I got the Maruti Baleno Petrol last month. Since price difference between the diesel and petrol is going down every fortnight, and as my daily running is also low, I went for the petrol model. Here are my insights about the car after driving it for 600 kilometres till date.
+ Looks fresh. Still has a novel streak to it, though it won't last long since the car is selling like hot cakes.
+ Spacious interiors. The cabin space is much larger to that of my Dzire.
+ Peppy, trusted, and refined 1.2-litre power mill.
+ Features on offer in the Delta trim are plenty. An ideal variant for a normal person.
+ NEXA experience is indeed premium.
- Pathetic suspension system.
- Front of the Sigma, Delta and Zeta variants look a bit incomplete.
- Rear visibility isn't that great.
Till now everyone of you would have seen a Baleno on the road. And most of you would agree that it looks a lot more fresh to look at, especially since we Indian have got bored of seeing so many Swifts on our roads. The front does get polarised opinions. I personally liked the front of the Alpha model. The projector and DRL setup completes the look. However, on the lower models like the Delta, it does appear to be a bit incomplete, especially due to the strange y-shaped grille.
I am in love with the side profile of the Baleno. It gives the car a more bulky look. The roof slopes down at the rear and meets the tail in a beautiful architecture. The alloy wheels of the top-end model are poorly designed, hence I feel the wheel caps on the Delta do a much better job of livening things a bit. The rear too looks striking. The spaced boot lid and corner-placed taillights look great. The taillights look even more beautiful at night with the brake pressed. In my opinion, the chrome bar found in the Zeta and Alpha trim completes the look. I am planning to get it on my Delta, once I go for the first service.
We Indian love beige. But I hate beige. Hence, it is a pleasant sight for me that the Maruti Baleno gets an all-black dashboard. The steering wheel is the only turn-off inside the cabin, as it is the same unit that is found in the Swift, Dzire, Ertiga, Ciaz, S-Cross and even the new Vitara Brezza. Maruti should change the boring looking steering at the earliest.
Apart from that, everything inside the cabin looks absolutely stunning. The waterfall design of the instrument cluster, the 2-din infotainment system, the high-definition instrument cluster, everything has been arranged ergonomically. The gear level is light to use, and falls to hand easily. I would have liked a bit more side bolstering on the seats, but they are comfortable nonetheless.
Storage isn't an issue inside the Baleno either. Every door gets a 1-litre bottle holder and a map pocket. There are storage spaces ahead of the gear lever, and a large bottle hold at the back of it.
What I do find strange is the absence of rear AC vents. Come-on Maruti, Hyundai provides it even in the Grand i10, strange that the Baleno misses on it.
ENGINE, RIDE AND HANDLING
There is no doubt about the fact that the Baleno is a nice car to drive. Well, the trusted 1.2-litre, four cylinder K Series engine is the same unit that powers the swift and DZire siblings. It is a free-revving engine and is refined at the same time.
Start the car from a standstill and the Baleno easily pulls off to around 30 km/h in first gear. Shift up to second, and the engine becomes even more responsive. Every throttle movement is responded to by a surge of power. Moreover, Maruti engineers are masters of mapping gearboxes. The 5-speed stick shift is a joy to use, thanks to its short throws and crisp slots. The engine has further been tuned to optimise highway hauls as well as tight city manoeuvring. As a result, there is no need to change gears frequently while pottering around in city traffic. The clutch is light too, thus aiding the car's overall city-friendliness.
As mentioned above, the steering is the same unit that is found in other Maruti cars in this price range. It is fairly light and direct in the city, and weighs up adequately as the speedometer needle climbs. It gives ample feedback to inspire you to take tight corners at high speeds.
Talking about corners, the best part about the car's handling is the suspension. The Baleno has a fairly hard suspension, especially for this segment. While this is a boon for drivers who like to push their cars to the limit, it gets a lot more annoying in city conditions. Every bump and pothole enter the cabin. The suspension also keeping on producing clings and clangs every time you pass an undulation. The suspension is one of the worst parts of the Baleno, as far as city driving is concerned.
The Baleno doesn't have the interior quality of the elite i20, or the heavy built of the VW Polo. But it is a jack of all traits. The Baleno is the perfect car if you want to do a variety of things with a single machine.
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