Suzuki Baleno vs. Toyota Starlet (2022 Facelift models)

I realise that, by now, this comparison has probably been done a hundred times. Still, here’s my take on the differences between these cars and a few more considerations before you sign on the dotted line.

High spec (XR) Starlet shown
Base spec (GL) Baleno shown

Shared everything

The Toyota Starlet is a direct copy of the Suzuki Baleno. Now in its face-lifted form with a spunky new 1.5L engine, they are made in the same factory and someone literally sticks Toyota badges where Suzuki would usually put theirs. Sure, the body panels and some interior design details are different but these cars are identical twins.

 Suzuki BalenoToyota Starlet
Engine1462cc i-4 petrol1462cc i-4 petrol
Drive5-speed Manual or 4-speed Auto, FWD5-speed Manual or 4-speed Auto, FWD
Power77kW @ 4400rpm77kW @ 4400rpm
Torque138Nm @ 4400rpm138Nm @ 4400rpm
0-100km/h 11.2 seconds11.2 seconds
Top speed175km/h (Manual) 160km/h (Auto)175km/h (Manual) 160km/h (Auto)

That means, if you’re looking for the one with better consumption or superior performance, we can’t help you. It’s the same car and the only differences creep into their respective spec sheets. Suzuki probably did that on purpose, because their donor car is always one step ahead of the copycat.

You’ll also be out of luck if the deciding factor was supposed to be more space or a better ride because you’re comparing apples with apples. The dimensions, handling characteristics and comfort levels are absolutely identical. Which brings us one of the real deciding factors: specifications.

 Suzuki BalenoToyota Starlet
Length3990mm 3990mm 
Width1745mm 1745mm 
Height1500mm 1500mm 
Boot size314L 314L 
L/100km5.4 (Manual) 5.7 (Auto)5.4 (Manual) 5.7 (Auto)
Tank size37L37L
Warranty5 years / 200,000km3 years / 100,000km
Serv. Plan4 years / 60,000km3 x / 45,000km

Spec differences

Both manufacturers offer a standard (Baleno GL and Starlet Xs) or premium trim line (Baleno GLX and Starlet Xr). The original-gangster Suzukis usually come out on top, which also applies to their pricing and warranties. Toyota tried to counter that by introducing a more basic (Starlet Xi) derivative with hubcabs.  

 Baleno GLBaleno GLXStarlet XSStarlet XR
Cruise ControlYY Y
Keyless Access Y Y
Auto dim mirror Y Y
LED headlights  Y Y
Head-up display Y  
Trip computer Y Y
Alloy wheels YYY
Autom. Lights Y Y
Rear cameraYY Y
Surround view Y  

Standard features on every Baleno and Starlet include ABS brakes with EBD and stability control, air-conditioning, central locking, rear parking sensors, three USB ports, a 12V socket, power steering, power windows and power mirrors.

Personal choice

So this is where the waters turn murky. Some Namibians won’t put money on the table unless the paperwork says Toyota. Fine. You’re not doing anything wrong. In fact, that brand has a superior dealer network in southern Africa and – for reasons we don’t comprehend – will retain a higher resale value. Even though it’s actually a Suzuki.

One of our colleagues posed the interesting question of whether you can buy a Suzuki and have it serviced at Toyota; or vice versa? Theoretically it should be possible because Toyota will have to train their techies to work on these borrowed but relatively simple machines. The deal-breakers will be the car’s warranty, service records and dealer discretion.

When these cars run out of manufacturer back-up, you are free to have them serviced anywhere you like; never mind properly franchised workshops. And that’s also a key deciding factor for me. Who do you have a great relationship with? Favourite dealers, friendly workshops and superb after-sales service still matter.

In conclusion, obviously this comparison favours the Suzuki Baleno. It’s a no-brainer. Or is it? If, in today’s tumultuous times, you find that your chosen brand simply doesn’t have stock, or cannot supply a favourite colour, spec and gearbox… just go for the other one.

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