SUVs seem to be new rally cry among car buyers in the Indian car market today. It is what everyone wants and all across the board, manufacturers are making efforts to bring an SUV styled vehicle into the lineup in the country. Thanks to such heavy demand, manufacturers have got the standard stuff like the B+ segment sedans and hatchbacks covered. But till date they have been unable to match the likes of the sporty stuff, which in this case is the Baleno. It is a car that has taken India by storm and is selling like hot cakes- 15,000 of them every month to be precise.
The version we are interested in is the Baleno RS. It’s the first car in India to debut the 1.0-litre Boosterjet that pumps out 110bhp of Indo-Japanese horses. This certainly makes it a hot hatch, at least, by Indian standards. Now there is a contender from the SUV tribe in the form of the Tata Nexon petrol XZ Plus. It packs a very similar punch, is also sub-four metres and roughly will cost you the same. But wait there is more, as it stands up on stilts and will go over most of the bad roads that the Baleno would struggle with.
In terms of features, both cars are quite evenly matched as they offer all the segment standard stuff like climate control, touchscreen infotainment system, fabric seats and TFT screen for the instrument cluster. However, the Nexon scores higher when it boils down to practicality as the boot is bigger and with a wider body, quite a bit more useable.
It is hard to compare this duo in terms of looks as it would be like comparing potato wedges to French fries- so closer and so similar, yet a world apart when you take them into consideration as a whole. At the core of things, they are the same and have the same elements in place, yet at first glance, they are different because of their inclination to be an SUV and sporty hatchback respectively.
It is in the engine bay where things get interesting. The Baleno RS is powered by Suzuki’s latest three-cylinder turbocharged Booster Jet petrol engine which produces 108bhp/150Nm and can be had only with a five-speed manual. The Nexon’s party piece is a 1.2-litre turbocharged Revotron engine that produces 108bhp/170Nm and is offered with a six-speed manual. It is so close, in fact, that they even have their power and torque kicking in at similar RPMs.
Petrol SUVs are not a big thing in India as yet but this fully loaded version of the Nexon puts up quite a fight to the Baleno RS both on the inside and outside. What’s more the Baleno RS is priced at Rs 8.38 lakhs while the Nexon XZ Plus petrol is priced at Rs 8.45 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi). You get all the benefits of the Baleno RS plus the SUV looks and the ground clearance. However, what Tata will have to work on now is being able to match Maruti Suzuki in terms of support as well as being able to peg cars on a higher brand note to match the former’s Nexa chain.