Hyundai i20 vs Skoda Fabia vs Suzuki Baleno

Good budget cars like Hyundai's i20 and Skoda's Fabia keep their thriftiness under wraps, but is the latest Suzuki Baleno the new austerity champ?

Words By What Car? team

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Suzuki Baleno with Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia

Our verdict

The class newcomer has thrown up some surprises. We didn’t think the Suzuki Baleno would prove the quickest contender, but its engine is a strong performer and not short of charm, either. However, despite reasonable ride quality, the Baleno’s dynamic appeal is flawed, mostly because of prominent body roll and poor steering. The car is roomy and fares well for infotainment, but it’s off the pace in other areas, such as interior quality, safety and security.

It’s a somewhat mixed bag for the Hyundai i20 as well. Its engine impresses for pace, but is less responsive and harsher sounding than the Suzuki’s, and the firmest ride in our test and numb steering mar the driving experience. Nevertheless, the i20’s interior is big, spacious and flexible. Its equipment roster is mostly generous, too, although the lack of a touchscreen system is a significant omission. The generous warranty offsets the high cost of purchase a little, but unless you’re a company car driver, it’s hard to make a financial case for the i20.

  • 'Despite reasonable ride quality, the Baleno’s dynamic appeal is flawed'

That leaves the hard-to-fault Skoda Fabia still at the front of the pack. Its four-cylinder engine now seems a little outclassed by the smaller yet punchier three-cylinder engines in its two rivals here, but our comparison has revealed no new chinks in the Fabia’s armour. It still handles well, comes close to the i20 for interior design and is competitive for space and well equipped. Very reasonable purchase costs and a top safety rating should expel any doubts that this remains the best car in its class.

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1st – Skoda Fabia

For Value; space; solid interior; good handling; decent equipment

Against Humdrum engine; unsettled low-speed ride; suspension noise

Verdict Convincing all-round package at a bargain price

Rated 5 out of 5

Read the full Skoda Fabia review

2nd – Hyundai i20

For Interior space; peppy engine; generous equipment

Against Basic infotainment; harsh ride; depreciation

Verdict Practical choice, but can’t quite match the best

Rated 4 out of 5

Read the full Hyundai i20 review

3rd – Suzuki Baleno

For Performance; standard sat-nav; respectable ride

Against Flimsy interior; poor steering; safety rating

Verdict Bit of a mixed bag, but not without merits

Rated 3 out of 5

Read the full Suzuki Baleno review

Specifications: Hyundai i20 1.0 T-GDI 100 SE

Engine size 1.0-litre, petrol, turbo

List price Β£14,025

Target Price Β£13,155

Power 99bhp

Torque 127lb ft

0-62mph 9.7sec

Top speed 116mph

Official fuel economy 65.7mpg

CO2 emissions 99g/km

Specifications: Skoda Fabia 1.2 TSI 90 SE

Engine size 1.2-litre, petrol, turbo

List price Β£13,600

Target Price Β£12,492

Power 89bhp

Torque 118lb ft

0-62mph 10.6sec

Top speed 113mph

Official fuel economy 60.1mpg

CO2 emissions 107g/km

Specifications: Suzuki Baleno 1.0 Boosterjet SZ-T

Engine size 1.0-litre, petrol, turbo

List price Β£12,999

Target Price Β£12,999

Power 109bhp

Torque 125lb ft

0-62mph 9.5sec

Top speed 124mph

Official fuel economy 62.7mpg

CO2 emissions 105g/km

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