Maruti Suzuki Baleno: First Drive
Watch First Drive of Maruti Suzuki Baleno
The Baleno which we knew as the YRA had been in speculation since a long time coming now, but no one really anticipated that it would once again attract the Baleno nametag. While people might wonder if the new car carries any of the old cars genes, let me clear that first up that the new Baleno is a completely different ballgame.
Now the premium hatchback segment has seen significant growth with the likes of the VW Polo, Hyundai i20 Elite and the Honda Jazz. Maruti needed something to counter this competition especially since the Swift is now getting a little long in the tooth. Enter the all-new Baleno!
Pictures do not really do justice to this car. In the flesh, the new Baleno boasts contemporary styling and looks like no other Maruti yet. The honeycomb grille upfront isn’t as bold as some of the competition but along with the thin chrome strip gives the car enough character. The best detail is how the grille neatly integrates into the projector xenon headlamp. The headlights also LED daytime running lamps which are a norm now. If you like the front, you’ll love the sides even more. Maruti Suzuki has used what is called the Liquid Flow design concept which gives the car the curves that it boasts. It’s brilliant how the character line dips downwards from near the ORVMS and then moves to the back to form a strong muscular shoulder line. Maruti has concentrated on details which shows in the brilliantly designed 16 inch alloys which come with lower than usual profile tyres which gives it that sporty look. The rear end is just as sporty with the high bootlid and that lovely spoiler. Overall the Baleno is quite a looker and sure to turn heads.
Black is back and Maruti is sticking to it. From the Swift to the S-Cross Maruti has been sticking to dark interiors and the Baleno gets a similar treatment. In fact I’m happy that the beige trend is slowly starting to fade away. The all black dashboard gets silver inserts with the party piece being the 4.2 inch TFT screen which also gets a first in its segment Apple Carplay. What also grabs your attention is the speedo console which is backlit in blue and comes with a multi-information display which shows a variety of information like real-time fuel consumption, driving time and some neat animated graphics which show how much power and torque is being used.
The familiar steering wheel gets audio and telephony controls and feels good to hold too. The front seats are extremely good and very supportive too. There is decent amount of storage and quality of materials is pretty good too. Moving to the back, the Baleno is as spacious as it can get. There is ample legroom and even sitting three abreast for averaged sized people is not a problem at all. The only drawbacks being the absence of rear ac vents and a centre armrest. Boot space is adequate too at 339 litres but gets a slightly high-ish loading lip.
Engine and Performance
While the S-Cross got a brand new diesel, the Baleno unfortunately has to do with the tried and tested mills. Petrol is the same 1.2 litre K-Series engine which pushes out 85 PS @ 6000 rpm and 115 Nm of torque @ 4000 rpm. While the engine feels refined and linear in its power delivery its feels just like a Swift when it comes to performance. The diesel too gets the same DDiS mill from the Swift with 75 PS and 190 Nm which is a tad bit disappointing considering the 90 PS tune would have been ideal. While the diesel offers slightly more punch compared to the petrol, it feels noisier with the diesel clatter filtering into the cabin
Both the engines come mated to the 5-speed gearbox which works well in the diesel but feels a tad bit notchy in the petrol. There is also an option of a CVT gearbox for people wanting an automatic. The gearbox has the typical rubber-band effect of most CVT’s when you put your foot down, but then for most of its in town use feels quite adept. We can’t help feel that Maruti could have offered or should in the future at least offer more powerful engine options considering how capable the platform is. But what you do get is class-leading fuel efficiency with the petrol claiming 21.4 kmpl and the diesel a whopping 27.9 kmpl.
Ride and handling
This is another area where the Baleno breaks new ground for Maruti Suzuki. The Baleno gets an all-new platform which is stronger by about 10% and lighter as well aiding fundamental vehicle performance. And it shows. On the ride and handling front, the Baleno absorbed most bad surfaces that we had to find in Jaipur with ease. Handling felt confidence inspiring too thanks to that well weighted steering wheel and the taut suspension set up. However we will reserve our final comments till we test the car on the testing streets of Mumbai.
We like what the new Baleno brings to the table. Its got refreshing new style, plenty of features, in fact the Baleno gets ABS, EBD and dual airbags standard across all variants, climate control, apple Carplay and the works. Yes it could do with more powerful engine options but then India is a market for high fuel efficiency numbers and the Baleno has got that covered.
Coming across as the second product in the Nexa line up, the Baleno will go head on with the Elite i20, the Jazz and the Polo. What remains to be seen is the price. If at all Maruti manages to price it a rung lower than its rivals, the Baleno is sure to cause the competition a lot of worry!