Ever since Maruti Suzuki showcased the Baleno RS at the Auto Expo in 2016, there has been a lot of anticipation about the car. There's a good reason for this since the RS isn't a cosmetically spruced up variant of the regular Baleno. Instead, it is powered by an all-new 1 litre three-cylinder turbocharged Boosterjet engine. However, for a brand that's known for fuel-efficient and budget cars, can the Baleno RS turn out to be the ideal car for an enthusiast? We found out at the Buddh International Circuit.
Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS Performance
The main reason for buying the Baleno RS is its new 1 litre three-cylinder Boosterjet engine, which develops 99 hp and 150 Nm of torque. On the track, we spent most of the time caning the motor and the engine absolutely loves to be revved. There is enough action till about 6,000 rpm, after which the rev limiter kicks in.
There is hardly any lag from the engine even at slow speeds and going quickly is quite rewarding. Acceleration is brisk and the power delivery is linear. We managed to accelerate from a standstill to 100 km/h in 10.26 seconds. On the back straight, our top speed was a speedo indicated 183 kmph, which is an impressive number for a hatchback. As of now, the company is only offering a five-speed manual transmission in the Baleno RS. While, purists will love the manual gearbox, there are customers who would've liked the option of an automatic as well.
The gearbox itself works well and the shifts are precise and the throws are short. The clutch too is light so driving this car in traffic too should be effortless.
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With the pace of the car going up, Maruti Suzuki has rightfully upgraded the brakes too. The Baleno RS gets an all-disc setup instead of the front disc and rear drum setup on the regular Baleno. While braking from 180 kmph too the car was stable and brake fade too was minimal The suspension too has been stiffened up a bit and as a result of this, body-roll was controlled in the car during high-speed cornering on the track. With updated steering gear ratios, the steering too feels quicker and the feedback from the unit is praiseworthy.
A quick look at the Baleno RS makes it tough to spot any key differences but a closer look reveals the new bumpers at front and rear along with skirtings all around. The alloy wheels are the same as found in the standard Baleno but in the RS they're painted in black. The rear bumper too features a blackened out area that looks particularly well with contrasting colours.
Overall, the Baleno RS looks sportier than the regular version without being too loud. While one might say Maruti has played it safe, I think this approach is better since cars with a loud exterior have always been received with mixed reactions from Indian consumers.
This is the only part where Baleno RS customers might feel a bit disappointed since the Baleno RS has the same interiors as the regular Baleno. While we hadn't expected any major changes, things such as steel pedals and RS badging in the cabin along with a flat-bottomed steering wheel would've made things more livelier.
That said, the Baleno RS is only available in Alpha variant so it comes loaded with all features one would expect from a car of this price-segment.
The Baleno RS is priced at Rs 8.69 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, which is a competitive price tag for the car, considering the experience it offers. While the interior of the Baleno RS is unchanged and the exterior is mildly updated, the driving experience is totally different from the regular Baleno.
It's got a peppy engine, sure-footed handling and brakes and the little 1 litre motor sound surprisingly good too once beyond 4,000 rpm! So if you're in the market for a fast hatchback without compromising on practicality and do not mind a manual transmission, the Baleno RS is the best pick right now.
Within the same segment, one could also consider the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI, which sells for about Rs 40,000 more. For the extra money you get a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission and traction control too. However, the Baleno RS has a more advanced infotainment screen and space. So whatever your prerogative is, the Baleno RS offers impressive value-for-money and is fun to drive.