It has been three months and over 3,000km since the Maruti Suzuki Baleno 1.2 joined our long term fleet. The Baleno, hitherto, has proved to be a sales star for Maruti crossing over 10,000 units a month in May. It commands a big waiting period too. And after spending quality time with the car, we can see why.
The good bits
The Baleno might not be the best looking car in its class, but it does have road presence, helped by its dimensions that are among the largest in this class of premium hatchbacks. But, it is inside that the Baleno really impresses. It is spacious, airy and everything one touches feels solid. It might cost just under Rs 8.5 lakh on the road in Mumbai but the way the car’s built and equipped, it more than justifies this tag.
What’s more, the Maruti Baleno is comfortable too. It has large and comfy seats, which offer good support. Short commutes or long drives; these have proven to be good to spend time in. The one’s at the front could do with slightly stiffer side bolstering to prevent one rolling off the seat under hard cornering, but it’s something one can live with.
The engine, gearbox and the performance are also something one can comfortably live with. The 83bp, 115Nm, 1.2-litre engine might seem run of the mill on paper. But, the way the Baleno is geared, and its lightweight, gives the hatchback good driveability and highway performance. It doesn’t feel light or floaty at speed either; something one might deduce given its lightweight.
But, light it is, and therefore, very efficient. In the time we have had the car, the Maruti Baleno has consistently returned over 15kmpl, then be it bumper-to-bumper city traffic or quick Mumbai to Pune dashes.
The not so good bits
Ride quality. That’s one thing Maruti hasn’t been able to get right on the Baleno. It’s always difficult to get the right suspension settings for a light car with a decently good payload. If you set it too soft for it to ride well with just one on board, the ride and the handling tends to go for a six with full quota of passengers on board.
Maruti has decided to take the safe option and it has setup the car for load. So, with one or two people on board, the Baleno’s ride is anything but pliant. It is noisy, it tends to crash over almost everything and as a result, things inside the Baleno’s cabin have begun rattling.
We also didn’t like the boot design. It’s wide and it can hold a lot of stuff, no question about that, but the high loading lip makes it a pain to load up large, heavy bags. Finally, the lack of rear AC vents – something its competition, the Hyundai Elite 20 gets – can make summer days for rear occupants quite painful. Especially, if you don’t have covered parking.
If you had around Rs 8.5 lakh to spare and therefore had to choose between the Hyundai Elite i20, the Honda Jazz or the Maruti Suzuki Baleno, should you settle for the latter? We think you could. It has the worst warranty on its class and it has an unsettled ride, but these apart, the Baleno is a great city car. Take space, driveability, features or even fuel economy, and the Maruti Baleno delivers in spades.
- Fuel efficiency
- Driving position
- Peace of mind
- Ride quality
- High loading lip
- Long waiting period
Photo Courtesy By - Kapil Angane