The much awaited Maruti Baleno has been launched and it is the entry of Maruti in the premium hatch segment. Maruti might be late to the party but it has come more than well prepared with a product that ticks all the boxes. Available in four trim levels and seven variants the Baleno, in light of its competition offers more features and being cheaper means it offers more value. The Baleno comes with two engine options and two gearbox options.
More than the engines it is the new platform that should be in focus here as with this new platform the Baleno, despite being larger than the Swift is lighter plus its stronger and more rigid along with the fact that it is more efficient now. The petrol is a 1.2 which develops 83 bhp and 115Nm of torque. While standard is a 5-speed manual you can opt for a CVT which is only available in one trim level (Delta). The petrol is as you would expect i.e. eager for revs which combined with the lighter Baleno makes for a fun drive. The manual gearbox is also reasonably slick in operation as well. With a smooth power delivery and its eager nature the petrol manual, we think, is the most fun in the range. It is also quite efficient with both the CVT and the manual petrol returning 21.4 kmpl. Now onto the CVT and it is best for city use as it works very well here with excellent low-speed responses which make for a smooth, fuss free drive in the city. The key is that you to feed in the throttle gently as trying to rev it results with the engine sounding strained.
The diesel on the other hand is a 1.3 diesel with 74 bhp and 190Nm of torque with only a 5-speed manual. Now we expected Maruti to plonk the more power engine found in the Ciaz but do remember the lighter platform actually to an extent closes the gap. There is some lag but get over it and you will like the strong mid-range which has enough grunt. It is also more refined than the Swift. One of the big advantages of this engine has been its efficiency and here Maruti claims 27.39 kmpl! We also loved its superb high-speed stability and its good ride plus body control is quite good i.e. light and agile.
There is no doubt in the fact that the Baleno looks very good in a restrained way and here you have the familiar Suzuki design cues but wrapped in a new look body. With its liquid flow design theme the Baleno has smooth lines with nothing being over the top. We liked the front the best with its fantastic projector headlamps with LED DRLs plus that unique grille. The side and the rear give you an idea of the size of the Baleno and it does look bigger than its competition. Elsewhere the 16 inch alloys, the build quality all are the best we have seen yet from Maruti.
Inside, Maruti has bucked the trend and gone for black interiors throughout the range and it does look very good with a sporty look. The design is pleasing and quality is again the best yet on a Maruti hatch. The major highlight of the cabin is the 7 inch touchscreen infotainment system with features like navigation, Apple CarPlay (1st car in India to have this), display for the reversing camera etc. There is also a neat TFT multi-information display. Overall in terms of features Maruti has provided lots of it in the Baleno but it is the standard ABS with EBD and dual airbags which has impressed us the most. In terms of space despite the black interiors the cabin feels airy and legroom at the rear is terrific with good headroom also. The Baleno has a 339 litre boot capacity.
To be retailed exclusively via the NEXA showrooms, the Baleno, in isolation seems an impressive car but when you compare with some of its rivals, then you will find that it is cheaper, better equipped and more efficient. There are no major weaknesses here and it is an all-rounder. Yep, the small car specialist doing what it does best.