ANSWER – BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS:
Out of the Suzuki Baleno and Toyota Yaris, we would recommend the Baleno hands down. It’s the newer, roomier, more comfortable, more refined, and more dynamic car to drive, with a big boot and plenty of back-seat space for adults. Note that while the standard 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine offers sufficient but unexciting performance, the optional GLX Turbo’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol alternative is both more economical and powerful. It would be our choice. A quick search on line has produced a number of new or demonstrator examples at less than $20,000 drive-away, so the 1.0 Turbo fits even your budget.
The only question mark over the Baleno is the lack of autonomous emergency braking (AEB), so we suggest that you also consider the latest Mazda 2. Even though it has less rear-seat and cargo space than the Suzuki, it equals or surpasses the Baleno in almost every other department, and has AEB as standard. The smaller, slower, noisier and thirstier Yaris has AEB as part of a $675 safety pack, but that’s all it has over the Baleno.
Finally, it might be worth waiting until mid-June for the next-generation Suzuki Swift to launch, because it will offer AEB as standard on its 1.0-litre Turbo version.