Flashback: Baleno was first launched in the year 1999 and back then it was Maruti’s next offering for consumers in the slightly premium sedan segment. Derived on the grounds of European design this sedan did manage to create a sense of curiosity in the mind of a consumer but a steeper commanding price meant that many gave it a miss. One of its major highlight’s was the introduction of a 1.6 litre petrol power plant that was totally new to the segment. Therefore all these attributes meant that Maruti Suzuki Baleno was a potent mix for its time as it drove and handled well, its interior’s were also not bad but somehow the price point did not allow it to be accepted in the Indian market. Thus over the years, having received a very less response the company finally took this model off the shelf in the year 2007.
Now coming to the end of 2015, Maruti Suzuki has re-invented the name Baleno and this time around it is in the form of a premium hatch rather than the sedan itself. Ready to take on the likes of Hyundai Elite i20, Volkswagen Polo and Honda Jazz, Maruti Baleno brings forward company’s latest in design, engineering and technology.
Based on “Liquid Flow” design concept, the Baleno is very impressive in its looks. Its curvaceous shape demonstrates the work gone it to produce this model from scratch. The front end therefore portrays a bold design that comprises of V-shaped chrome highlighted grille, swept back projector headlamps with LED’S and a swooping bonnet equipping it to appeal the more one stares at it. Move to the side and a smooth upper bodyline instantly catches the attention while the lower half features a prominent crease that merges seamlessly into the wheel arches thereby making it look muscular. Rear again is curvaceous with a short overhang that blends in perfectly into the overall design. Features like elegant looking tail lights, roof spoiler and a chrome blade running right across the boot lid ensure its premium appeal.
Interiors Like the exterior, the interior of Maruti Suzuki Baleno too has a lot on offer. The most important thing to note out here is that with each given product, the quality of plastics seems to be improving. Apt for its premium appeal, this hatchback offers an all black interior with silver inserts which can be found around AC vents and the lower half of the center console. Its steering wheel is a familiar sight as seen on other models but below that the instrument cluster is worth taking a look at. Its high-definition LCD display is attractive to the eyes as it projects essential information such as the G-force that its occupants would be subjected to, accelerator / brake functions, the engine output and torque being delivered at the time of use.
Move away and the center console will instantly grab your attention. We liked its fairly plain layout and the 7-inch infotainment touch screen that is similar to the one found in the Maruti Suzuki Ciaz. What is best out here is the availability of Apple Car Play being offered as a standard feature in the Baleno. Therefore those who possess an i-phone like me would surely like this feature as the 7-inch screen doubles up as its keypad and allows one to access important functions like the contact list, maps, dialling and receiving calls among others. Below it the air-conditioners instrument cluster looks nice and the silver finished buttons are fairly nice to use.
Discussing dimensions off the Baleno, measuring 3995 mm in length, 1745 mm in width, 1460 mm in height ensure a roomy interior. This is further supported by 2520mm wheelbase that provides for a spacious cabin. In fact when we asked one of our colleague (having a height of six-feet) to sit in the front, we were still with decent amount of leg room towards to the rear. The seats per say offer good amount of cushioning, up front the experience is better than the rear that falls short on the under thigh support.
As for luggage, Maruti Suzuki Baleno offers 339 litres of boot space which is more than its immediate rival the Hyundai i20 that caters to 285 litres. Given that there is a bit of a concern especially for those who are short in height that the loading bay is a bit on the higher side and the deep compartment ensures that one is in for some exercise while loading or un-loading the vehicle.
Engine and performance
Maruti Baleno is offered in both petrol and diesel variants. Out of these, we got to sample the diesel and must say that the power plant feel convincing similar to its exterior looks and interior design. To throw some light, Baleno diesel features a 1.3 litre unit producing 70 bhp of power output with 190 Nm torque. Turn over the key and first thing to notice out here is that the engine noise is restricted to minimal thanks to the engineers at Maruti who seemed to have done their home-work well. Once on the move, this engine feels responsive and is pretty nice to drive. One will experience a bit of turbo lag especially in city traffic resulting in frequent gear changes while on the highways it is good for cruising. However beyond that if you are looking to extract more out of this engine then the revs need to be high in the range of 2,500 – 3,000 rpm. Its five speed manual gearbox works well contributing towards perfect shifts. Meanwhile the petrol on the other hand caters to an 1197cc unit producing 83 bhp with 115 Nm of torque.
The biggest surprise in Maruti Baleno is its handling characteristics. In fact unlike other models under the same brand, this one is very precise. Point it in one direction and it will do exactly what you want it to. Throw it at a corner or a turn and this one will not all disappoint and nor will it cause a concern of discomfort. Talking about ride quality, like handling this premium hatch does well to soak in all the potholes and broad road surfaces with utter ease. As for safety, all variants of Baleno offer features like dual air bags, ABS and EBD.
Re-introduction of the name Baleno is definitely a mark of improvement on the part of Maruti Suzuki India. Exterior design and interior comfort definitely makes it more than competent against the likes of Hyundai Elite i20 and Volkswagen Polo to name a few. Engine and performance does make a likable impact in the mind which is backed by brilliant ride and handling characteristics. In our view, the Maruti Baleno is worth considering while seeking a worthwhile premium hatchback.