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Baleno shows big cats at the game reserve how its done by punching beyond its weight…

MY SHO’T LEFT excursion continues.

Baleno shows big cats at the game reserve how its done by punching beyond its weight…

So, Mpumalanga off we went with my crew to experience the astounding Nkomazi Private reserve in Baadplaas. Having done Limpopo, NC, North West, Gauteng -whose next on these ‘hit-list?’

And the Suzuki Baleno was handed over for this unforgettable trip and to put it mildly- mind blowing in so many ways. What happens in the bush, remains. Amen!

We tested the naturally aspirated 1.4-litre outputting 68kw and 130nm that is available with either a 5-speed manual or auto. But we enjoyed the sojourn in the latter.

Updated in late 2019 as a “new” Series, it remains the larger and arguably sounder choice, the all-rounder that is Suzuki’s mainstay of value for very reasonable money. No wonder it continues to outsmart its competitors in terms of units sold.

The Baleno features’ a new 3D detailed grille that works well with a sportier looking bumper design with new fog lamp housings. Suzuki has also replaced the Baleno’s HID headlights, with LED projector headlamps with daytime-running lights, further emphasizing its new ‘face’.

There appears to be no changes on the side and at the rear of the hatch, bar for the addition of some stylish 16-inch precision cut alloy wheels.

A three-hour drive was completed in 2hours as we had to rush for a late night game drive, with toll gates in abundance as we took the N1.

So, this means this petite Baleno was flat on the ground- thanks to its petrol combined consumption claiming a thrifty 5.4L/100km

Although the boot is small, it offers quite a respectable 355 litres of luggage capacity, mostly due to the sheer depth of the floor, and available roominess converts to 756L with the 60:40 split-fold rear seat backs stowed. 

Space and practicality are real Baleno strong points.  But it would not make into the reserve due to its low base- hence we had to be transferred by a special gaming truck to our spacious, luxurious tended accommodation.

The Suzuki Baleno is a resolved enough drive. Refinement and noise levels are respectable though the tyre noise and the thumps across road separation joins become quite intrusive at times.  

While the suspension is reasonably firm it’s not overly sharp over speed bumps and it settles quickly at low speeds. 

You could even call the chassis a little frisky, such is its taut nature.

But while it’s easy to punt and place on the road or into parking spaces, it suffers a bit with somewhat ‘sticky’ steering: there’s not quite enough freeplay in the feel with some refusal to naturally return to centre on the move.  A minor turn- off.

Punching above its weight is the 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, featuring both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto together with its own proprietary satellite navigation to supplement the usual Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, and MP3 connectivity. 

Upon our arrival we were greeted by special hosts: an avalanche of Cheetahs and herd of Lions, on the pride rock- thanks to Baleno that carried our souls with very clear conscience to Nkomazi Reserve.

Yes, Suzuki Baleno showed ‘big cats in their own territory how its done’…

It comes with a service plan 4 year/ 60 000km and warranty 5 year/ 200 000km.

Suzuki Baleno retails for R 259 900

Verdict

Performance 1-10 (4)

Fuel 1-10 (5)

Images SLM (Punching above its weight is the Baleno that took us to and fro Mpumalanga without a glitch).

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