Maruti Baleno RS driven: Powerful and hot!

Well, Maruti may not have heard our pleas for the Suzuki Swift Sport yet, but they have just given us the Baleno RS. The RS (Road Sport) variant of the Baleno was launched on 3rd March 2017. On the 4th, we were invited to Buddh International Circuit near Delhi to get a feel for the company’s first true hot hatch in India.

How’s it to drive?

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Let’s begin with the facts and figures. The Baleno RS is powered by an all-new 1.0 liter Boosterjet engine that produces 100 Bhp and 150 Nm, compared to the 83 BHP and 115 Nm of the regular petrol Baleno. That’s all thanks to the turbocharged 3-cylinder Boosterjet engine, mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox.

The main advantage that the RS has on its side is its lighter weight, which at 950 Kgs, is almost 200 Kgs lighter than the Polo GT TSi, its closest competitor. That translates to 106 bhp / tonne for the Baleno RS, compared to the GT TSi’s 95 BHP / tonne.

Though this is a sporty hatchback, being a Maruti, fuel economy is key. ARAI figures for the RS is 21.1 kmpl.

The first thing you notice when you start up the Baleno RS is that Maruti has improved NVH (Noise, Vibration and Harshness). Even though this is a three pot motor, it doesn’t sound as gruff as the other 3-cylinder engines on offer. Power delivery is very linear, and quite unlike a turbocharged one.

Yes, there is lag below the 1700 RPM mark. However once that is crossed, there is ample power on offer. There is no sudden turbo kick that you can feel. The engine is a revv happy unit but is limited to 6,000 rpm. Since we drove the car on the track, let us tell you about its performance.

On the back straight of the BIC where F1 cars cross 300 kmph, we got to see how fast the Baleno is. Here, we could hit a top speed of 170 kmph in fourth gear itself, thanks to its really tall gearing. However, we were not able to cross 170, which makes us believe that Maruti has limited the top speed to 170 kmph.

Even with RPMs restricted to 6,000 max, reaching a top speed of 170 kmph was impressive. The end of the back straight gave us the first taste of the four disc brakes. The car feels very confident while braking and that is great for a hot hatchback. We drove hard on the track and even after abusing the car for a good 45 minutes, there was next to no brake fade, which is commendable.

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The second part of the track is tight and twisty, which gave us the opportunity to test the handling of the car. Due to the additional 60 kgs over the standard petrol Baleno, the springs of the suspension have been stiffened. However ride height remains the same.

Through turns 5-6-7, which are tight left and right handers, you get to see how tail happy the car is. If you happen to go anywhere near the brakes mid corner, you will see the tail step out a tad, given how light it is at the back. Upsize the tyres a bit and put on a good set of rubber, and the handling characteristics of the car will surely improve.

The gearbox is very smooth, as you’d expect on a Maruti and is actually fun to use. The clutch is light as well.

Looks

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The Baleno RS does look different to the normal Baleno. It has a new front bumper which has looks aggressive and a new front splitter. The grill has been changed as well. The side profile has no change, save for the black finish on the alloy wheels and the side skirts. The alloys are the same 16″ ones that the normal car gets.

At the back, there is a new rear bumper which looks good. It certainly makes the car look a lot more sportier. While we would have liked a few new colour options, the RS gets the same 7 exterior colour options that the normal Baleno gets, with the red being their flagship colour for the product.

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Any change on the inside?

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No, there is no change on the inside. The only thing noticable were the RS door mats. Other than that, the vehicle continues to be similar to the normal car. It is based on the Alpha variant, which means it has the same touchscreen system with Apple Carplay, navigation, rear camera, rear parking sensors, electrically folding mirrors and a multi colour MFD screen. Maruti could have added a few more RS bits to the interiors to give it a sporty finish, however they have decided against doing so.

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Is it worth it?

The Baleno RS is priced at Rs 8.69 lakhs, ex-showroom Delhi, which is about Rs 50,000 cheaper than the Polo GT TSi. For that, it offers more space and practicality. The GT on the other hand has a DSG, which is a major boon in the city. Yes, Maruti has done a great job in providing a performance hatchback and though we would have preferred a stiffer suspension setup, most of its customers will enjoy how comfortable the car is in the city. The only thing that has us thinking is the pricing. If only Maruti had priced it Rs 50,000 less, this would have been a no-brainer.

More pictures 

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