Maruti Suzuki Baleno First Drive Review


Maruti Suzuki Baleno Overview

The Swift was the car which changed the hatchback dynamics in the Indian market when it was launched in 2005 and since then, it has single-handedly dominated the hatchback segment, being the top selling car in its segment, not by a small amount but by a huge margin. The Swift’s popularity and the fact that it was Maruti Suzuki’s best hatchback meant that the vehicle had to deal with more responsibilities, like competing in the premium hatchback space which has cars a segment above.

Now to relieve the Swift of its duties in the premium hatchback space, Maruti Suzuki has bought in the Baleno, a car which is bigger than the Swift in every way and has been designed to lure customers who find shortcomings in the Swift. The new Baleno has a lot of significance, it brings back the old moniker used by Maruti’s then flagship sedan (in the 2000s) and the Indian automaker has been entrusted with producing the car for the world. But how good is this Hyundai Elite i20 challenger?

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Design & Style

Honestly, I wasn’t very impressed with the interior when I first saw it at the Frankfurt Motor Show last month. And Maruti executives confirmed that the cars given to us in India are closer to production, which explains why it seems a lot more likeable now. The smart all-black cabin looks upmarket and sporty, but there are plenty of parts carried forward from other Maruti Suzuki models, which steals some of the freshness away. We expected the premium-positioned Baleno to use some soft plastic parts on the dashboard and maybe leather upholstery options, which could have made the cabin even better. Apart from this there’s not much to complain about, as the fit and finish is pretty decent for the segment

The front seats are large, comfortable and well bolstered. Thankfully, the driver’s seat is height-adjustable, which helps get a good driving position. In fact, the tilt and reach adjustable steering further helps this cause. The icing on the cake is the positioning of the switches and buttons, all of which are well within reach, making the cabin ergonomically sound.

As desired in this segment, the cabin is spacious and there’s plenty of space at the back too. What’s most impressive is the excellent knee room for the rear seat passengers – something Maruti car buyers were always left desiring more for until now. India being a predominantly chauffeur-driven country, this will not go unnoticed. There’s a spacious boot too, with a very useable 339 litres of storage space. To know more info on  Maruti Baleno check Iiitdm

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Cabin & Comfort

The front of the Maruti Baleno is quite stylish and gives a unique presence to the car, one that sets it apart from the crowd. There are daytime running LEDs, but these come only in the top end Alpha variant, which is quite a dampener. The headlamp design reminds one of the Swift. The black honeycomb grille is smart looking and has chrome garnishing on the lower end, which adds some flair. The bumper gels well with rest of the body

From the side the car looks very contemporary and long as well. The side profile does look much better than the competition despite the fact all of them are under 4 metres and the same length hatches. The hood has a nice curve to it and the silhouette looks beautiful. This is certainly the best angle of the car

The rear is also appealing and muscular. There is a rear spoiler as well which is neatly integrated. Maruti follows the liquid flow design for Baleno, which makes it look trendy. The paint job on the Maruti Baleno is of good quality and makes it premium looking. The Maruti Baleno looks longer than the competition and even more premium in styling

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Engine & Gearbox

Maruti Suzuki has carried forward the same set of engines on the Baleno that do duty on the Swift and although the company also powers the car with a 1.0-litre BoosterJet turbocharged petrol engine, the same isn’t being offered in India, at least not for the time being and is reserved for export markets. Both the petrol and diesel engines are familiar to all of us since they power a slew of Maruti cars. The petrol unit is the 1.2-litre K12 motor that pumps out 85 PS of power and 115 Nm of torque, the K-Series mill having being praised endlessly by us in our past few reviews, deserves more applause in the Baleno because it weighs a whooping 100 kgs lighter than the Swift, in spite of being bigger. The Baleno thus boasts of an even better power to weight ratio and is quick off the line.

The K-Series mill doesn’t have the strongest low-end performance with the mid-range being flat but the same isn’t very evident in the Maruti Baleno due to the lower weight of the car. The gear ratios have also been altered to extract the best mileage, thus the ratios are tall with first gear doing 45 km/hr and second gear taking the vehicle to 90 km/hr, third maxes out at 137 km/hr. But where this powertrain truly shines is the top-end and screams all the way to 6200 RPM where the rev limit kicks in. The smoothness of the 1.2-litre engine is truly noteworthy with refinement levels being excellent, no vibrations at all. Driving the car on open roads with the vehicle in top gear, the RPM needle ticks in at 2500 RPM, giving enough room to stretch the motor’s legs.

The petrol powered Maruti Baleno is matched to a 5-speed manual gearbox which has swift shifts and a light clutch. An automatic gearbox is offered as well which is a CVT unit (on the mid-level Delta variant and not on the top-end Alpha), offering good response to throttle inputs. But being a CVT, the rubber band effect is a given and thus the motor revs too much once past 4000 RPM (all the way to 6000 RPM) without actually making much progress, best to give part throttle inputs then. This nature of the CVT box makes it best suited for city driving where the boon of automatic gear shifts takes precedence over outright acceleration. But the big advantage of the CVT box is the mileage, as both the manual and CVT gearboxes of the petrol Baleno return the same fuel economy, 21.4 km/l as per ARAI which is the segment best.

Coming to the diesel engine, the same 1.3-litre Fiat sourced MultiJet unit is offered in DDiS 190 tune which means it generates 75 PS of power and 190 Nm of torque. The weight advantage plays here too and thus the diesel Baleno is quicker off the line than the Swift, it also feels more eager to throttle inputs thanks to the tuning done to the motor. But you do have to downshift as the car doesn’t take off quickly at low speeds in higher gears. However, the bottom-end continues to be weak as there is some lag low down but performance is more linear than before and there is no sudden spike in torque. The engine also revs freely and has a petrol like character in that regard, spinning past 5000 RPM before the limiter kicks in at under 5400 RPM. However, the top-end isn’t making much progress and it’s best to shift up in the mid-range.

There is much more noise in the cabin once you get past the mid-range and NVH levels aren’t as good as some of its rivals, in fact we measured a maximum of 95 dB at redline in third gear, which is a lot of sound indeed. Clearly the DDiS motor’s 8 years of duty can be seen and Fiat’s MultiJet II motor is the need of the hour. 100 km/hr comes up in third gear while at the same speed in top gear, the oil burner is spinning at around 2400 RPM, ready to pull strongly for a quick overtake. The clutch is light and the gearbox has short but surefooted throws, making driving this Maruti a pleasure. Many were expecting the Baleno to get the same engine tune as the Ciaz as both the Hyundai Elite i20 and Volkswagen Polo produce around 90 PS while the Honda Jazz belts out 100 PS. But with the weight reduction, the Baleno is still decently quick and the lower tune has been done in the interest of costs as the more powerful DDiS 200 motor which gets VGT also has SHVS tech to boost mileage even further. Still the Maruti Baleno is the most frugal car in its segment, returning an ARAI claimed 27.39 km/l.Check for SBI car loan at Fincarz.

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Safety & Security

One of the keys to succeed in this segment is to offer plenty of features and driver aids, and Maruti has ensured that the Baleno doesn’t skimp on this front by loading it with some of the latest gadgets you can think of. So higher models gets climate control, colour TFT information screen, a 4.2-inch touch screen with a rear parking camera and satellite navigation system, and segment-first Apple CarPlay which, by the way, is a really cool feature. Apart from this, there are also steering-mounted controls, keyless entry, push button start, USB and AUX ports, and special coating on the glass which prevents UV rays from entering the cabin. Also commendable are the safety features such as ABS, EBD and dual airbags which are offered as standard on all variants

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Ride & Handling

The Baleno is lighter than the Swift due to a new platform and while the lightness is a boon, it’s not at the cost of rigidity as the new platform is 10% stronger. This Maruti has been softly sprung (remember, this car is made to please those who find something lacking in the Swift) and comfort is what the Baleno is aimed at. Thus the ride quality is excellent and the car absorbs almost everything in its stride, save for sharper bumps. Even on bad roads, there is little noise which is transmitted to the cabin, the suspension working silently to iron out bad tarmac. But out on the highway, road and tyre noise does get inside the cabin and in the case of the diesel, the engine’s drone further makes things noisy. For more information on Maruti Baleno check AutoZhop.

The top-spec model rides on lower profile, 16-inch wheels while the lower models with higher profile 15-inch rubber is even better in the ride quality department. The Maruti Baleno features a long wheelbase which does help in giving the hatchback very good high speed stability. The handling is good and body control is excellent too, although not in the same league of the sportier Swift. What is really impressive is the steering wheel that weighs up quite well at speed and is quite quick too, feel and feedback being good enough to put a big smile on the driver’s face. Braking performance left us a bit disappointed as the Baleno doesn’t inspire confidence to brake hard and even though it’s light, the car feels a bit twitchy under hard braking, the lower trims more so with the 15-inch MRF ZVTV rubber lacking grip. The top-end model using 16-inch wheels gets Apollo Alnac 4G tyres which offer much better grip than the MRFs.

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Price in Pune

Maruti Suzuki Baleno On-Road Price in Pune ranges from 6,45,699 to 10,24,182 for variants Baleno Sigma Petrol and Baleno Alpha CVT Petrol respectively. Maruti Suzuki Baleno is available in 11 variants and 14 colours. Below are details of Maruti Suzuki Baleno variants price in Pune. Check for Baleno price in Pune at Tryaldrive.

Maruti Suzuki Baleno Final Word

The Baleno RS has most of the points necessary to appeal to an enthusiast like an eager engine performance, being nimble around corners, have a great straight-line stability and good braking power. And then with a claimed fuel-efficiency of 21.4 kmpl, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS is still the most fuel efficient petrol hatchback in its segment. The Volkswagen Polo GT TSI and Fiat Abarth Punto might be a little more powerful than the Baleno RS, but then they are more expensive too. So overall, Maruti Suzuki seems to have played their cards well that should help the Baleno RS to be considered as an interesting proposition in the performance-oriented affordable hatchback segment in India.