Maruti Suzuki is all set to launch the much-awaited Baleno RS in the first week of March, following which deliveries should commence soon. The Baleno RS has been spotted numerous times undergoing the last phase of testing without any camouflage. The car will be the first from Maruti Suzuki in the 100 + hp hatchback segment and also its most powerful one till date. Although, Maruti Suzuki has been on a roll with its recent products, Ignis being the latest ones, the road may not be that smooth after all for the Baleno RS. Here's all that the Baleno RS will offer and why it needs to undercut the key competition.
The Baleno RS will be powered by a three-cylinder Boosterjet engine, which will develop just over 100 hp. Internationally, the same engine develops 110 hp but the engine seems to have been detuned in order to cope up better with the inconsistent fuel quality in India. Initially, the car will only be offered with a five-speed manual transmission, which comes as a surprise to many but the move seems to make sense. Being a more performance-oriented car, neither the AMT gearbox nor the CVT unit from the Baleno will complement the car's character. However, the company might introduce the SHVS mild-hybrid system in the car later to increase efficiency. In order to reign in the higher power, the Baleno RS will feature an all-disc brake setup, unlike the regular Baleno, which has drums
From a styling perspective, the Baleno RS won't be too different from the regular Baleno but it'll sport different bumpers with sharper bodywork, a chrome mesh grille, blacked-out alloy wheels and the RS badging.
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Inside the cabin, the car will be almost similar to the Baleno's top variant Alpha as the RS is expected to be offered in Alpha variant only. The company, however, might launch an optional pack with some additional cosmetic accessories. Differences over the Baleno could include dual-tone upholstery on seats, RS branded door sill plates and steel pedals.
The Baleno RS is expected to be priced at about Rs 8 lakh, which would put it at par with the Volkswagen GT TSI, while it would undercut the Fiat Punto Abarth by about Rs 2 lakh. The Polo GT offers a 103 hp engine but in addition, it offers a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission and traction control. The Punto Abarth, on the other hand, comes with a 142 hp engine, making it the most powerful hatchback in the Rs 10 lakh range. However, the car's cabin doesn't exude the same quality levels found in the Polo or the Baleno. The brilliant motor is bogged down a bit by a transmission, which feels to be made of rubber and has really long throws.
The opportunity for the Baleno RS, hence doesn't lie in offering segment-leading features but getting the price to considerably undercut the Polo GT TSI. At a price similar to the Polo GT, customers will point out the lack of an automatic transmission and traction control. Undercutting the Polo GT TSI would not only take away potential Polo GT customers but would also encourage some Baleno Alpha buyers to go for the RS instead. Cannibalisation, some might point out but at the end of the day it's a little more money going into Maruti Suzuki's pocket and the company surely won't mind it.