So friends, finally the much anticipated YRA Hatch of Suzuki now called as the all new Suzuki Baleno has been launched at the starting price of Rs. 4.99 Lac Ex-showroom, New Delhi. Baleno as you all may recall was the name of the premium sedan of the early 2000 offered by Maruti Suzuki. However, apart from the name, there is nothing similar between the earlier one and this new kid. On the face of it you’ll find a tad bit similarity of the front profile with that of the existing sibling the Maruti Suzuki Swift. The reason why I say so, the headlamp’s basic design is same as that of the Swift and does speak volumes about the evident Maruti Suzuki DNA in the new Baleno. Retailed through the “Premium” outlets of Maruti Suzuki i.e NEXA, the Suzuki Baleno comes in 2 Variants i.e 1.2 L Petrol and the 1.3 L DDIS Engine. The transmission offered are 5 Speed MT and CVT. There is no CVT option for the Diesel Variant. If compared to the existing range of the Maruti Suzuki then definitely, the car stands ahead of the regular Maruti Suzuki Hatchbacks like the Swift, Wagon R, Celerio et al.
In this segment today, specifically in the Indian market, there is a cut throat competition among the automotive brands. The buyers have a plethora of choices to choose from and with the entry of Baleno, the competition gets further intensified. The Baleno, as marketed by Suzuki is a premium offering after their earlier offering the S-Cross. If I for a moment compare the Baleno to the Swift, I would say, Maruti Suzuki has stretched to the limits with the Swift and now Suzuki as a brand has offered a refreshing new choice with the Baleno for those who have got bored with the same 10 year old design of Swift. To be honest, With Swift, Maruti Suzuki tried to compete the premium hatch segment in the Indian market but forgot to evolve itself down the line. Now with the Baleno in market, People shall surely have a rather tough time in choosing the best options. The Baleno in terms of looks does not fall short of impressing the people though I must add that looks are subjective and what matters is whether it can live up to its reputation or not. With flourishing competitors like Jazz, i20, Polo, Figo Hatch et al, will the Baleno pass the Agni Pariksha? Or will fizzle out just like a Soda Bottle? Let’s See!
I had the opportunity by god’s grace to see the Baleno ahead of it’s launch in India and when I saw, I must say, in flesh, it did not disappoint me if I see it as a package but certainly no one can make a perfect car right! Baleno had been showcased by Suzuki in international Auto-shows and what I got to see in flesh in comparison to the concept model, I would say it was simply well enough. The most striking feature which I felt of the new Baleno is the Headlamps with the DRL and Projectors. They provide it a menacing look but once you see the variants that do not have these projectors you have no choice but to believe that even here the DNA of Maruti exists as the non projector headlamps reduce the premium aura of this car a lot. Frankly, many of you may not like the front look without the projectors and DRL. A common man with nil knowledge of intricacies/details of Baleno can certainly ask the NEXA people “Without Projectors, the look seems quite similar to Swift?” “What sort of premium quality do you provide, If you are not providing projectors?”
Let’s see further what the Baleno has to offer! Will it satisfy me! Will it give me the required adrenaline rush! Or Will it die-out in the middle!
In the context of Baleno, I would like to Quote, “Necessity is the mother of invention”. It was indeed imperative for Suzuki to roll out a product which was atleast at-par with the existing competition. The product must appeal to the eyes of the buyers. Desperately with lot of research Suzuki developed this all new flowing design. At the first glance, it is really difficult for the old timers to accept this design. Those who are patrons of the straight line designs would probably not like the curvaceous and voluptuous look of the Baleno but lets give it to Suzuki for the fact that it is not that much of an eye-sore either. Earlier with S-Cross, If you all may recall, the headlamps resembled to SX4 and here the Headlamps resemble to Swift. If I talk of the design, as a person, I found it to be not too absurd. Suzuki has made an honest attempt by keeping the design worth considering. The panel gaps and the shoulder lines do not look out of the way. The car when driven on the road does have its distinctive presence at present but down the line as more and more people shall buy it, the design will become more common and honestly within 3-4 years, the person may get bored from the external looks. The concept of all new product to me means that there should not be any carry over from the existing line up. In terms of looks, If I speak of CITY and Jazz, they both do share similar platform but are highly different in looks. Going forward, If you may compare existing Jazz with old Jazz then, in terms of external looks both are very different except for the name. If for that matter, we compare, Zest and BOLT external design, they are similar so in my opinion, the companies should design a product for every segment which entirely different from the existing one. Baleno in terms of external looks for me reminds of tweaked Swift. This car I feel will not be successful in leaving a lasting impression on minds of the people. The new Baleno in Suzuki’s language is based on “Liquid Flow Design” which reminds of the popular “Fluidic Design”. The biggest thing which differentiates the front look of Baleno from the Swift is the V-shaped grill. As specific to variant it comes with the chrome stripe which continues to complement the accents inside the headlamps and this can be prominently seen in the variants which have projector lamps.
Moving ahead, the side profile of Baleno is just average or in enthusiastic terms too plain. In comparison to Jazz and i20, I did not feel that wow factor upon seeing it. It is a sort of design with which you’ll never have “Love at first sight”. The sloping roof line, the use of Chrome in door handles and the Blacked out pillars leave a lot of desire as these are the features which you’ll find in every other car. Premium feel can never be attained by these gimmicks. But as the age old practice by Maruti in Indian market specially, they very seldom give a well rounded product. By well rounded products I mean, it should be something about which you can’t stop thinking, it is something that you’ll always fanaticize about. Sadly, Baleno highly misses out on the attraction and if compared to the existing competitors like Jazz, i20 it does not fit well in the bracket in this area.
Finally, If I speak of the rear profile, it is very difficult to even imagine. For the sake of uniqueness, the Baleno shows a bulged out rear with a ever fascinating chrome stripe, which in Indian market at large plays an important role in providing the “premium feel”. The tail lamps are circular with a flat bottom and stick well with the rear quarter panels. However, the low roof line and the spoiler do not add much oomph to it either. Maruti must realize that by adding a spoiler not every car becomes sporty. All in all, I would say, today after seeing the car with the eyes of a writer/automotive enthusiast, It is always better not to judge a book by its cover.
After talking about the average looking external looks, lets see whether the interiors do feel “premium” or are they just one more among the thousands. Well, when for the 1st time I saw this Baleno, I felt that it is a big leap in terms of fit and finish from existing products of Maruti. However, If I judge this car on individual basis then I have to admit that even after lot of efforts Suzuki did not reach to the finesse of my benchmark i.e Hyundai. Both Maruti and Hyundai are among the major contributors in the Indian market and if I compare the finishing of the cabin of Baleno to an i20, there is notable difference. If Suzuki calls it a premium offering then Baleno should definitely feel the part which it does not sadly if we compare it to Hyundai. The all Black interiors do look classy but finishing could have been much better. The interiors might as well remind you of existing Maruti vehicles at many points but that is bound to happen as the parent company is same and Maruti while making of Baleno would provided the feedback to Suzuki with regards to the designing of the interiors. In fact, earlier I was excited for Baleno as it was a new offering but after seeing it regularly over couple of days, my opinion about its interiors has slightly changed. Simply because of the apparent part sharing, there is no really unique attribute in interiors which I can vouch of. The missing of the leather upholstery in the cabin has been complained about by many at NEXA and even I feel, an option for good quality leather interiors would have won many votes in favor of the Baleno. The Plastic’s fit and finish is still better than Maruti’s own hatchbacks but that premium feel would have been there if plastic quality would have been improved upon.
If I talk of the front and Rear seats, then the rear seats are comfortable but a tad low on the under thigh support. Of-course the comfort can’t be compare to that of a sedan but still a little more under thigh support would have been much better. The cushioning of the seats is nice and the passengers won’t feel stressed while seated at the back. Moving on the front seats, they are big, very comfortable and well finished. Another plus point is that the driver’s seat is height-adjustable that shall certainly enable the driver attain a good driving position. If I speak of the cabin’s ergonomics, right from the adjustable steering to the placement of power window buttons, everything is well placed and well within reach of the driver.
Finally, speaking of the space, legroom, headroom, storage space in the cabin, I would say, legroom is very good for rear passengers and along with that, with the front seat pushed back 2 knots, I was able to sit comfortably with adequate space left between my knee and the front seat. The space can be as much as 3 fingers in between the seat and your knee which multiplies the seating comfort. The headroom is bit low for tall people especially at the rear and about the storage, this car does not boast of many storage places like others in the segment. Moving on to another important aspect i.e the egress and ingress, I am 6ft + and for me the 170mm GC was not that big a problem to get in or out of the car. However, for the elderly if I talk, due to slightly sunken rear seats they might feel a bit of difficulty. Overall, the cabin is pretty spacious and better designed than the Maruti hatchbacks.
As stated in the title, I have driven both Petrol and the Diesel Variant of Baleno, So first I’ll speak about the Petrol Version. The Petrol Version is a1.2 L Petrol mated to a 5 Speed gearbox. The car with the 1.2 L Petrol engine does not feel sluggish. It is of-course of a K-series unit that has been accepted happily by the customers so far. With lighter weight than the swift, the Baleno’s performance and the power to weight ratio provide it better driving manners and it does feel slightly faster than the Swift. The engine is quite a peppy unit and revs up pretty nicely and quite easily. Attaining the speed of 70-80 km/h is not a big issue as with the 3rd gear it can attain that and without much distortion in the NVH it can climb to 3000 rpm in 2nd gear as I checked. Talking of the 5 Speed MT in Petrol, it is very smooth and precise. Also the petrol engine is so well tuned that rapid gear changes are not required. If I talk of the power build up and acceleration, in the 1.2 L Petrol does not disappoint at all in this respect. Also, in addition to the 5 Speed MT, Suzuki provides the Baleno 1.2 L (Petrol) with an option of the CVT as well. The NVH levels in the petrol engine are well modulated and the idle NVH is very nice and almost nil. As mentioned in the starting the 1.2 L Petrol unit shall give you an FE 21.4km/l.
Now coming to the DDIS 1.3L Engine, Baleno also gets the 1.3 L engine which you’ll also find in the Dzire and the Swift by Maruti. If I speak of the driving feel in the DDIS, then firstly the car drives slightly heavy than the petrol one. Also, the initial acceleration in the diesel is not as responsive as expected. What I feel is that, the diesel unit is in plain terms “under-powered” in light of the size of the car. As it is a premium offering by Suzuki, at least a 1.5 DDIS would have been justified here. Talking of the Power build up, you can feel the turbo kick at as low as 1800 rpm. Also, to check the range of gear shifts and the NVH, I took it upto 3500 rpm in 2nd gear and yes at that time you’ll have the feel that it’s a diesel one for sure. If I talk of the engine noise, as you also can see in the video, the sound is on the higher side in open as well as while driving. Since I said, the engine is carried from Swift, therefore, in comparison to a diesel Swift, I found the NVH level marginally low. The DDIS mill is again mated to a refined 5 Speed MT and has no CVT in there. The fuel efficiency as claimed by Suzuki for the diesel unit is 27.39 Km/l.
Ride and Suspension, If I speak of the ride then I must say that it is not anything extra ordinary. On a pot-holed road of Sector 62-63 Noida, though it did not scrape through due to 170mm GC but especially in petrol engine I felt the jerks were prominent on bad roads. And If I talk of the Diesel’s ride then I can say that the suspension setup is tad better than the petrol one.
Steering feedback, As I drove the petrol one, I could feel the agility and responsiveness in the power-steering as it felt really easy to maneuver and turn on sharp turns. At the initial speed the steering is pretty light but as I drove at 70 km/h the steering got much more responsive. You can’t say that the steering is dead at high speeds. The steering is not at all strenuous for the driver and completely makes the car stay in good control even at speeds beyond 70 km/h i.e 80-90. I never touch the triple speed mark so kept it within control. About the body roll, there is body roll but very well controlled and not to be really worried about.
Coming to the Braking, the brakes are very responsive and the car comes to halt really fast without any jerk. I actually had the first hand experience today of this in the petrol variant. All in all, for the driving manners, high speed stability, and Braking, this car can be viable contender in comparison to the segment’s competitors.
Instrument Cluster, MID and the Apple Car Play System.
Baleno is equipped one of the best entertainment system that is equipped with navigation and bluetooth connectivity. Talking of the MID, it shows 5 important info display i.e Time , Fuel Economy, Torque and Power, Door Open, and Average Speed. The Blue instrument cluster lighting further adds the sparkle!
Small video of the sound quality of Baleno's ICE Unit
Tyres: There are 2 options provided in the Baleno with respect to Tyre Size by Suzuki. 185/65/ R15 and 195/55/R16. The Test Car in Diesel had the Appolo Tyre. Though if you ask me, the alloy design looked purely lame and uninteresting. In my view, this is not complementing the "premium" tag of Baleno.
Internal and External Lighting
In the pics below you'll get to up-close the project lamp set up in headlight, the roof mounted stop lamp, the boot lamp, the tail lamps, ORVM indicator, and the fog lamp. In flesh, the projectors and DRLs do actually look very nice.
Safety Features in Baleno
* Anti Theft Security
* Suzuki TECT Body ( TECT= Total Effective Control Technology)
a) Front Chrome Stripe
b) Front corner AC Vent
c) Dashboard Ventilation Vent
d) Front and Rear Door Insulation
e) Auto AC Display
f) Gear Lever Console
g) Hood Opener
h) Plastic Blanks look odd in the panels.
i) Rear Tow Hook and Exhaust