Cartrade Comparison Test
“Why on earth are we comparing a petrol hatchback with a diesel one”? That would have been everybody’s first thought, upon seeing this story on CarTrade. And they aren’t all that wrong to pose this question either. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS and the Ford Figo S, are both from two different segments. They come with different sets of features and have been priced accordingly. But what is common between the two is their ability to add a lot of fun and excitement to the overall driving experience.
These cars are the latest additions to the world of affordable hot hatchbacks. This segment is still in a nascent stage, but a growing number of millennials have shown interest in getting a car home that isn’t just practical, but also fun and exciting to drive. We spend some time with these hot hatches to tell you the one that makes the most sense and value for your money.
The Baleno RS has the same body shell and curves like the standard model. But there are a few smart additions that makes the Baleno RS look sporty and relevant to the segment. The main ones are the body kit which has the front lip, side and rear skirts – all painted in gloss black and the RS emblem at the back. There’s also the alloy wheels, which is from the standard Baleno but gets a black treatment too. The grille upfront gets a different design compared to the regular Baleno. All these changes does make the RS look meaner and sportier.
Ford has taken some more effort to make the Figo S stand out from the crowd. The gorgeous new honeycomb grille, black ORVMs, smoked headlamps and the black roof make the Figo S look stunning. Then there’s also the ‘S’ vinyl on the side that increases the overall appeal. But things doesn’t just stop there. The Figo S gets bigger 15-inch wheels which by the way, also comes in black.
Hop into the cabin of the Baleno RS and there’s nothing sporty or new about it. The interior is exactly like the one you see on the standard Baleno, which is quite disappointing. The only RS attribute about the inside is the RS branded floor-mats. Other than that, there’s the usual leather-wrapped steering wheel, 7-inch touch screen system that is GPS enabled and an instrument cluster that is easily the best in the class. The overall quality of the plastics is good (still not as good as Hyundai) and there’s enough storage space too.
Enter the Figo S and you will notice some mild enhancements to match the sporty badging. The leather-wrapped steering wheel now gets red stitching. This treatment is carried onto the seats and the gear lever cover as well. The dashboard which was home to a few silver bits has been replaced with all-black inserts. While these are all small additions, it does add a bit more charm to the overall experience. But the Figo scores some negative points in the features. There’s no reverse parking sensors or cameras, no touchscreen system and quite boring looking clocks. The quality and fit and finish on the inside is decent.
The Baleno RS is longer and wider than the Figo S. Due to this, the front and rear passengers will be more comfortable in the Baleno. However, it should be noted that the driver seat of the Baleno might make you uncomfortable due to poor lower-back support. There’s enough knee and headroom for the rear passengers on the Baleno but squeezing in a third average-sized passenger is bound to make the other two passengers uncomfortable. In the Figo S, the rear seat comfort is decent, but not for someone who is above 6ft in height. In terms of boot space, the Baleno is a clear winner here at 339 litres. However, the high loading lip tends to make loading and unloading a difficult process. The Figo S’ boot capacity stands at 257 litres which is fairly decent.
The Baleno RS gets its power from a 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbocharged motor. This mill produces 101bhp at 5500rpm and peak torque of 150Nm between 1700rpm and 4500rpm. This peppy little engine does the job of being in an RS badged car very well. At idle, the refinement level isn’t that of a four-cylinder 1.2-litre motor, but it does the job of keeping the noise low. This motor is quite eager at the start, and once it is in motion, the linear power delivery makes the Baleno a friendly car. There’s a nice punch from as low as 1600rpm. The sweet spot of this tiny mill is at 4000rpm, but you have the option of punching it all the way till 6200rpm before the limiter kicks in. The best aspect of this motor is its drivability. Stay on a higher gear and this motor will build up that power for you without any drama. To complement this performance, there’s the five-speed manual gearbox that is precise to shift and the credit also goes to the light clutch.
There’s no denying the fact that the 1.5-litre diesel motor on the Figo S is a gem. It offers 99bhp and a whopping 215Nm to play with and when you pair such a figure with a small hatchback, the result is bound to be startling. There’s minimal turbo lag, but once you get over it, this meaty engine will enthrall you every single time. There’s a nice power delivery as low as 1600rpm, post that there’s a small surge that you can enjoy till 4000rpm. This motor feels at home between 1700rpm and 3400rpm. After that, the engine tends to get little louder without much gain in torque. The short-throw five-speed gearbox is easy to use but isn’t as precise as the one on the Baleno RS.
The Baleno RS rides quite firm, especially on low speeds. Unlike the Figo S, the Baleno doesn’t offer the right kind of damping for broken or bad roads. However, at high speeds, the Baleno RS feels composed and doesn’t let you experience anything dramatic. With the Figo S, Ford has done much more than what you think. With shorter suspension springs and wider tyres, the ride has improved significantly. The low speed ride is respectable like the standard models. But at high speeds, Figo S feels superior and doesn’t throw any tantrums. The only time Figo S shows a bit of stiffness is when you hit a sharp pothole or speed breakers.
In terms of handling, both excel in their own spaces. The Baleno RS, because it is light, feels nimble around corners and can take sharp inputs. The steering feel isn’t the one you want for spirited driving, but nevertheless, its light feel is a boon for city conditions. The Figo S, thanks to the beefier anti-roll bar, has hardly any roll. This Ford feels very poised and planted around the corners and its shorter wheelbase and compact proportions makes it a joy to drive, in city as well as on the highway.
Like we mentioned in the introduction, both cars sit in two different segments, but have been launched with one just purpose – to offer the most amount of fun. But like it or not, practicality and affordability are also what we look out from a car. The Baleno RS is a nice looking premium hatchback with some pretty good set of features. Its 1.0-litre Boosterjet motor offers excellent performance. However, the winner here is the Ford Figo S, purely based on the overall aspects. Its 1.5-litre diesel is a cracker and will never disappoint anyone. Plus, it’s a diesel. So it is more fuel efficient and also lighter to the pocket. Then there’s also the ride quality which is way superior to the Baleno RS. The handling too, is comparatively better and because of the car’s compact dimension, it is easier to maneuver in the city. But most importantly, the Ford Figo S is Rs 1.58 lakh (ex-showroom Mumbai) cheaper than the Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS 1.0.
Author : Pratheek Kunder
Photos : Kapil Angane