Maruti Suzuki. The car manufacturer who has known Indian tastes since the very beginning and has managed to provide just the right car to match those tastes, again from the very beginning. Maruti Suzuki has mainly stuck to hatchbacks, they started-off with a hatchback, the Maruti 800 and today, in its product portfolio, 6 out of a total of 14 cars in their portfolio are hatchbacks, and recently, the Alto went on to become the most sold car in India, overtaking the 800 too, so Maruti Suzuki definitely knows a thing or two about making the best hatchbacks and it looks like they have repeated the magic once again, with the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno.
The name Maruti Suzuki Baleno might ring a bell for some, as the company had previously sold a car in India with the same name, but that was a sedan, and an import at that. The new Baleno contrasts the old one in every way, as it is a hatchback, and is locally-built and is of a greater quality than the imported one. Yes, Maruti Suzuki has pulled it off again.
The Maruti Suzuki Swift was the only hatchback in the Maruti Suzuki stable that was anywhere near being called premium, yes it drove well and did offer some good features, but that was years ago. In today’s scenario, the Swift just wasn’t as good as its competitors like the Volkswagen Polo, Hyundai i20 Elite, and Fiat Punto, and Maruti Suzuki very well knew that they needed something more than just an update to the Swift! So they went ahead and built a new car!
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno looks good, but not that stylish. Its competitors have some character to their looks like, the Polo is neat and classy, the Punto has got some Italian small car flair and the Elite i20 is Futuristic, but the Baleno looks contemporary and practical, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Baleno is designed based on Suzuki’s Liquid Flow design concept, which has given it loads of flowing curves all around the car. The Baleno has a happy face at the front and has muscular lines flowing from the front, onto the sides which then bulges out at the rear, which seems very wide. Overall, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno looks very neat, especially on the higher trim variants with the LED DRL’s up front and the chrome element from the grille cutting straight through the headlamps.
The side-profile of the hatchback is once again very neat and there aren’t many design elements to be frank, but the huge glass area combined with the rear quarter glass which sits behind the rear door definitely makes cabin feel a lot roomier. Probably the most stylish elements on the side profile would be the alloy wheels. The lower-trim levels get 15-inch rims while the top-of-the-line variants get the more stylish 16-inch wheels.
Coming to the interiors, the designer have done a brilliant job at designing the Baleno’s cabin. Maruti Suzuki has chosen to go all-black with the interior. The black interiors provide a premium and sporty feel at the same time. When it comes to interiors, it isn’t just about the feel. In the end it all comes down to space, and were glad to report that the Baleno has loads of it. Even though its wheelbase of 2520mm is lesser than its competitors, the Honda Jazz and the Hyundai i20 Elite, clever engineering and design has helped the Baleno to have a more spacious cabin than its competition.
Maruti Suzuki has loaded-up the interiors of the Baleno with many gadgets and goodies. The touch-screen infotainment system has been carried over from the S-cross crossover with navigation, media player, and even voice control. This system has also incorporated the Apple CarPlay System, making the Baleno the first car in the country to have the feature, so playing videos or music from one’s iPhone is very easy, and one can even use the Siri feature through the car’s voice control system! That makes this feature very cool to have in any car.
There is yet another screen in the car, albeit only on the top-of-the-line models. The instrument cluster is a very cool thing to behold, as it has the two main Dials – Tachometer and Speedometer and an Information Display Screen in the middle. The whole cluster looks very nice, courtesy of Blue lighting in the shape of an arc at the top and also behind the gauges as a blue inner circle. The TFT display is 4.2-inches in size and displays the odometer, the tripmeter, the distance to empty figure, real time fuel efficiency, clock, gear change indicator etc. but the coolest feature undoubtedly is the real time Torque and power Gauge. Usually, this gauge is found in sportscars and supercars, but thanks to Maruti Suzuki, we have it in an Indian Hatchback.
Powering the Baleno are the tried and tested 1.2-litre K-series petrol engines, and the 1.3-litre DDiS turbo-diesel engines, which also do duty in a couple of other Maruti Suzuki cars. The 1.2-litre petrol engine with a displacement of 1197cc and a maximum power output of 83 BHP and a maximum torque output of 115 NM can be had with either a 5-speed manual gearbox or a CVT gearbox. The 1248cc DDiS diesel engine produces 74 BHP of power and 190 NM of torque at its maximum. We expected Maruti Suzuki to launch the Baleno with the 90 BHP variant of the 1.3 DDiS, but they have given us the 74 BHP variant. They might be saving the 90 BHP for an update, though it is too early to speculate for the update.
Some other features on the top-of-the-line model are – keyless entry and go, start/stop button, reverse camera, telescopic and tilt adjustable steering, Fog lights, automatic headlamps, parking sensors etc. but the most impressive feature of the Baleno is the safety kit on offer. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno has dual-front airbags, ABS and Seatbelt pre-tensioners as standard. This is one area where Maruti Suzuki has left its competitors standing still, and this is the kind of comeback that we are proud of Maruti Suzuki for.
The Maruti Suzuki Swift was criticized for its low safety, and rightly so, as it scored Zero Stars in the NCAP safety tests. But now, Maruti Suzuki can proudly say that the Baleno is the safest hatchback they have ever manufactured.
It is not just features, safety and quality where the Baleno scores. On the pricing front too, the Baleno has emerged, a winner, starting at a base price of INR 4.99 lakhs for the basic petrol variant and going up to INR 8.11 lakhs for the top-of-the-line diesel. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno has taken the company to a greater height than before, and this really is a car which is built to European standards. Maruti Suzuki not only is building it to European standards, but also plans to sell it there, along with many more countries. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno will be sold in over 100 countries, albeit maybe with different names, but the good news is that the production will happen in India.
Kudos to Maruti Suzuki for giving us such a great little car.
Car Courtesy: NEXA, Airport Road, Mangalore
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GALLERY: Maruti Suzuki Baleno