Desire to be counted among the credible premium auto-maker; Maruti- Suzuki has taken some striking policy decisions of late. Company has spawned a new chain of premium dealership called NEXA which is in fact devoted only to serve its upmarket proposition. The first luxury vehicle hitting the Nexa was S-cross crossover, and now premium plank of company Baleno has walked in. Pitted squarely against the likes of Hyundai Elite i20 and Honda Jazz, Baleno has a lot of riding on its broad shoulders. Not only the car has to wean away rivals’ prospects, it has to establish Maruti's credibility as upscale manufacturer.
Unlike S-cross which is priced ambitiously, Maruti has chosen to tread path of value for money with Baleno. The car undercuts its competitors by some healthy margin which is seen as a major reason for instant connect people have shown with it. Two days into launch, and Baleno garnered around 5000 bookings. Now this large figure enthralled us equally, and we decided to put new Baleno through its paces. Read on to find what's our verdict about this premium Maruti.
Style, Design & Interiors
To drive home the point of upmarket, Maruti has done comprehensive efforts. As a result, Baleno does look premium thanks to its V-shape grille, projector headlamps with DRLs, and pronounced bumper. In profile, strong character streaks and rising window line hog the attention. Dynamic interplay between window line and raked out rear windscreen further arrest the audience attention.
Rear of the car is well designed too. The camaraderie between nicely detailed tail lamps and thick chrome bar helpsthe Baleno to complete its well-rounded design. Baleno looks large though it doesn't stretch beyond the excise limit of 4 meters. Its 1745 wide footprint is something that frees up much space inside for occupants.
iInside the cabin, Baleno feels like a Maruti as lot of bits have been shared. Steering wheel, power window switches, stalks etc. are similar to other Maruti cars though company has made some clever changes to lift the ambience feel. An all-black cabin feels posh, and though upholstery is not very upmarket, the very friendly driving interface make up for lost ground. Blue lit dials among the sea of black is very pleasing to look at.
Large size fonts further enhance the readability and even in the broad daylight, their legibility doesn’t get compromised. 4.2 inch central TFT cluster packs a punch, and has multitude of information at its disposal. Highly placed central 7 inch touchscreen infotainment system has been directly lifted from the Ciaz. Along with playing the music, guiding the path through navigation, the car features Apple car-play which allows seamless connection between your Apple mobile and this system.
Maruti has made full use of 2520 mm long wheelbase, and Baleno offers space which is at par with the best in class. Apart from a little short headroom, there is nothing to complain about the other forms of space. Be it legroom, knee room or shoulder room, Baleno make a strong case for itself. That said, flat contours at the rear don't hold the occupants snugly. Front seats are the best among the business, and though foam density is a bit touch soft, the generous space makes these extremely comfortable.
At 339 liters, the boot capacity is impressive too. We especially like the layout which is intelligent enough to hold large luggage without warranting the rear seat to flip down. Yes, there are suspension intrusions though the boot has designed in a way that these invasions don't affect the practicality of the car. That said, loading lip of the car is both narrow and high to our liking.
Engine, Transmission& Driving Dynamics
Unlike international Baleno that comes with 1.0-litre turbo - petrol engine, India has got 1.2-litre K12 petrol motor for now. Diesel version is plonked with tried and tested 1.3-litre multi-jet DDiS oil burner badged as DDiS 190. It’s same motor 75 PS that powers other Marutis albeit in a different state of tune. Further, Baleno beige light in weight (100 kg lighter than Swift), 75 PS feels lively and spirited under than Swift.
Turbo-lag is still discernible under 2000 rpm though the overall power delivery in Baleno is much more linear than before. Part throttle responses are quick and Baleno feels as faster as its rivals. However, floor the pedal at low revs and engine bogs you down. Another disappointment comes in the form of high noise that starts emanating from under the hood at higher revolutions. This requires you to upshift early. Fuel efficiency of 27.39 km/l is class leading, and sparkles as a jewel in overall features of the car.
5-speed manual transmission is slick and mated to light clutch. The gates are well defined, and cogs fits in smooth manner. Coupled with light power steering, this engine tranny combo is an absolute delight for the urban customers. There is nice heft to steering on highway which adds sportiness to the car. In fact we are quite surprised by the way Baleno rides and handles overall.
Suspension though feels a tad soft; it doesn't compromise on the handling front. Being a lightweight car, we expected Baleno to be skittish over the bad patches but on the contrary it deals with all kinds of roads with aplomb. There is no issue whatsoever in ride comfort as all undulations are dispatched with silent thud. For most of the part, suspension work silently. The straight line stability is exceptional as long wheelbase plays a great role in it. Handling too is taut and sporty thanks to the underpinnings supporting sporty theme of the car. In sum, Baleno raises the benchmark not only for the competition but also within its stable.
Priced in the range of Rs 4.99 lakh to Rs 8.11 lakh, Baleno offers great value for money. It undercuts its rivals on the pricing, and offers in fact more equipment and features. It looks sporty, has ultra-spacious cabin, features loads of creature comfort, and sport high fuel efficiency tag. In addition, car rides and handles extremely well. As a product, Baleno has lot going for it. It ticks all the right boxes, and we won't be surprised if it becomes market leader in days to come.
Style & Substance 4/5 Ride & Handling 4/5
Interiors & Ergonomics: 4/5 Safety & Equipment 4/5
Power-Plant & Transmission 3.5/5 Fuel Efficiency 4/5
Value for Money 4/5