The Baleno is Maruti’s answer to the premium hatchback segment. With the competition setting the benchmark high with their products, Maruti decided it’s time to bring in an all new car to take on that segment . We spent some time with the petrol avatar & tell you what it’s like.
The first impression of the car is in the way it looks. So let’s start off with that. The model we tested was the top-of-the line Alpha variant & hence came with all the bells & whistles. While this variant gets LED day time running lamps with bi-xenon headlamps, the lower variants miss out on them. Maruti has blended the chrome slat of the grill into the headlamps which is an interesting touch. This however is limited to the Alpha variant only.
It also gets auto headlamps whose sensors are very sensitive, something we liked. All variants of the Baleno get LED tail lamps as standard. The rear end gets a large chrome strip and a rear spoiler.
The car is certainly a smart looking one and Maruti is certainly heading in the right direction when it comes to styling.
In terms of convenience, the Alpha variant gets key-less go, which is a major boon. Both driver & passenger side gets the button that enables you to open the door. One touch only opens a single door which can get cumbersome at sometimes, however it is a nice safety feature to have if you are parked in a dark unlit area. One irritating thing though is that the doors don’t unlock when the ignition is turned off.
The interiors feel more premium than any other Maruti hatch, however it isn’t as good as the Elite i20. Maruti has adopted a black colour scheme for the interiors, which is something we aren’t a fan of. Yes, it will be easier to maintain, but there is something about a beige interior tone that gives a more premium feel.
Maruti hasn’t skimped on the equipment though. So you get the touch screen Car Play system that is equipped with navigation which is memory card based. Unlike the i20, the Baleno only gets the rear view camera on the Alpha variant. Parking sensors however are available on all variants except the base variant.
The instrument cluster has a blue colour theme & the Alpha variant gets a colour MFD which provides a lot of information. It also tells you exactly which door is open in a pictorial way, rather than the usual door-ajar lamp. At night, the blue colours really look nice. There is a puddle lamp located below the front door that is very useful when getting off the car in unlit areas.
While we are talking about the insides, let’s talk about the Baleno’s USP, SPACE. The Baleno has abundance of space, both at the front and the back & this is something that works for the Baleno. Be it the leg room, head room or the cubby holes in the car, the Baleno has enough of it.
The boot space is adequate, but the loading lip is narrow and high which can be a little inconvenient. The car features a large glass area that adds to the feeling of space in the cabin. In the crazy heat of Delhi, this is a downside though as the AC has to work over time to cool the cabin down.
Maruti provides dual airbags as well as ABS as standard on all variants of the Baleno which is a very good initiative. This makes the Baleno the first hatchback to do so. The car has also been crash tested by Euro NCAP and has scored a 3 star rating.
So we have gone on & on about the car. Let’s now tell you how it is to drive & live with. The Baleno is powered by the same 1.2 liter K12 unit that does duty on the Swift. Power is rated at 83 Bhp & 115 Nm. The fact that the Baleno is really light certainly makes the car feel very peppy. The engine is a very rev happy one. If you want to enjoy the car, keep the car the car above 3000 rpm & you shall get the best out of the engine. The engine, like every Maruti is also very fuel efficient.
We drove the car for more than 600 kms in city traffic and highway and we managed to get a combined figure of over 14.5 kmpl, which is very good for a petrol city car. The fact that the car weighs only 890 kgs certainly helps. The engine is mated to a 5-speed manual transmission which is slick & very easy to use. The clutch is also very light making it very easy to drive in traffic. The only thing we felt that can be improved is the NVH part.
The suspension has a slightly hard setup, to give the car a sporty character. The car still managed to be comfortable & soaks up the bumps well, at low speeds as well as high . On the handling front, the steering is light at low speeds and weighs up adequately at higher speeds. There is decent amount of grip but steering feedback isn’t great.
So if you’re an enthusiast, you will need to look else where. For others though, the car is very good choice. It does everything well & given how well priced it is, it is a good option for if you are looking for a practical family hatch.
Variant wise pricing (ex-showroom Delhi):
Sigma: Rs 5.15 lakhs , Delta: Rs 5.80 lakhs, Zeta: Rs 6.41 lakhs, Alpha: Rs 7.11 lakhs