Circling the wagons

Difficulty fitting in makes the Baleno an easy fit

CAMERON KIRBY

“HAIL Mary full of grace, please find me a parking space.” I’m not a religious bloke, but I’ll recite a small prayer to any deity that feels like listening if it helps me find a parking spot in the madness of going hunter-gatherer grocery shopping.

Thankfully, the Baleno makes life amidst the madness that is a Westfield parking station a little easier. A while back I had attempted to run some errands in an Audi RS Q3 whose keys were thrown in my direction for the weekend. An SUV, yes, but with a 4410mm length, not exactly gargantuan. However, the Audi’s moon-sized 12-metre turning circle forced me to abandon the venture in sheer white-hot frustration before it had even begun.

Not so in the Suzuki. Its abbreviated length means it can carve up the carpark with ease.

The Baleno’s sole weakness in the madhouse of the underground is its low-geared steering rack, which requires much wheel-twirling.

But once you’re at full lock, the little Suzuki has a tight 9.8-metre turning circle. That’s identical to a Mazda 2 on 16-inch wheels.

With a reversing camera as standard, parking the Baleno GLX is a no-brainer for even the most dent-prone driver.

The Baleno is an outsider in the light-car schoolyard, too pudgey to hang with the svelte superminis like the aforementioned Mazda 2, and not able to rub shoulders with the bigger, more gym-prone small cars like the Volkswagen Golf. It sits somewhere in the middle, and that pays off in the concrete jungle. Its 1745mm width meant I wasn’t having to play vertical limbo to squeeze out of the car to avoid smashing my door into the neighbouring vehicle.

Conversely, when transporting co-workers who took part in last month’s small-car megatest, it was remarked how much room was available in the rear-seats compared to some of the vehicles from that comparison.

With a girlfriend who lives interstate I am left to shop for one, which means I never come close to filling the Baleno’s 355-litre boot. The rear space has great depth, but not a huge amount of length, so you will have to stack items in larger loads. You have to be careful which order you load your groceries unless you want a raw tomato sauce hand squeezed by an oversize Milo tin.

It hasn’t all been happy times with the Baleno. The throttle tip-in is frustrating, as there’s a dead spot of travel before the by-wire set-up seems to make a connection with the engine and you’re jolted forward. Is this a fuel-saving measure? Whatever it is, it makes stop-start traffic a hassle.

BY THE NUMBERS

One turbo, two pedals, three cylinders, four wheels, five doors, six gears...

SUZUKI BALENO GLX

Date acquired: October 2016 Price as tested: $25,742 This month: 972km @ 6.3L/100km Overall: 2417km @ 6.2L/100km

URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY

Unintended comedy

If you’re in need of a good chuckle, the Baleno has your back with the Apple CarPlay system hiding a hilarious no-cost extra. Siri will read your texts out loud to you in her dry, matter-of-fact voice. However, this clinical delivery becomes comedy gold when you mix in the Gen-Y bastion of emojis, which the system will interpret and describe to you in that same sandpaper-dry tone. My girlfriend has taken to sending the cheeky smiling pile of poo emoji if she knows I’m in the car. The Baleno will then dutifully play the straight man, and recite “smiling pile of poo”.