Toyota South Africa Motors has launched its new Starlet in South Africa, with the newcomer arriving as a rebadged Suzuki Baleno. So, why would you buy the Toyota version over the Suzuki original?

Well, we asked Toyota SA that very question during an online product presentation.

“Spec for spec versus the Baleno, the Starlet has a price advantage. And we have a three-grade strategy whereas they have only two [grades] in their line-up,” said Riaan Esterhuysen, manager for product communications at Toyota SA.

Replacing the Etios (which has gone out of production in India), the new Starlet hatchback range comprises five variants (three trim levels and two gearbox options), as opposed to the three in Suzuki Auto South Africa’s Baleno line-up. The Starlet’s starting price of R204 900 undercuts the base Baleno by some R17 000.

“The mid-grade model is R5 000 cheaper than the equivalent Baleno plus the Starlet is fitted with alloy wheels. In essence, it’s a more competitive product offering,” he added.

While Suzuki offers its Baleno with a five-year/200 000 km warranty and a four-year/60 000 km service plan, Toyota’s versions aren’t quite as generous, with the Starlet shipping with a three-year/100 000 km warranty and three-service/45 000 km service plan.

Still, Esterhuysen said “customers are able to purchase [warranty and service plan] extensions at their local dealer”.

“We have over 220 dealers and, of course, the servicing and parts availability perks that come with that,” he said, emphasising that the brand boasted the “largest dealer footprint in the country”.

“Of course, when it comes to resale values, Toyota has an enviable reputation,” he added.

“Our vehicle also comes equipped with Toyota Connect, which is a telematics service, as well as an in-car WiFi module, which comes with a complementary 15 GB of data.”

The Starlet is imported from India, where it’s built by Maruti Suzuki and known as the Glanza. The Baleno-based model is one of a number of “joint projects” between the two Japanese automakers.

Power comes from Suzuki’s naturally aspirated 1,4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine, which offers 68 kW and 130 N.m. There’s a five-speed manual and four-speed automatic transmission on offer.