ‘neglect’ I mentioned earlier). However, I still expect it to look good and start in all weathers.

Shying away from the Baleno’s outstanding performance envelope has never been a condition for me. While I shall avoid mentioning the 4.30am fast blasts around the UK, sometimes at speeds that might cock an observer’s eye, I dig deeply into its reserves (the ‘abuse’ I mentioned), without thrashing nine bells o’ hell out of it. I have never been disappointed and the car’s sweet handling always amazes me, with its supple control and accuracy. The lowest fuel return I have achieved was 43.7mpg but it has topped 70mpg on several occasions.

Yet, there are times, when Baleno will not turn a wheel for a week (the previously highlighted ‘ignorance’), notably, I am ashamed to state, if there is something else ‘a bit special’ parked in the driveway. However, the instant I slip behind the steering wheel of the Suzuki, I can feel the lip-curl of driver satisfaction appearing in my mien. Every drive is a genuine delight…as though I have just arrived home from my travails. Baleno is like a trusted ‘friend’ – there, when I need it, faithful, unargumentative and dependable.

However, it is not my possession. I am merely the user, who pays the rental every month for the privilege of NOT owning it.

According to a recent KPMG (the government’s favoured accountancy firm) report, by 2025, more than 50% of the current motor dealerships around the UK will have disappeared. Coincidentally, a perceived need for ‘ownership’ will have dwindled even further and the report suggests that, while driverless cars may be some years away, the rent-as-you-require-it sector will have grown like Topsy. There are already several car companies that have underwritten pay-as-you-go vehicle programmes, which are little more than an extension of the ‘Boris-bike’ phenomenon that we all ridiculed roundly but now accept as part of our urban scene.

Not owning Baleno means that, while I shall probably miss it in 27 months’ time, when I acquire my next rental car, I can look forward to making that change with a sense of glee. After all, I shall be obtaining another brand-new car, which will serve purpose as (hopefully) enjoyable personal transport and (primarily) as my business vehicle.

Costs incurred:

£193 month fifteen finance payment

8,727 miles on odometer

£21.60 in-car tidy

£112.60 door rubbing strips

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

(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now dealer refitted until March 2018 at a cost of £78, dealer is storing summer tyres)

(£200 for incident damage repair, front bumper, yet to be dealt with).