Being one of the first products to go on sale via the Nexa outlets, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno had to be a standout product. Because not only was Maruti Suzuki positioning it as a premium offering, the premium hatchback segment had also matured a lot since the company made its arrival with the Swift. The Baleno has since struck the right chord with buyers. And with a competitive price tag and a wide range of options, that’s as unsurprising as it can get.
It’s not only an upper hand in marketing and wide sales network that makes the Baleno a formidable choice in the segment. The design is equally responsible for the car’s success. It sits well with the whole premium quotient, and even with well-designed rivals like the Hyundai Elite i20, the Baleno makes its presence felt. The more powerful and enthusiast-centric Baleno RS use sportier styling, further adding to the car’s appeal.
The Baleno’s interior is a mix of premium approach and some cost- cutting. The dashboard layout can’t be faulted but the choice of materials could have been better. The feature-rich touchscreen system is a strong point and is the large MID sat in the instrument console. But leaving these behind is the car’s ability to offer almost sedan-like space and comfort, which buyers appreciate quite a lot.
If the standard Baleno is what you’re looking at, there are two engine options. The Fiat-sourced 1.3-litre diesel engine makes 73.75 bhp and 190 Nm of torque. Owing to the lightness of the Baleno, it proves to be a decent performer. It gets a manual gearbox, but unlike in case of its lesser sibling, the Swift, there’s no AMT variant on the diesel.
The petrol engine is a different story though. Because the peppy 1.2-litre unit makes 83 bhp and makes for a fun drive with the decent 5-speed manual gearbox. But it can also be specced with a CVT, just like the rivals Honda Jazz and Hyundai Elite i20.
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS further focusses on driving with bits like disc brakes on all four wheels (the standard car gets drum brakes at the rear), better suspension, and a 1-litre turbocharged petrol engine called Booster et. With 100 bhp and 150 Nm, it promises to be an affordable performance-centric car.
The premium hatchback segment has grown at a pace that was unimaginable when the early entrants were launched. But cars like the Hyundai Elite i20 and the Honda Jazz have soldiered on — and have been upgraded keeping the customer demands in mind. It’s easy to think that the Baleno ticks all boxes, given that its range is wide enough to accommodate almost all types of buyers. At prices starting at Rs 5.38 lakh, ex-showroom Delhi, it certainly has the most important aspect covered. An improved build quality and a more engaging drive would have made it perfect.