Why would I buy it?
- Loaded with features
- Peppy refined engine
Why would I avoid it?
- Cabin could be quieter
- Lack of a powerful engine option
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno was an extremely popular choice in the premium hatchback segment and with the new car, Maruti has addressed whatever was lacking. It’s loaded with features and safety equipment, gets a bunch of changes in the engine, suspension and on the chassis front and looks much better now too. Apart from the upgrades, its best qualities are retained as well. Yes, we would have liked a quieter cabin and the return of the Boosterjet engine option but then these aren’t really deal-breakers to what looks like a fantastic product from Maruti.
Engine and Performance
7 / 10
The new Baleno now gets the same K-Series, Dual Jet, Dual VVT engine that was in the Swift and the Dzire. Gearbox options include the five-speed manual that we are driving here and a five-speed AMT that has replaced the previous car’s CVT gearbox. Power figures now stand at almost 89bhp and 113Nm of torque. At 955kg for this top-end MT variant, the Baleno is still a light car and it shows. Acceleration is brisk and the engine does not mind being flogged and revs cleanly all the way up to 6000rpm.
Even in-gear acceleration is just as impressive and the Baleno even in a higher gear has enough tractability to not warrant a downshift. We can’t help thinking that with these changes, the new Baleno with that fantastic one-litre Boosterjet engine would have been a bunch of fun.
What also helps is the slick shifting five-speed manual gearbox. Shifts are precise and throws are short and it’s a joy going up and down the gears. The clutch lacks any kind of feel though and just bites at the last moment. We would have definitely appreciated a more linear clutch action. The new engine feels refined too.
Driven normally, it’s pretty silent and even when the revs rise, the Baleno sings out a sporty tune instead of a mechanical cacophony. The new Baleno now also gets bigger discs upfront and it shows in the braking. There is plenty of bite and the Baleno sheds speeds very well and quickly.
While we haven’t tested it, Maruti Suzuki claims a fuel efficiency figure of 22.35kmpl which is brilliant. But we will see how close the new Baleno gets to these figures when we test it.
Ride and Handling
7 / 10
The new Baleno gets a bunch of changes in this department and it’s impressive. Maruti has upped the torsional rigidity of the new Heartect platform to reduce any kind of flex. Then there is the suspension which is all-new and also gets a new rear torsion bar to improve ride. And finally, the steering gets changes too to offer better returnability. Now these are quite a few changes, but do they work?
Let’s start with the ride quality first. The changes to the suspension were to make the ride quality better which was on the harsher side in the old Baleno. The new Baleno however feels much better. The ride is still on the firm side but its way plusher as compared to before. We managed to drive the car on rough sections and even on some pretty aggressive rumble strips and the Baleno managed to smother them without any hassle. We’re pretty sure, the ride quality will be good in the harsh city conditions of Mumbai too, but we will reserve that comment for later. For now, the new Baleno is definitely much more pliant than before.
On the handling front, the changes to the steering means added artificial heft which does feel a lot better. No, it’s not exactly communicative, but it’s direct and makes the Baleno very chuckable.
The longer travel suspension does make it more roly-poly as you can see in the pic, but then that’s a small price to pay for a car that will see 99 per cent of its time commuting rather than carving corners.
Interior Space and Comfort
7 / 10
On the insides, the space remains identical to the older Baleno, but one can see that the dashboard has received plenty of changes to include the new nine-inch infotainment system. The dashboard has a nice blend of black, silver and something that we saw in the Kia Carens, blue. Quality of materials is nothing exceptional but not bad either. The plastics feel good and the buttons, despite missing that tactile German feel, work without issues. But we did notice some wind noise creeping into the cabin between 80-90kmph and some occasional rattle coming from the dashboard.
But a point to be noted was that the AGS variant we drove was devoid of this rattle. Getting on the driver’s seat, it feels cushy and comfortable but we realised when we were hitting those corners hard that it could do with some more lateral support. However, long hours of commuting should not be an issue at all.
Sitting on the back bench, legroom is in abundance, but we would have appreciated a longer seat squab for more under-thigh support. Other than that, the Baleno still offers reasonably comfortable seating for three adults.
Boot space too remains unchanged at 318 litres which is marginally more than what you get in the Hyundai i20, but it does get a pretty high loading lip which would mean lifting your suitcase higher to get it in.
Features and Equipment
7.5 / 10
According to Maruti Suzuki, features was something that was high on the list in the customer feedbacks that they received, so the Baleno gets them in plenty. The first-in-segment features include a new Heads-up Display which pops up right above the instrument console and offers information like speed, rpm, fuel economy and more. While this might be easier to glance at than the speedometer, we think it is more of a feel-good feature.
The other important and useful inclusion is the 360 view camera which really works well offering a 360 degree view of the car and will help in difficult parking situations. Additionally, front views can also be used for driving up to 10kmph.
A big screen with plenty of info was another of the requests. So the new Baleno now gets a massive nine-inch infotainment system with very good graphics and touch sensitivity. You also get a barrage of information on it. The new Baleno now also gets its musical chords tuned by Arkamys which should keep the audiophiles happy. The other list of features include, connected technology, Apple CarPlay and Android auto, Voice commands, cruise control, climate control, rear view camera and more.
What is missing though is a sun-roof which we think should have been included in the Baleno considering it is a much-needed feature in the customer list these days. What is also missing is a wireless charger and a center armrest for the rear bench.
On the safety front, the new Baleno gets the option of as many as six airbags, ABS with EBD and ESP with hill hold.
7.5 / 10
The new Maruti Suzuki Baleno is a job well done by Maruti Suzuki. They have listened to their customers and accordingly made plenty of important changes that have transformed the car. The new Baleno drives better, is more comfortable and gets a bunch of important features added.
What makes it an even better deal are the prices which start at Rs. 6.35 lakh and go up to Rs. 9.49 lakh for the top-end AGS variant. It ticks all the right boxes and now all it needs is a good NCAP rating to fully stamp its authority.
Pictures by Kapil Angane