After focussing on the mainstream budget segments of the Indian market, Maruti Suzuki has made an attempt to get into the niches. And it is not the first time, the first Baleno was much ahead of its time and so was the Kizashi. But it seems that this endeavour might be a success given the popularity of the Baleno. With the 1.0-litre BoosterJet engine, Maruti has entered the performance hatch segment that is ruled by the Polo GT as of now. We also have the Abarth Punto showing what a real hot hatch should be like. And then there is the underdog, the Ford Figo with an 115bhp 1.5-litre petrol motor and a dual-clutch gearbox. So here is how the Baleno fares against its competition.
The Polo GT TSI rekindled the performance hatch fire in the hearts of car enthusiasts that had almost died after the demise of the Fiat Palio GTX. With its dual clutch automatic gearbox, a peppy turbocharged petrol engine (one of the first ones amongst small cars) and the classy German dynamics, it still holds sway. But for the pure enthusiast, a manual is more fun to drive even if it not might be faster than the DSG. And then Baleno RS is lighter than the Polo and delivers 110bhp of power, six more than the 104bhp of the VW. A tough choice to make isn’t it?
This Fiat Punto comes with an Abarth badge which means it come to you all-buffed up. The Abarth Punto is fired by a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine developing 145bhp of power. The power figures along with the stiff-suspension make it a hot hatch like none other. The Baleno RS is rather ponied by the Abarth until you factor in the practicality. The Baleno RS can be your everyday hot hatch that you could get serviced anywhere in the country unlike the Abarth, for which you will have to make sure you have a tow-truck on speed dial.
Well, Ford might not have badged this little car differently like the competition has done, but this 1.5-litre petrol engine Figo hatch is no less a performance hatch. It displaces the most amongst the four (1500cc) and is the only naturally aspirated mill, the linearity of which could hardly be matched by any forced induction motor. The dual clutch gearbox is a bit groggy but the handling of the blue oval compensates for everything. The Baleno RS though, is a bigger car and has the Maruti advantage to it.