This month I am all the more excited to bring a fresh perspective on the Baleno, from the floor of the award winning Suzuki Centurion Dealership. Proud of their numerous prestigious accolades, this Dealership displays their well-deserved trophies and beautiful awards for us to share in their joy, and serves to reinforce my assessment that this is a Dealership like no other. With titles such as “Overall Dealer of the Year” under their belt, as well as Best practice awards for both Parts and Services, you – as the client – are guaranteed superior service.
Gerrit van der Veen, meeting with me at the Dealership, has been in the motoring industry since 2012. As a Sales Representative for the Dealership, he loves the thrill of working with people and having to think on his feet in order to meet their needs. Upholding the philosophies of respect and honesty when dealing with clients, Gerrit firmly believes that the Dealership promotes great customer relationships and models solid, trustworthy skills that urge him to want to grow and one day manage a Dealership in the same way. He notes that the capable and hands-on leadership provided by Dealer Principal Chris Jackson have a remarkable effect on the staff, and is one of the reason why the team have been around for such a long time.
His take on the Baleno has left me with a smile; saying that the vehicle is a nippy, cheeky little car, Gerrit summarises that the Baleno is incredible value for money, is reliable and has no-comebacks guaranteed. His confidence in saying this is blew me away, but he stood by his statement, and noted that a new Facelift variant is due to be released later this year.
What I loved about the Baleno, right at the outset, is the fact that it doesn’t look like any other hatchback – where many other vehicles in this segment look either sporty/racy, or blocky and small, the Baleno supersedes this and smashes your expectations out of the park with a really suave, sophisticated look. It presents a character that is closer to a luxury sedan, and is not overly bubblegummy (think of flash trends and pop culture) but rather a no-compromise approach to elegance and comfort, with a little attitude thrown in for good measure.
The Baleno’s interior is roomy despite being a hatchback – the design platform is built on the idea that the wheels are placed right at the corner of the body, and as such, creates a spacious interior and a sufficiently large boot (355 litres). With a 60/40 rear split, the boot expands to 756 litres of space. With ample room in the front and rear, and neat, high-quality cloth-interior, the cabin is a space of harmony and energy, thanks to the technology-infused dashboard and infotainment system (with a 6.2 inch touchscreen to work off in the top of the range variant) that enables DVD playback and full Bluetooth integration. Nifty little touches, such as LER Rear Combination tail-lights, automatic folding side-mirrors and Anti-pinch drivers’ side electric window, are testament to the smart design aimed at prioritising driver comfort. Although there are no arm-rests, there are sufficient cupholders and bottle holders to make me happy.
Gerrit summarises the derivatives available for me, noting that all variants have a naturally aspirated 1.4 litre engine, and two 5-speed manual variants with a 4-speed auto version as well. Another feature I found quite interesting (albeit many drivers may not find it so intriguing or useful) is the relay of real-time information to power and torque as you drive. An efficient and powerful drive train is at the heart of the Baleno; with a 1.4 litre engine that is released in either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto variants, the Baleno ensures low fuel consumption rates as well. Boasting fuel consumption of around 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres, the Baleno is clearly an affordable on-the road vehicle as well. Entry level Baleno’s are priced at R203 900, with the top of the range Auto variant coming in at a reasonable R250 900.
Comfort is not the only important aspect of this design; the Suzuki team place a great deal of importance on safety, and with 6 airbags as standard and all the expected Electronic Safety assists, there is a definite trend of marrying advanced driving technology with a powerful design to produce a harmonious, energetic driving experience.
Driving the Baleno is almost effortless; there is not a particularly massive amount of power, but I didn’t expect that from a vehicle that isn’t designed to be, or marketed as, a Hot Hatch. Instead, the seamless transmission provides for a velvety smooth ride, with superb cornering and handling (thanks to it’s solid stance and widely stanced wheels), proving to be an ideal city car for negotiating traffic, stop-go conditions and still maximising fuel efficiency. This great-looking vehicle, on show at Suzuki Centurion, is the perfect vehicle for the growing family, the mature couple or even young executive: with its elegance and refinement, it can most certainly do the job of a sedan too.
As I return to the Dealership, I had the rare privilege of chatting briefly with Rico Raath, Workshop Manager at Suzuki Centurion, who affirmed the importance of the Dealerships continued striving to offer the best service possible. With 13 years of experience in the industry, Rico prides himself on working effectively with his team to give the shortest turn-around times possible to keep clients happy.
The high quality products and services that are available at this Dealership are evident in communication with the team members; but even more so, through the display of numerous accolades that formally identify Suzuki Centurion as Overall Dealer of the Year for 2017, Platinum Auto Dealer for 2017, as well as Overall Best Practice for both Parts and Services (for four quarters in succession).
For a link to the superb, award-winning dealership, Suzuki Centurion, click on Suzuki Centurion Dealership
Journalist: Desh Bechan
Reporter: Inge Stols
Editor: Belinda Anderson