I like to drive the petrol Baleno MT as it is responsive and punchy. The exterior look of the hatch is excellent. Interior design is pretty good. But I like the exterior more than the interior. I won a Honda Jazz and a Maruti Baleno, so I would compare both the premium hatchbacks. While the Honda Jazz is a petrol CVT that I own the Maruti Baleno is a petrol MT.
Baleno is a feature rich hatch with so many handy stuff in and around it. Automatic light, daytime running lights, auto dim rear view mirror, push start stop button, a navigation system, parking sensors & rear view camera, adjustable seat belts, rear passenger charging point to name a few. The Alpha variant comes with alloy wheels, though it does not look so great but complements the car overall design.
Let's talk about the space inside, it's quite spacious, but with the dark interior it does not feel so spacious. Compared to my jazz CVT the interior looks bit dull and less spacious, but usable space is quite good in the Baleno. For rear passengers, the head room is bit on the lower side and for an adult of height more than 6 feet, it can be a bit uncomfortable. Leg room is good both for the rear and front. The boot is also roomy and can hold a lot of luggage. Though the entrance of the boot could have been better by lowering the height of the rear entrance wall.
Driving the hatch in the city is very good. It has a good street presence with the big front bonnet and nicely designed rear. Power is excellent in any gear. Compared to my Jazz which is a CVT its easier to overtake in a Baleno MT. I like the low-speed drive-ability in the Baleno, but in high speeds (>= 100 kmph) its the Jazz CVT that rules. The Baleno is stable at high speeds and is comparable to the Jazz's. Engine sound is low but cannot beat the Jazz. The steering is responsive and easy to use. The clutch is not so soft for city driving but its okay.
From safety point, the Baleno feels quite safe inside the cabin. While driving the outside view is good and rear view mirrors & camera are good supplements to it. It has air bags and ABS fitted but have never got a chance to test how much effective and easy to use yet. Compared to Jazz the windshield is smaller and the dashboard length is also small. But that's no hindrance to a normal driving experience.
Long distance journey in a Baleno is quite good as you will use the clutch less. Looks bulkier than a Jazz both inside and outside and that is both a good and bad thing, so no arguments there. Mileage is good in the petrol Baleno with smooth running engine.
Overall the Baleno is a good premium hatch with a good price and many useful features that one will love to own and drive every day. Maruti's service is also good and Baleno has a complete 1-year free service compared to Honda's 6 moths.
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