Bonnie Doon buggy

Breaking the daily routine with a mountain blast


HUMANS are said to be creatures of habit, and I’m unashamedly a living embodiment of that statement. I will get up every morning at the same time, complete the same morning routine, which includes eating the same breakfast I have consumed since before I attended primary school, take the same route to work and park in the same car park. I could plot my daily routine on an Excel spreadsheet.

This monotony is broken only on the hallowed weekend when alarm clocks are outlawed, breakfast can be a lottery, and a plan for the day can be as simple and carefree as “let’s just see what we feel like”.

Repetition is handy when testing cars.

Hitting the same pothole every day in different vehicles will tell you a lot about how different suspensions soak up bumps. But sometimes you just have to say “screw the beaten path” and do whatever you feel like.

It was time for the Baleno to break free from the weekday commute and get out into the countryside. With the girlfriend in the passenger seat, favourite music playlist at the ready, fuel tank filled to the brim and snacks prepped, we headed off for a 600km drive via the Dandenongs. Aside from a rough list of roads I wanted to travel, there was no plan, and it was glorious. Both the Baleno and myself revelled in just seeing where each country road took us, doubling back on our own route to discover another new piece of fine twisting bitumen.

While I enjoyed the freedom, the Baleno took the curves in its stride. This turbo-triple hatch makes a rather capable hill-climber, though after re-setting its trip computer, I noted its economy soared into the 10s in even lightly spirited driving.

The Baleno doesn’t wallow around like you might expect, instead holding its line admirably. And while the steering is electrically assisted – and not universally praised – I really rated its feedback and feel.

The biggest letdown of the entire day was the Suzuki’s seats. It wasn’t a lack of comfort – you could tour all day in the Baleno GLX just fine – but there is minimal lateral support, leaving you (and the missus) sliding all over the place through twisty mountain passes.

With the day wrapping to a close, in a moment of contemplation overlooking Bonnie Doon, my girlfriend couldn’t hold back a cliched quip: “How’s the serenity, darl?”

On a day like this, with a car as eager as the Baleno GLX, on roads as brilliant as these, with company like that? Almost as good as a well-priced pair of jousting sticks.

Siri, please…

When it comes to navigating my new city, I’m spoiled for choice in the Baleno. Sat-nav comes standard, Apple CarPlay means Apple Maps is thrown in, or I can use Google Maps through Bluetooth or auxiliary audio with a phone app. You’d wouldn’t expect much difference between the three, but you’d be wrong. After much experimenting, I’ve abandoned the standard sat-nav and Apple Maps – visual aids aren’t much help if the suggested route is terrible – in favour of Google Maps, regardless of the fact it has audio guidance only.


Date acquired: October 2016 Price as tested: $25,742 This month: 1269km @ 6.1L/100km Overall: 1445km @ 6.2L/100km 34 3 3 WEEK 5 34 44 3 0 0 3 4 7 6 3 URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY