Maruti's Baleno checks in with style

Maruti's Baleno checks in with style

Maruti's Baleno checks in with style
The beautiful Baleno, Maruti Suzuki’s all-new premium hatchback launched on October 26, 2015, for domestic and global consumers, is the jewel in the crown for the company which is ready to take on premium hatchback cars — Hyundai Elite i20, Honda Jazz, and Volkswagen Polo.

A decade ago, Maruti had introduced the sedan Baleno with little success. But the car will nevertheless be remembered for its sportiness. Surprisingly, the company has retained the name Baleno for its new offering.

 It is an Italian word which means splash of light. The similarity ends there as the old Baleno was a sedan, while the new one is a premium hatchback.

The car comes with two engine options, both offering best-in-class fuel efficiency — the acclaimed DDiS 190 diesel engine (1.3 litre) with a fuel efficiency of 27.39 km/litre, and the proven VVT Petrol (1.2 litre) with a fuel efficiency of 21.4 km/litre. Baleno also comes with a CVT option (Continuously Variable Transmission) in the petrol variant.

The Baleno petrol variants are priced between Rs 5.17 lakh and Rs 7.23 lakh while the diesel trims are priced in the Rs 6.36 lakh to Rs 8.35 lakh range. The petrol automatic variant, featuring CVT, is priced at Rs 6.97 lakh (all prices ex-showroom Bengaluru).

Standout looks
Like Hyundai’s fluidic design philosophy, the Suzuki design philosophy is liquid flow inspired by the flow of water. The Baleno stands out with its looks. There’s no doubt that we are witnessing a stylishly designed car from the Maruti Suzuki stable after a long time.

The Baleno, which is 3,995 mm long and 1,745 mm wide, has the looks of a very large car. The Baleno boasts of many new features like V-shaped grille, projector headlamps with daytime running lamps (DRL), and rear combination lamps with LED (light emitting diode), even as the UV cut glass makes the  exterior styling nothing short of magnificent.

Interestingly, if you notice, the wing mirrors are mounted on the doors rather than on the pillar. The dual- tone coloured mirrors are stretchable enough to take a hit in chock-a-block traffic.

All-black elegance inside
The moment you step inside, the smart layout will take you by surprise. Honestly, we were expecting the beige interiors of a Ciaz. Maybe to give a sportier look, Maruti has gone for black interiors. The simple, yet perfect all-black interiors play an understated symphony.

The cabin provides enhanced legroom, headroom, and shoulder-room for all occupants. Thanks to the longest wheelbase (2,520 mm), you will find that your knees won’t hit the dashboard. Even the rear seat occupant will find enough knee-room space. One can also sit cross-legged. The seats are wide and comfortable, and so is the headrest. But we were surprised to see the company missing the rear AC vent.

Baleno comes with Apple CarPlay, an initiative in car entertainment systems from the global leader of smartphones. MSI will be the first OEM (original equipment manufacturer) in India to offer Apple CarPlay.

Other displayed features like open doors, average fuel economy, power and torque, average speed, and clock on the TFT (thin film transistor) instrument panel helps to track your driving.

The Baleno’s 339-litre capacity boot space is big enough to carry even your neighbour’s luggage, without having to flip the 60:40 split folding seats (on the Delta trim) forward.

Allure of noise-free engine
We got to drive a Delta CVT (A/T) fire-brick-red car. The Delta is the second variant after the base Sigma trim. The CVT is a feature only for petrol variants. Surprisingly, the company claims the same mileage for CVT and manual transmission models.

CVT comprises a hi-tech steel link belt between a set of tapered rollers, linking the engine speeds to the load on the wheels for jerk-free driving. Moreover, in CVT you don’t feel the gear shifts compared with AMT (automated manual transmission).

Maruti Suzuki is consciously beefing up two-pedal technology to its portfolio. In lower-end cars, it’s through Auto Gear Shift as customers are price sensitive. But for higher categories, there’s AT and CVT. The endeavor is to offer one of the three technologies (AGS, AT, CVT) in the offerings. The Baleno is built on a brand new Suzuki platform which is lighter (by 100 kg), stronger (by 10 per cent), and more rigid compared with the existing industry platforms.

The Baleno comes with Suzuki’s in-house petrol, 1.2-litre K12 engine, which churns out a notable 62 Kw (84 PS) @6,000 rpm and 115 Nm torque.

Switch on the engine and the Baleno comes to life. Caution! Even at low speeds, the CVT is incredibly responsive. With a slight nudge on the accelerator, the engine revs up. The noiseless engine will make you want to believe that you are cruising in the Batmobile.  The steering is easy to manoeuvre. The Parking-Neutral-Reverse and Drive switches have a smooth interface. The minimum turning radius of 4.9 m enables easy negotiation even in the most congested places. CVT is a boon as Bengaluru’s traffic woes is increasing day by day.

But if you are not used to automatic cars, you are bound to fumble for the clutch and the gear. But not for long; all you have to do is give your left foot a complete rest and manage the brake and the accelerator with the right foot. As you move along, there is one thing nagging the mind. Yes, every one’s faced those frightful moments in a traffic jam on an incline. There is no margin for error and even sliding the car back by an inch would invite angry honking from vehicles behind you.

In the Baleno, just press the brake, sit back, and relax. You do not even have to look for the hand brake. The car is in complete control of the incline, however steep. Baleno wins some more points here.
After the city drive, we hit the National Highway towards Hyderabad. One could feel the drive quality which is pretty good. No doubt, it brakes efficiently. We touched 160 kmph on the needle and didn’t feel the wobble. We loved it, and wanted to push the pedal more.

Safety at the core
Built on Suzuki’s Total Effective Control Technology (TECT), this premium hatchback offers an optimum package of safety and stability. Extensive use of High Tensile Steel makes the body stronger, safer, and lighter.

Dual airbags, seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, front disc brakes with ABS (anti-lock braking system) and EBD (electronic brakeforce distribution) are available on the Baleno from the base variant onwards. A driver seat belt reminder buzzer, with lamp and rear parking sensors and camera, are among the other safety features.

Maruti has plans to export the model to over 100 countries, including Japan. It will be manufactured at the company’s Manesar plant. Baleno will be competing with the likes of segment leader Hyundai i20, Honda Jazz, and Volkswagen Polo which are priced between Rs 5.34 lakh and Rs 8.63 lakh.

The premium compact segment comprises 20 per cent of the total domestic passenger car market. According to industry estimates, some 5–5.3 lakh compact segment cars are sold per annum in India. During April- September this fiscal, around 2.9 lakh compact hatchbacks were sold.

MSI and its supplier partners have invested Rs 1,060 crore in the development of Baleno. It is the second model after premium crossover S-Cross which would be sold through Nexa outlets in the country.
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