Maruti Suzuki Baleno, which is likely to be priced at a starting Rs 5.50 lakh, means 'flash of light' in Italian, is Maruti’s first premium hatchback, and it looks the part - it also has a high localisation factor of 99%.
It’s either the nameplate or the body shape. There is something seriously good about Maruti Suzuki Baleno which is converting glances into stares wherever we take it.
The nameplate has been there for years; the body shape is new.
The competition is tough. But Maruti Suzuki appears to be better prepared this time round with the Baleno.
Based on Suzuki’s new design concept called Liquid Flow, the Baleno looks impressive from any angle. The design is suggestive of an energetic mass of liquid in motion. While the headlamps appear to have been inspired by those in the Swift, that’s where the similarity ends. The front gets this bold chrome strip running from one headlamp to another, artfully ‘cupping’ the grille having a big Suzuki logo. From the sides, the balanced proportions of the car give it a ground-hugging stance. The rear is unlike any Maruti vehicle—a forward-sloping hatch door and chrome garnish at the right places, along with LED combination lamps, add a lot of splendour to the profile.
The cabin is equally chic, and rich. As soon as you shut the doors, you also shut sunlight out—the Baleno gets UV Cut Glasses (a first-in-class feature) that reduce the ultra-violet rays entering the cabin by as much as 85%. What’s more, this unique tint adds to the exterior appeal too. Be rest assured, Maruti claims the tint is within permissible limits. The interior is all-black, graced with silver ornamentation. The plastic quality is as good as you find in another Maruti premium vehicle—the S-Cross—and matches the levels found in both Elite i20 and Jazz.
The cabin is quite spacious. While the headroom is not the best-in-class, there is ample shoulder-room and legroom. The seats are very comfortable and there are several cubbyholes and smart storage spaces. While the boot, at 339 litres, is spacious, the loading lip is a bit high compared to some other hatchbacks.
The dashboard gets a simple, clutter-free design. The driver gets a multi-information 4.2-inch colour TFT screen which displays data such as clock, average speed, power & torque figures, average fuel-efficiency, among others.
The Baleno comes with the company’s flagship SmartPlay infotainment system, which is a seven-inch touchscreen display hosting Apple CarPlay—a first-in-India feature. Apple CarPlay allows the driver to use her iPhone through the car’s display and voice-control system. Android users, fret not, the SmartPlay can be connected to other smartphones using MirrorLink.
There are two engine options—the 1.2-litre VVT petrol and the 1.3-litre DDiS diesel. These are the same engines that power the Swift and both get the same five-speed manual gearbox. So what’s new? The Baleno is the first Maruti car to get the Continuous Variable Transmission (CVT) fully automatic gearbox. The company-claimed fuel-efficiency for the petrol is 21.4 kmpl and for diesel it is a class-leading 27.39 kmpl.
Ride & handling
The Baleno has been built on Suzuki’s new generation platform, which, the company says, was developed by radically reviewing the basic structure of the underbody to achieve lighter weight and enhancing fundamental vehicle performance. The performance is similar to that of the Swift, which is a proven peppy car. The suspension works very well even on bad roads and, coupled with the wide stance of the car, ensures good stability at most speeds. The cabin, even in the diesel-engined car, is very silent.
Suzuki says the Baleno has been developed on the company’s Total Effective Control Technology—there are crumple zones that absorb energy in the event of an impact, while the body frame disperses the impact energy away from the cabin. It gets dual front airbags and ABS with EBD as standard across all trims. Other features are seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, driver seatbelt reminder, rear-parking sensors & camera and more.
During our day-long drive, the Baleno not only turned heads, it turned wheels too. A number of people driving on the opposite side of the road took an about-turn, followed us, raced us, stopped us, and inquired about the car. That says a lot about its prospects. We are sure the car will hugely increase footfalls at the Nexa showrooms—Maruti’s premium sales channel where it will be sold. Because it has high localisation levels of 99% to begin with, we expect the Maruti Suzuki Baleno to be priced from Rs 5.5 lakh onwards—close to base variants of Elite i20 and Jazz.
(Prices are ex-showroom, Delhi)