Thanks to low-budget abominations like the Datsun GO failing their Global NCAP crash tests with flying colours, Indian-made cars have of late been viewed in something of a negative light. In fact whenever a new one comes to market I immediately do a little internet sleuthing to see how well they handle hitting a wall at 60km/h. Usually I’m shocked but in the case of the new Suzuki Baleno launched in South Africa today I’m pleasantly surprised. Especially considering that this car weighs in at a feathery 915kg – obviously the firm’s latest platform is pretty strong.
Indeed, according to the official Euro NCAP report (above) the Baleno scores a three-star rating (four if fitted with ‘Radar Brake Support’ system we don’t currently get here in South Africa). Adult occupancy clocks in at 80% and child occupancy at 73%. Not bad. In addition to this Suzuki has equipped their new hatchback – a car that basically fills the range gap between the Swift and SX4 – with a fairly generous amount of active safety systems. ABS brakes, EBD and EBA are standard on all models as are dual front airbags. The range-topping GLX model (R229 900) ups the ante over the entry-level GL model (R199 900) with a set of curtain airbags. Unlike the Datsun GO all seatbelts are of the inertia reel variety, the front ones featuring pretensioners and load limiters.
Now we’re yet to drive the new Baleno but going on Suzuki’s recent form it should be a pretty decent steer. Well provided you don’t load it up with too much luggage and/or people because it only has a 68kW/130Nm 1.4-litre engine residing beneath its bonnet. The interior looks unfussed and, going by the press photographs, pretty spacious. The dashboard has an early 2000s vibe going on – especially in the GLX model that gets a 6.2-inch Pioneer infotainment system. Ah, Pioneer, reminds me of high school. Expect our full first driving impressions in the next day or too. – Thomas Falkiner