In the world of affordable hatchbacks, the Suzuki Baleno 1.4 GLX 4AT and the Toyota Starlet 1.4Xr AT are the top-spec trims for the respective brands.
These two vehicles represent a good bit of value, and are fitted with every option to cement their top spot in the line-up.
From the outside they are nearly indistinguishable if you cover the badges – and the only noticeable difference comes from the grille.
The rest of the Toyota is identical to the Suzuki it is based upon, even going so far as to wear the same 16-inch wheels.
Up front, both get LED headlamps with daytime running lights, fog lamps, and chrome grille inserts.
At the back there are LED tail lights, a roof-edge spoiler with a high-mounted brake light, and no exhaust outlet in sight.
As with the bodies, the cabins are identical – and you would need to look for a badge to find out which one you are in.
On both you will find a touchscreen infotainment system supporting Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, USB, and aux inputs.
The Starlet does support Toyota Connect though, which is a rather valuable feature that the Suzuki cannot match.
Furthermore, both hatches get fabric seats, automatic climate control, cruise control, rear park distance control, and a reverse camera.
A leather steering wheel will then let you control these features, and all-round electric windows add to the ease of usability.
While on the topic of usability – both vehicles are fitted with keyless entry and a push-button start. This is an appreciated feature that is only now emerging in the entry-level market.
The Baleno beats the Starlet by 10 litres when it comes to cargo capacity, by offering 355 litres of space with the rear seats up – and a maximum capacity of 1,085 litres.
Safety and assistance systems are plenty in the top-end Starlet and Baleno.
Active safety is taken care of by ABS, airbags, electronic brake force distribution, and an electronic stability programme.
Both cars also get brake assist – a handy feature that will electronically boost braking power if the car senses there is an emergency situation at hand, and the driver is pressing down on the brake harder than usual.
The Starlet is around two years newer, however, and differentiates itself in this department through further fitment of hill assist control and vehicle stability control.
It is worth noting that the 2016 Baleno’s Euro NCAP safety rating stood at four stars, with no follow-up models being tested since then.
Ratings for the Starlet have not been made available, but if the spec list is anything to go by it will probably rank the same as the Suzuki.
The performance figures of both cars are identical.
They are fitted with a 1.4-litre, naturally-aspirated petrol engine that produces 68kW and 130Nm of torque – mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission.
This is good for a 0-100km/h acceleration time of 11.6 seconds, and a combined fuel consumption of 5.4l/100km.
A length of 3,995mm, width of 1,745mm, and height of 1,470mm makes the hatchbacks nimble in urban areas; and a kerb weight of only 935kg places them firmly in the lightweight segment.
Toyota states that the Starlet can also tow a braked capacity of up to 1,000kg.
Suzuki has said nothing of their Baleno’s towing capabilities, but it is rather safe to assume that it will be able to match that of its cross-brand sibling.
The Suzuki Baleno 1.4 GLX 4AT has a South African price of R274,900.
Along with this you get a 5-year/200,000km promotional warranty, and a 4-year/60,000km service plan.
The Toyota Starlet 1.4Xr AT has a South African price of R282,500.
This includes a 3-year/100,000km warranty, and a 3-services/45,000km service plan.