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Mini car reviews: Mitsubishi Pajero, Suzuki Baleno in SA

2016-11-13 18:00

NEW SUZUKI IN SA: Despite being bigger than the Suzuki Swift, the Baleno is 11% lighter than its stablemate. Image: MotorPress

Mitsubishi Pajero Legend II SWB

Price: R660 000

The fourth generation of the Mitsubishi Pajero has reached the ripe old age of 10. In motoring terms, that’s very old. But let’s not be ageist. There’s a lot of life left in this ntate moholo.

Compared with the young whippersnapper SUVs, which have gone a bit soft, the Pajero still matches them for comfort, while being so capable and durable that it will embarrass them when the road ends.

The Pajero is available in two lengths: long and short wheel-base. Besides being almost unstoppable in the bundus – because of its short whee base – the shorty is the ideal length for city driving too. The driver has the benefit of a raised driving position, but parallel parking and manoeuvring are easy because of its size. All four seats are big and comfy, but don’t expect much luggage space. Shorty will take a flat suitcase or two to three soft bags only.

On the open road, the Pajero’s old-tech 3.2-litre turbo-diesel showed enough grunt to overtake easily and to cruise well above the speed limit (theoretically). The old school engine can also run on less refined 500ppm diesel if necessary – something the latest engines can’t do. For the Pajero owner, this opens up far-off destinations where low-sulphur diesel isn’t available.

Should you buy one? Well, despite its age, it’s pricey, partly because it comes with so many off-road gadgets already fitted. It’s only worth it if your work or hobbies take you over the roughest possible terrain. Or maybe it can be considered as a cheaper version of the ultradesirable and retro Mercedes-AMG G63, which sells for a hefty R2.3 million.

Suzuki Baleno 1.4 GL manual 

Price: R200 000

Competing car brands probably grumbled when they saw the release of the new Suzuki Baleno in South Africa last week, at prices from R200 000.

Yes, you can get a Ford Figo hatch 1.5 Titanium, Hyundai Grand i10 1.25 Fluid or Smart ForFour 1.0 Passion for the same money, but they’re smaller than the Baleno and not as energetic. They’re also most likely to be heavier on fuel. The Figo Titanium is better equipped than the entry-level Baleno, but it’s specifically designed for developing countries, and this can be felt in its build quality and materials. The Smart is extra safe and cute as a button, but it’s powered by a hamster in a wheel. And so on.

Suzuki fitted its trusty 1.4-litre (no turbo) engine under the Baleno’s bonnet. It’s a small marvel of engineering, because it serves up ample power while running on the sniff of an oil rag.

It gets better. Suzuki made the Baleno extraordinary light. Combine a lively engine with a body that weighs a ridiculous 900kg and you’ve hacked the recipe for a quick, fun ride with the fuel consumption of a small diesel car.

Those who can stretch their long-suffering budgets from R200 000 (for the Baleno GL) to R230 000 for the Baleno GLX gain another four air bags, bringing the total to six. The GLX also adds alloy wheels, cruise control and control buttons on the steering wheel. But it doesn’t matter which variant you buy: the Baleno is a sensible, value-for-money car with a playful nature. A bit like a Labrador puppy from an animal shelter.

Read more on:    mitsubishi  |  suzuki  |  new models

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