Suzuki Baleno VS Toyota Yaris
- Cheap to buy
- Big boot
- Expensive servicing
- Cheap interior
- Plenty of exterior style in a tiny package
- Safety stuff on point
- New cabin tech a major bonus
- The price raises eyebrows
- Interior treatment doesn't feel particularly plush
- Petrol-only models can feel a little thrashy
The fact of the Suzuki Baleno's existence is one of the more puzzling features on the automotive landscape. It's a car that pits itself against all manner of worthy competition - some of it exceedingly so - in the small hatch segment.
People still buy what the industry calls light cars (in ever-diminishing numbers) so perhaps Suzuki thought offering two would be a good idea, as its Swift occupies the same patch of sales ground in this city-sized segment.
In this part of the market, you've really, really got to want it. You need to be stylish, sophisticated and packed with tons of safety gear if you've any hope of so much as laying a fingernail on the Mazda2. Or, let's face it, be dirt cheap to counter Yaris and (the soon to depart) Accent.
The Baleno seems far too tame, timid and, well, blergh. But according to VFacts, Suzuki shifts at least a hundred of these per month, sometimes over 200.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Have you ever heard the saying you can’t get something for nothing? It could have been written about this all-new, fourth-generation Yaris.
It’s bigger, far safer and more feature-filled than the ageing city car it replaces. It introduces hybrid powertrains for the first time, debuts safety systems never before seen in a city car, and rolls-out the long-awaited cabin technology that the last Yaris sorely missed.
All of which is good news? The not so good news? You will be paying handsomely for all those changes. Yes, the new Yaris marks the end of the sub-$20k Toyota. And it ends it by some margin.
So does the value proposition still stack up? Or are you better off taking the never-smaller step up to the bigger Corolla. Join us as we find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Baleno is a disappointingly dull car from a company that makes plenty of un-dull cars. I suppose it's prudent for Suzuki to at least try to look like a grown-up, but as this car proves, there's no fun in that.
It will no doubt be dependable and if kept in metropolitan areas, will serve its owners well. But it's lacking in key safety gear, the servicing is a bit on the stiff side and the interior feels cheaper than most of its competitors.
And on top of all that, it feels really old.
Is there anything tempting about the Baleno? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
Suzuki says the Baleno's look reflects the brand's 'Liquid Flow' design language, but I'd much prefer it if they had stuck with the angular design of its other cars. Almost all of them are far better looking, or at least characterful.
The Baleno's recent facelift, which is mostly a new front bumper and a headlight tweak, was probably supposed to improve the looks but instead the car now appears to have had some fillers pumped into its cheeks.
It's not an attractive car from the front, with the grille overpowered by the lower fascia's sheer breadth. The rear and profile are fairly anonymous and to ensure its anonymity, there is little in the way of adornment. Looks basic, is basic.
Step in to the spacious-for-its-size cabin and you'll be greeted with the usual Suzuki staples of super-hard plastics, hardy carpets and tough cloth trim.
There is a little curvaceousness to the dash design but it just feels a bit half-hearted until the curves run into the centre console's alien-with-flappy-ears effect. There's nothing wrong with it but it does look dated.
Short answer? I like it. The Yaris wears a shrunken version of Toyota's design language, a little like a Corolla's been shrunk in the wash.
Like with any car, the more you spend, the better it looks, and the little Yaris looks its sharpest in top-spec ZR guise, with its 16-inch alloys and two-tone paint job (the black roof looks especially sharp against the electric blue paint job).
The blacked-out grille area looks a little like a grouper feeding, but for mine, it works, lending the Yaris a street-smart style that sets it apart in the city car segment, but I simply can't stomach steel wheels on a car that's north of $20k, which rules the entry-level model out, for me at least.
Step inside, and you're met with a quality-feeling interior, if one that lacks some creature comforts and soft-touch materials when you consider the price point. There is no shortage of hard plastics, and even the material that lines the doors in the top-spec models feels paper thin.
The view from the front seats especially is light-years ahead of the car it replaces, with the 7.0-inch colour screen and digital driver display dominating the view. The back, however, is fare more austere, where you'll find seats and... well that's about it.
Here's some excellent news - there is plenty of space in the Baleno's tiddly sub-four metre frame. The awkwardly-proportioned body has delivered good space for front and rear passengers who would be happier on more comfortable seats, but for city driving, they do just fine.
If you're up to around 180cm tall, there's enough space for you and your legs in the back and headroom is adequate.
Storage is a limited to a couple of open trays but you can put your phone in the same place as the USB port. You get two cupholders at the front and if you don't mind losing the rearmost of your storage trays, the back seat passengers can share it as a solitary cupholder. Each door has a very handy bottle holder that will secure a 1.5-litre vessel.
The boot is a good size for the segment at 355 litres to begin with and 746 with the 60/40 split fold rear seat folded down.
The new Yaris measures 3940mm in length, 1695mm in width and 1505mm in height, and rides on a 2550mm, making it a bigger car than the vehicle it replaces. It will also serve up some 270 litres (VDA) of luggage space with the 60:40 rear seats in place.
The extra room is a boon for rear passengers. I put the backseat to the test sitting behind my own 175cm-tall driving position, and I had more than enough knee and headroom to make me feel comfortable. Then for the ultimate test, I put CarsGuide's tallest scribe (and NBA star in another life) Richard Berry in the window seat alongside me, and we decided we could both travel in genuine comfort.
There are ISOFX attachment points in each window seat in the back, and cupholders up front, but the backseat does lack cupholders, a pulldown seat divider, air vents or climate controls, USB ports or power outlets - there's not much of anything back there.
Front seat riders get a pair of cupholders, a single USB port and power outlet, and a deep, phone-sized storage bin in front of the gear shift.
Price and features
For $16,990 drive away, Suzuki opens the range with this GL. That scores you 15-inch steel wheels with less than fetching hubcaps, a six-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reversing camera, remote central locking, cruise control, sat nav, auto halogen headlights, power mirrors and windows, and a space-saver spare.
A 7.0-inch touchscreen that you can find in almost every Suzuki handles the sat nav and entertainment duties. It's not a bad piece of hardware except it doesn't have a proper volume knob, but more than makes up for that with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Then ruins it again with tinny sound. You can't have it all, I suppose.
Let’s get the tough stuff out of the way first: the new Yaris arrives in three trim levels - the Ascent Sport, SX and ZR - with the cheapest, manual-equipped vehicle costing $22,130, stretching to $32,100 for the most expensive, hybrid-powered ZR.
That marks an entry-point increase of almost $7000, with the former model’s cheapest offering being the $15,390 Ascent Manual - a price increase of more than 40 per cent.
An even tougher pill to swallow? The cheapest Corolla is the manual-equipped Ascent Sport, yours for $23,895 ($1765 more than the entry-level Yaris), and if hybrid is your bag, you can opt for the $27,395 Ascent Sport Hybrid - which means you can get an electrified Corolla for less money than an electrified Yaris.
Anyway, let's unpack. The Yaris range kicks off with the Ascent Sport, which can be had with a manual transmission ($22,130), or with a CVT automatic $23,630.
Outside, you get 15-inch steel wheels, halogen headlamps, LED DRLs and tail lights and rear fog lamps. Inside, you'll find fabric seats, manual air-con, a USB charge point and a 12v power outlet.
On the tech front, you'll find a 7.0-inch touchscreen inside with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as a smaller 4.2-inch driver info screen. You'll also get a six-speaker stereo and DAB+ radio.
But it's on the safety front where the tiny Yaris really shines, with the brand boldly declaring it the world's safest city car. But we'll circle back to that under the Safety sub-heading.
The range then steps up to the SX, which can be had with the conventional petrol ($27,020), or with a hybrid powertrain ($29,020), which adds a lithium-ion battery and electric motor. The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
That extra spend also buys you navigation with live traffic, auto air-con, keyless entry and push-button start, a digital speedo, tachometer and hybrid use gauge, as well as a leather-accented wheel and better cabin materials. Outside, you get 15-inch alloys, LED headlights, privacy glass and silver exterior design elements.
Finally, you can opt for the top-spec ZR, available as a petrol ($30,100) or hybrid ($32,100). For that, you get optional two-tone paint, as well as 16-inch alloy wheels, and a rear spoiler.
Inside, you get sport seats up front, paddle shifters for the non-hybrid model, and nicer interior design elements like piano black inserts and Y (for Yaris) embossed seats. You also get a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
Engine & trans
You'll not need to hold on to your hat in the Baleno. The 1.4-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder musters up 68kW at 6000rpm and 130Nm 2000rpm earlier. It's not a lot, but at 915kg, the Baleno isn't doing too badly.
There's an old relic in the transmission department. Power reaches the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission. There aren't many of those left in circulation on new car forecourts.
You can't buy a Baleno with the plucky 1.0-litre turbo anymore, which is a bit of shame.
The Yaris is offered with a 1.5-litre, three-cylinder engine which will produce 88kW and 145Nm, paring with a six-speed manual transmission in the cheapest model or a CVT auto in the more expensive cars.
The hybrid system adds a lithium-ion battery and an electric motor for a combined power output of 85kW (Toyota hasn't confirmed the torque figure), which suggests its running a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine.
The new hybrid system includes a pure EV driving mode, but Toyota is thus far unable to confirm now many electric-only kilometres it will deliver.
Suzuki says you'll get 5.4L/100km on the combined cycle, which isn't too far off reality, our time delivering around 6.6L/100km. Which was remarkable in itself given how much throttle you have to use to move along.
Another bonus is that even though the fuel tank is just 37 litres, you won't spend half your life filling up.
The perks of a hybrid powertrain reveal themselves here, with the electrified Yaris reporting a claimed 3.3L/100km on the combined cycle, with 76g/km of C02. Petrol-powered cars (CVT) make 4.9L/100km and emit 114g/km of CO2.
Petrol vehicles are fitted with a 40-litre fuel tank, while hybrid cars make do with 36 litres.
Most Suzukis are fun to drive even if they're on the slow side. The Jimny bounces around like a fat puppy full of sugar, the Swift is a good laugh and the Vitara is quite handy. The Baleno fails to be any of these things, but it's not all bad news.
The first thing you'll notice is the very light steering that makes a high-pitched noise when you turn it.
The second thing you'll notice is the whine coming from the transmission or somewhere very like it, no matter how much throttle you have on. It shifts smoothly enough, though, which isn't very often given the lack of gears.
It's not often I yearn for a CVT, but that might be the better transmission for this car. Yes, I just checked outside for airborne pigs, too.
The Baleno does feel like it teeters a little on its skinny, high profile tyres. It's not a car to drive with enthusiasm, but if you're happy enough with its almost-lively off-the-mark acceleration, which then fades away rapidly, you'll be perfectly happy.
It's not very quiet, though, with plenty of noise passing through the trademark thin sheetmetal and sparingly damped shell. It's light, but you can hear why - there's not much sound-deadening to weigh it down.
On the open road the Baleno further reinforces its credentials as a city car - it wanders around on the tyres, the steering loses all its feel and the wind noise means you have to turn up the volume to either drown it out or make yourself heard.
It’s a tough nut to crack, the Yaris. Largely because the vehicle that appears to make the most sense from behind the wheel, also makes the least sense in a lot of ways, too.
We cycled through petrol-only and hybrid cars, and in my opinion, the electrified vehicles feel the most natural from the driver’s seat - and deliver the most of what you might be expecting from a vehicle touted by Toyota as a revolution in the city-car space.
While the petrol vehicle can feel a little thrashy and loud in the cabin under hard acceleration, the hybrid - which, given its combined power output is actually lower than that of the petrol-only vehicle, must be using a de-tuned version of the 1.5-litre engine - feels a smoother, more complete drive.
The extra weight, too (though only around 65kg or so) seems to help settle the ride, which, when combined with Toyota’s TNGA platform, delivers a car that feels fun and enthusiastic from behind the wheel, with a satisfying ride and steering that’s both easy and predicable.
All of which makes perfect sense. The part that doesn’t, though, is that you need to weigh those facts against the fact that, at either $29,020 or $32,100, you can own a bigger hybrid Corolla for less money. Hell, you can just about buy a hybrid RAV4. And given there’s not a lot of duds in the reborn Toyota’s line-up, that’s a tough financial pill to swallow.
All the things the hybrid models do well are performed a little less impressively in the petrol-powered cars. They remain fun, perky little city cars, but they don’t shift the needle in that segment, at least as far as dynamics go, in the way we perhaps expected them to.
The engine is a little louder and a little courser, and the ride a little more jumpy - the latter of which is a bigger complaint amongst my CarsGuide colleagues than it was for me, but I do like the feeling of being truly connected to the road below me, and am willing to make some comfort sacrifices as a result.
All in all, it’s a very good offering from Toyota, with only the sky-high weight of our expectations, and its price, weighing against it.
If you have a love of small, easy vehicles, there’s no doubt the Yaris will scratch that itch. It’s lightyears in front of the car it replaces, is surprisingly spacious and practical, and the tech and safety updates are a very welcome addition, the former of which - led by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - will genuinely transform your ownership experience.
Sadly, the Baleno is not among the frontrunners for safety features. It does arrive with six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls and a reversing camera but misses out on every advanced safety feature we expect to see at least one or two of, such as AEB.
There are two ISOFIX points and three top-tether restraints for the baby and child seats.
The Baleno does not have an ANCAP safety rating.
It's got to a high score here, given the Yaris debuts safety systems not seen in cars this size, or this price bracket.
That story begins with eight airbags - including two front centre airbags, the only car in this segment to get them - and the usual suite of braking and traction aids.
Then the tech steps up, with Toyota's pre-collision safety system, which has AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, as well as active cruise control, intersection turn assistance, lane trace assist with active steering, road-sign recognition and a reversing camera.
That's on all models too, with the top-spec ZR adding a head-up display, blind-spot monitoring and an intelligent parking system.
The new Yaris scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating.
Suzuki has joined the mainstream market herd with a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty for private use (ie not Uber) but there isn't even a solitary year of roadside assist.
Happily, since we last drove the Baleno, service intervals on the 1.4-litre have improved to 12 months/15,000km (rather than the previous 10,000km) and the company also offers five years of capped pricing up to 90,000km.
Services come in between $239 and $499, unless you've somehow covered 90,000km inside the five year window, and then it blows out to $649. That last figure aside, you can expect to pay $1635 over five years (or $2045 if you go nuts on the mileage). It's not especially cheap.