Making waves in a crowded pool

The Suzuki Baleno and VW Tiguan

The Suzuki Baleno

“The pretty, but ordinary, looking Baleno is incredible inside!”

The Baleno has been launched to replace what we think is the second best Suzuki of all time, the Swift. (Only the original SX4 is better). The Suzuki Swift was a compact hatchback that became extremely popular in South Africa because of its affordable price and impeccable quality. The Baleno is set to walk straight into those shoes and take over where the Swift left off, although it’ll do this with a little less weight and a much sturdier feel.

With the new car market in South Africa feeling the pain of consumer penny pinching, it’s refreshing to see Suzuki coming out with an affordable car that’s specifically mandated to come in at an attractive price point. This obviously means certain compromises have been made, but as we found out, they were the right kind of compromises.

The exterior styling of the Baleno is somewhat different to what we’ve come to expect from Suzuki. In the past, Suzuki had retained a distinct identity that meant you could tell what car it was from the front, rear and side, yet the new Baleno is rather generic. Generic isn’t bad; it’s just not unique. Blending into the pack might be part of a new marketing strategy for the brand, but it doesn’t look Suzuki enough for us. The pretty but ordinary looking Baleno is, however, incredible inside! The Baleno is well-laid-out, and the dash is both practical and functional. There are wonderful accents and lighting touches that bring the Baleno into the new age. The interior is nothing short of hip and sexy and has all the basic features you’d want and expect in a car built in the 21st century. The instrument display has some cool features allowing you to see the torque and power it produces under different driving conditions.

As with all hatchbacks, the boot space is not out-of-this-world big, but well within industry norms and perfectly acceptable for a family car of this size. Being able to fold the rear seats down does give the driver the ability to load nearly three times as much into the back.

The Baleno also drives very well and although it’s not built to win a drag race, what makes this, and all Suzuki cars so good is that they drive much better than other cars in the same price range. Priced from R199 900 it’s hard to argue with the value proposition Suzuki offer with the Baleno.

The VW Tiguan

“Once you get inside the Tiguan, you see instantly why the price tag is such a bargain.” 

The baby brother of the very popular and rather expensive Touareg has been around for a while now. The Tiguan is a compact version of the large Touareg and fits the bill for a small or growing family as the perfect companion to your life. We say companion because once you have a car of this size, you’ll wonder how you ever survived without it.

The Tiguan is nothing short of sexy, and when it was delivered with the stylish R-pack (an optional extra), it took this SUV from run of the mill to urban chic. The aggressive lines and striking accents made the Tiguan look more like a large sports hatch and less like a soccer mom car. More heads turned while driving this VW, than being behind the wheel of several German sports sedans.

Once you get inside the Tiguan, you see instantly why the price tag is such a bargain. The finishes and accessories available to you are well beyond what’s expected. The Tiguan will make 21st century living a reality. It’s all the simple things that really set the Tiguan apart. Like being able to fold the rear seat down with the push of a button and releasing the hidden tow bar with the simple pull of a lever. All of this adds to the ease of use and practicality of a car purpose built for everyday life.

Behind the wheel of the 1.4-litre turbocharged Tiguan, there’s little to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with how the small engine performs. The drive is smooth and efficient, and the six-speed manual gearbox shifts precisely and without fault. We’d recommend purchasing the bullet proof 2.0-litre diesel engine if you wanted to do any serious towing, but for urban life, the 1.4 litre meets all the requirements.

And now for a bold prediction; we believe the new VW Tiguan will win the SAGMJ Car of The Year for 2017. Barring any surprises, for which there have been many in the last four years of the competition, we can’t see any car coming close to knocking the VW off the top. This isn’t to say the VW is better than any of the other cars in the competition, but when you compare apples to apples, the Tiguan is the sweetest of the bunch.