Appreciating that long stints at the steering wheel are not preferred safety practice, Iain Robertson contemplates his recent four hours and forty minutes spent at the helm of Baleno, which actually reveals a more telling aspect about the car’s integrity.
Driving to and from a motoring event held in Suffolk, I carried out my customary previous evening’s set-up on the car’s sat-nav system, which suggested that I should allow the above-noted time. Normally, working to its in-built clock, it is not unknown for me to shave upwards of 20% from its conservative settings. Yet, coping with traffic densities, road works and speed cameras (let alone those awful ‘average speed’ devices) on a route that offers no motorway access and very few overtaking opportunities, I knew that Lincoln to Sibton was going to be a ‘trial’.
Success was mine. I beat the ‘clock’. Michael Miles would have been proud (you would have to know something about TV history to understand that analogy!). Baleno never missed a beat. Yet, neither did I. As part of my driving plan, I had considered a halfway halt at, or near, to Kings Lynn. There are enough roadside eateries, from which to buy a reviving coffee and a sticky bun…except that, when I reached the town on the A17, I felt no pressing desire to stop.
The winter sun was shining. Road conditions were not perfect but the traffic was flowing easily. More importantly, I was perfectly comfortable. The driver’s seat in Baleno provides first-class support, even for a six foot, six inches tall driver like me. Neither my legs, nor my back, were crying out for a rest. Therefore, I continued to drive south-eastwards to my destination.
Once past Thetford, the route courses through the Norfolk, then Suffolk countryside. Thanks to Baleno’s firm but comfortable ride quality, accurate steering and characterful, three-cylinder turbocharged grunt, the car adapted to the challenge and I arrived at the gateway to my overnight accommodation a modest 10 minutes ahead of the original plan. I was not the gibbering wreck I could have been and felt eminently ready for an evening’s festivities. Around 24-hours later, I made the return trek (mostly in darkness), with a similar outcome.
Time after time, trip after trip, my compact Suzuki has proved its worth. Its cost-efficiency is omni-present, the car returning 58.7mpg on the southward leg, 62.2mpg homeward-bound. Its small capacity 7.7g tank was not full at the start but was refilled just south of Kings Lynn on the return journey, even though 90-miles of get-home range remained.
Having experienced one of the warmest Februarys on record, my anticipated all-weather test of its Bridgestone Turanza T005 tyres has not been as comprehensive as I had hoped for. To be fair, the tyres have coped with torrential rain, frosts and the damaging effects of ruddy potholes and it is as much a measure of the Baleno’s lightweight and inherently good balance that the front tyres are showing just over 1.5mm of even wear, while the rears indicate around 1mm, after approximately 7,500 miles of usage. On rough calculation, it would take around another four years to wear the front pair down to the legal 1.6mm tread depth, which suggests a life of around 38,000 miles, which is fantastically hard-wearing for such a competent all-weather tyre. The monsoon downpour that car and I experienced returning from Suffolk highlighted that its front-end grip is undiminished (the rears simply follow the fronts regardless).
Further to a potential replacement of Baleno (which is leased, a factor that relieves me of some aspects of ‘longing’), I have commenced discussions with Suzuki to do so, with a brand-new Swift 1.0t SZ5 before the end of this year. While this upsets my original intentions to publish the longest, long-term test ever of a car in the UK, I do not see the point of running a car that will be deleted from Suzuki’s line-up by October 2019. Baleno will be three years old.
More on life with my Suzuki Baleno in a month’s time.
£193 month twenty-eight finance payment
17,302 miles on odometer
£21.60 in-car tidy
£112.60 door rubbing strips
£206.01 first service charge (£65 hourly labour rate); £196.10 for second service.
£200 for front bumper replacement
(£316 for four x Kumho WP51 Winter tyres, now stored in readiness for a third winter but replaced by a set of Bridgestone Turanza T005s - £288.96 + £33.98 fitting - for the current year)