'The Pussy Cat' - My Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS


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To start with, this is a small ownership review of my Red Baleno RS whom I call ‘The Pussy Cat’. I know that’s a pretty lame name, but doesn’t matter to be honest.
Early 2017, I was in the market for a car, which should be fun to drive, and should have decent space inside, because I would use the car primarily for my home runs to Calicut, Kerala from my workplace in Bangalore. As I would use it only for weekends and long drives (Full Hibernate mode from Monday to Friday), I wasn’t at all looking for a Diesel, only a petrol. I was sure I would have to put the car on loan, at least half the amount of the car! I decided to sell of my 3 year old Kawasaki Ninja 300 and fund it for the car. Mind you, I am not a car guy, was still a biker boy and used to travel long distances only on motorcycles. But getting married changed my fortune by a bit. While wife was comfortable riding along, Parents and Family weren’t. After long discussion regarding the same, I agreed that getting a car would be better as a responsible family man, and to make it worse, I couldn’t afford a car without selling the bike as well. So sold it to a close friend of friend (so that I can ride it when I wanted) and began search for a car.

Plan was to test drive my list of cars from Bangalore, buy the car in Kerala as low tax amount meant I save almost 80k INR if I buy from Kerala. The Cars were shortlisted for test drive.

1. VW Polo GT
2. Honda Jazz
3. Abarth Punto
4. The Baleno RS

1. VW Polo GT
March first week, the first one I drove in the list was the Polo GT. I have been driving a Chevy Beat (Family Home car) for last 7 years and a legendary Maruti 800 1998 model before that. Went straight to VW Whitefield and was satisfied with their response. There was two 2017 Beetles welcoming me at the entrance. I was overwhelmed by the sales girl as well. She explained me everything about the car and details including the financial details. Though I wasn’t very keen on an automatic, a simple test drive cleared my mind. Boy oh Boy the DSG gearbox does magic. It shifts faster than any human being could possible shift on a manual. Things I noticed in test drive car was there was a shake of gear box area observed while shifting to 3rd and to 4th. Hardly matters as I have been driving an every vibey Beat Diesel. Took all details and got surprised that they had 2016 models in March 17 and was offering insurance and some discount if I chose a 2016 model. The price still was a little over 11L and that is in Compact SUV territory. I was sure I wanted a hatchback and not a wannabe SUV. Left VW with a grin on my face and talked with the sales person and made them understand that I would be taking the car from Kerala only since the tax benefits and sales person even though may not be laughing inside, seemed OK with that.

The only negative they had was their service center. I was very much aware of their horror stories. VAG is very well known for absolute nightmare of services to customer once the car needs a service, and I would rate VW India second from last, marginally losing to Skoda India on the last position. The only good response I got of a VW service is from a couple of friends who owns a Polo and a Vento, probably they are too much in like of the car, more than the service. Exceptional cars, pathetic service. Still I loved the car for the way it behaved. The rear seat leg room wasn’t great either. The transmission tunnel was way too high as well which caught my eye. But hey, I would be driving and the rear occupants would adjust, at least my mind was saying this!

Things began to take a different route when I visited VW Calicut. I went there to book the car on a fine Saturday morning. The 2017 model is what I get (no info of the same in VW India website), the showroom people said it came with 16 inch alloys and a new spoiler. I was happy. Almost at the time of booking, asked the showroom guy about the On-road price. The guy quoted me around 30k more than what they said me a week ago through phone. The difference? The 2017 model came with as Sport Kit. It included roof sticker (black), side stickers on all 4 doors, some seat cover costing 15k and some other nit bits. I said why I would take a sports kit when I don’t want it. God I cannot imagine getting stickers on the doors, no matter how well they looked. Made it clear to them I do not want that and they said it’s a compulsory accessory. Really? Seat cover and roof stickers are compulsory? I noticed a change in their tone as well after this. They said they were selling around 1000 Polo GT’s per month from the very same showroom alone (Polo sells less that 2k units all over India combined, per month). I don’t know what the reason for their comments were, and then they were clueless about delivery. They had pending orders of 30 VW Polo GT’s as per the guy I talked to, and mine would come in 2-5 months. Really? [frustration]

Bangalore showroom said they would deliver me the next day. I wasn’t taking any of these. Talk about customer satisfaction. I knew if sales can give me headaches like these, what would the service give? It was a sad reality that I had to leave VW Calicut Showroom without booking the GT. I don’t want a rats a$$ for what I am paying for and the customer service was pathetic. Extremely pathetic. I did not mind to send a mail to VW for the disappointment caused by the dealer, as there were enough substitute cars available in the market. Polo GT went down the drain, the very same day.

2. Honda Jazz
Next, I was at Honda Whitefield. I and my friend waited there for around 10 minutes and finally a lady turns up. I wanted details of Jazz, and a test drive. I had driven the old Jazz plenty, but this is different, at least in looks. She made us wait another 10 minutes to arrange the test drive vehicle, only to inform later that it was not available. There was no Jazz in display as well for me to just take a look at the interiors. One was ready for delivery and I wanted to take a look at the interior, just a look by opening any door. The lady said that’s not possible since it was a car ready to get delivered. I don’t know what will happen if I open the door of the same and take a look inside. She promised me a call back and they would come to my home for test drive and took my number. Ok fine, let them call I thought. A call never came and there went the Jazz dream. Really Bad from Honda. That engine was a gem, way too silent, but was very lazy as well. The same reason I let go of the Elite i20 was that I needed a little more mid-range. Hopefully this Jazz also did not have the performance I wanted and there goes the Jazz out of the list.

3. Abarth Punto
Here comes something that can be called as a hot hatch, looking at what’s written on paper. I had driven this car way before, hence did not go for a test drive. This is one of the cars which pulls you down to the seat if you floor the pedal. But I was afraid of FIAT. They could pack their bags and go home tomorrow (I am suffering now with the Beat since Chevy packed their bags and left India). And the mediocre interiors, coupled with age old looks and ever changing Fiat dealerships made me tick this off from my list. I am a sucker for the engine and performance, but I needed a total package. So there goes the Abarth Punto.

4. Baleno RS
Now, why the Baleno? I was one of the guys who looked ahead of Maruti’s in India, because majority blamed the different quality of cars that Maruti Suzuki served in India and Suzuki served abroad. For example the Swift. I had to agree that the bumpers, doors etc of Swifts sold abroad are much better in quality and strength compared to the ones sold in India. Source? Myself. I have felt the difference personally on my couple of trips abroad. I was not very sure if this is for all their cars, then I thought I would investigate further. Called a cousin in Italy, where made in India Balenos are sold and asked him to check out the car and give me a feedback. He assured me that it’s the same as we get here(he had seen the Baleno 1.2 from India in 2015 at launch time), but has a lower ground clearance, side and curtain airbags, a cruise control and certain other features which were absent in Indian version. Rest assured, the build quality was the same which was based on the new HEARTEC platform. [clap]

Now with Baleno in mind, need to fix which model. The legendary 1.2 NA Alpha, or the 1.0L Boosterjet powered Baleno RS. Went to Popular Nexa, Calicut for details. Talk about services. The SA’s Ragesh and Gokul were superb. They knew everything about the car. I went there asking for the Baleno RS, with a request to test drive the 1.2 NA as well. Test drove both, I liked both. They let me drive both as much as I wanted. 1.2 could do with a little better low end grudge, but that’s an engine made for India. Refined, reliable and easy to maintain. RS has a different personality. More power, yes more power. I remembered why I skipped the Polo MPI, Jazz, i20 etc and I cannot really leave the RS after leaving the GT and Punto Abarth and I was running out of options. Spacious interiors, could see the grin on mom’s face who sat in the back. Superb boot space as well. I was happy, they were happy. The RS has tremendous mid-range which I could use on my drives, which includes 80% highway runs. Refined for a 3-cylinder, but less refined compared to the 1.2NA. But hey, that’s how 3 cylinders behave. 101 horses and 150nm of Torque. Light weight aiding a superb power to weight ratio. The urge of the turbo once it cross 1.7k rpm mark, and not to forget the manual gearbox and rear disc brakes. Tremendous bite and feedback on offer, there I have it. That’s my car. Booked it paying 11k INR, with a waiting period of 3 months. Got delivery in 2months itself, when the MSIL Gujarat plant started operations and was happy.

Got her home and have since run 8000 kms till date. 2000 more and the third and last free service. I would write down my first two service experiences later. Hope this review is helpful to someone. Moreover I am a little inclined towards the Japanese automakers for their Reliability. Had owned a Yamaha, Honda, Kawasaki and now a Suzuki. None of them have given me any concerns about reliability till date. May miss the fun quotients as compared to Germans and Italians, but that’s my personal preference. And about the engine, this is not an alto K10 engine fitted with a Turbo. It’s a completely different engine with completely different internal parts and won’t match each other in case of a short supply of parts. And an FYI, the Baleno RS’s 1.0L Boosterjet engine is fully imported from Suzuki's Sagara Plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan. You get a made in Japan engine, but there is a catch. Do not expect the engine parts price to be anywhere close to the 1.2NA, which is made in India. I would post more details regarding the same later. Rest assured, the car is superb, and the only thing I miss in this car is the Cruise Control.
 

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Thread Starter #4
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Congrats on the RS
If its an RS it has to be RED the look brilliant in this particular shade
Is the front grill painted or wrapped?
Thank You Vishak. The RED RS stands out for me as well. The front grill is painted black. I wasn't liking the chrome lining much, and the grey grill looked like chrome in pictures taken due to high reflection, hence changed it to black recently.

Congratulations for the car....
wish you many happy trouble free miles with it,
the car looks beautiful..
Thank You Jayesh [:)]

Service Update:
1st free Service: Day 5 after delivery. Kilometers on Odo : 1700
Yes, I had done 700 kms more than the prescribed kms for first service(1st service comes at 1000kms, or 30 days from the date of purchase). I had taken the car from to Trivandrum, Kerala and straight to Bangalore, KA and then back to Calicut in a span of 5 days, covering a little more than 1700 kms. I had called the Service manager at Popular Motors Calicut to see if I should service it at 1k kms from some other service centers in KA or TN because I was sure I wont reach on time at the home ASC anywhere near 1k kms. Service Manager Arun was really helpful and he asked me to bring it under less than 2k kms for first service and promised meiit wont void warranty. With his assurance , I was learning the car. I did not take her more than ~4k rpm in run-in period and she returned me superb mileage as well. The not so good roads from Calicut to Trivandrum gave me a mileage of 22km/L and the full 700kms highway run from Trivandrum to Bangalore gave me a mileage around 23kmpl(Calculated on meter reading, and no burst of high speed runs here apart from 1 or 2 as I was vary of the run-in). The best way to keep her is at 110kph ,which will be just under 3k rpm and meter shows mileage around 25kpl, which I believe is stunning. I did a mileage research myself and found that MID mileage display is off by around 1kpl, which still is really good, no complaints there.
The first service was nothing special to talk about, as they would do minimal things there like fluid level checks, and they did 3M coating at a price of INR3500. It was a shoddy and pathetic job and I gave them my peace of mind. They came with excuses and they said they would do it again, but as I would return to Bangalore the next day after service, I did not have any option other than to let it go. But then the 3rd day the service adviser called me and told they would refund me the money for 3M coat. Yes, they transferred a full INR3500 to my account in 2 days time. I was happy [:)]
First Free Service Cost : INR 0.00.

2nd Free Service : One month gone, 5000 kms done.
Again the same place, Popular Maruti Suzuki Service Center, Calicut. This was on a Sunday, yes a bit surprised to see service centers are open on Sundays. I drove 400kms from Bangalore to Calicut in rain and went for service the very next day, hence did not wash the car. Getting there, the SA told me that their water jet was not working and washing would be impossible. Bad, really bad for a place where 100's of car comes a day and that too in rainy season. Ok fine, nothing can be done and asked them to carry out the rest of the works. I remained there for the full service(was done in 3 hours). SA was happy to let me see the works done as well . SA's name is Arun and he is good, though could improve on his knowledge of the 1.0L engine. Oil topped up, coolent level, brake fluid all checked, wheel aligned and balanced, I was ready to go. INR 450 was charged for Wheel balancing and alignment. I found the rate OK compared to Honda and Chevrolet , and on par with some local shops.
2nd service Total cost : INR 450. They did not charge for Oil top up, and gave 6 packs of windshield washer for free.

I had decided to go for waxing or some paint protection and started my investigation on the best ones. Time did not permit me to do it till now, but now I freed up some space and Narrowed down to two options. Ultimate Detailerz and Ceramic Pro. And further into discussion with real time users of the products, I zeroed in on Ceramic Pro after @vishnu vichu had stunning experience with it. Called up Rajaji Nagar Ceramic Pro showroom, Mr.Abhishek, the owner was more than happy to send across all the details. I am not a fan of glossy dashboards and interiors and needed a 2 layer whole body Ceramic Pro coat. They had some 4-5 plans and all included interior detailing as well. Mr. Abhishek was more than happy to give me a custom package, at a reasonable amount(2 layer ceramic pro, for full exterior). The whole process takes around 3 days to complete, and need to go back there for a complimentary was after 7 days and shouldn't take the car out in muddy and rainy conditions, all these 7 days. I let the owner know that my area was having heavy rainfalls around that time, and he was happy to keep the car under his roof all these 7 days, and I collected it after the complimentary wash.
The end result ? Stunning. Shines well. But that wasn't my reason to get in coated, it was that this Red is bound to fade off(read:get dull) in the years to come and this coat can help keep the stock paint intact. There are some washing care and techniques to be taken care from now on for the maximum life of the coat , and need a PH neutral shampoo as well. Got a couple of micro fiber towels from them, and also a class on washing techniques. Also I noticed that washing became way too easy. All you need is a micro fiber cloth and some water(with shampoo). Even tar marks which are thrown from the tires just takes a wipe to get removed. I had done 3M under-body treatment at delivery time and had multiple spots on the car due to the shoddy 3M job and each and every such dots were removed after the Ceramic coat. Also, there was zero swirl marks visible. Talk about Customer satisfaction.
All the pics attached in this post are after the Ceramic Pro Treatment

3000 kms later after 2nd Free service, now the car stands at 8k kms, and I am not really getting time to drive around too much after the past Kodaikanal drive.
I had asked the service center to arrange Fully Synthetic oil for my 3rd Free service(10k kms or One year) and they already have arranged the same(This particular ASC(Popular, Calicut) uses only Mineral oil in all their cars, no FS oil available until the owner makes a call and requests it). Also the Oil filter of the Boosterjet engine is different from the rest of the Maruti Suzuki Lineup. And as usual they did not have it in stock. With the number of RS's sold through that dealership, I again found that its pretty bad that the service center did not order any oil filters for the RS yet. I had send a mail to Maruti Suzuki for the same, and they have my oil filter on the way. Thank God I asked them 2000 kms early, or I would have got a service which wouldn't have included an oil Filter change. If these parts shortage continues, I will shift my service center to the newly opening dedicated Nexa Service in Electronic City, Bangalore. But so far, so good from the ASC in Calicut, they had called me couple of times to know my needs(FS oil) and have ordered the same. I would be staying with the car throughout the 3rd service for sure.
I also noted that during the second free service, the mechanic topped up engine oil without using the funnel and there were oil spills all around the oil filler cap. I first suspected that it was an oil leak from head gasket, then speaking with experts like @vishnu vichu and @deville_56, came to the conclusion that it wasn't oil leak, rather shoddy oil top up job by the mech. Cleaned the area of spill around 500 kms back and is all good now. Will tell the SA in the next service, so they never does it again.
Concerning Mileage, I noted that going easy on the pedal gives me around ~22-23kpl on highways and ~14-15kpl in bumper to bumper Bangalore traffic. Floor the pedal, I get ~17-18 on highways and ~12-13 in B2B traffic. Thats pretty decent for me and just what I expected.

Now the negatives.
1- Interior plastic quality. Though the dashboard is decent, I do not find the interior door panels to be as good as Polo GT for example. Do not get me wrong here, it still is great, but there is room for improvement.
2- The mats- Bought from Nexa, the driver side mat doesn't have a lock to make it stay in place. It moves around ever so slightly, that after around 200kms of drive, the clutch pedal gets stuck under the mat once you press the clutch pedal. You need to pull the mat behind manually. The mat doesn't reach anywhere near the accelerator or brake pedal(Thank God!), but only clutch. I found that a DIY can make it stay in place, yet to get time for it. Will update after doing the same.
3- Driver Arm rest- Arm rest could be of little use here. My driving position does allow me to use the arm rest(I drive with the seat a little back than usual), but for normal persons with normal driving positions(especially ladies or those who sits closer to the steering) will find the arm rest unusable. A bit longer one would help here.
4- Doesnt have vanity mirror lamps like 1.2NA Alpha or 1.3 DDIS Alpha. Cost Cutting ?
5- Still no update for Android Auto. The post October 2017 manufacture Balenos (Alpha and RS) gets the Android Auto, but what about the previous customers ? Common MSIL, its just a software update. ASC is clueless about the same. Also noted that there are many links online to update the infotainment with AA. But note that this doesn't work on 2017 models, nor RS.

I believe all the above negatives can be ignored to an extent. All cars comes with something missing, which the customer wants. Never mind is the solution, but I still miss the Cruise Control.
Next update : After the third and last Free service at 10k kms.
Thank You all
 

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I wasn't liking the chrome lining much, and the grey grill looked like chrome in pictures taken due to high reflection, hence changed it to black recently
I don't under why MSIL have thrown in some much chrome for an RS Variant [frustration] .The painted grill look much better than chrome ones[clap]
 
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I don't under why MSIL have thrown in some much chrome for an RS Variant [frustration] .The painted grill look much better than chrome ones[clap]
Actually the chrome amount is same as that of other Alpha variants . Just the grill of the RS looks chromish in pics, where actually to naked eyes its grey. And car manufacturers believe more chrome = more premium. I dont know where they got this idea from. Honda, Toyota all seems to be adding more chrome lately.
 
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I actually i had done full repainting of my cousin's fiesta for 30k[roll]
Anyways if its worth for the price ok.
3M had PPF na ,why didn't you try that.
Ceramic pro does it have warranty.
Painting a car and paint protection are two different things. I cannot imagine painting the whole car in the first 5 years of my ownership at-least. Imagine the car after all the abuses it receives(rain, junk, mud) in the first 3 years, and the glossy red becomes a dull red, but with no scratches, there is no reason to get the car fully repainted. Side by side with a new car will make the owner think deep about the paint here. And its a hefty process as well, like removing all the body and repainting. Improper masking can also make things worse. Ceramic Pro gives 2 year warranty AFAIK. I forgot what they had mentioned to be Honest. Have seen owners taking their premium package, which costs around 70-80k per car, right from Ignis to Ferraris. Also I would like my car to shine after every service, and you dont need to spend hours washing your car to get off all the muck, tar, and sticky substances from the car. Just a wipe will make it shining again. [:)] TBH , I dont like 3M PPF. Film loses its gloss after a couple of years(I have seen some gone bad way too earlier than 2 years as well)) and will make the paint look dull (though it actually isn't). And the separator line (i.e. where the film starts) will show with time (as a layer of dirt accumulates in that area). Also not to mention the whole car PPF will cost much more than the ceramic coat itself and also once you take of the PPF, its bound to take off some microns from the stock paint as well. Again it depends on the owner on how they want their vehicles to be. I would rather have a shining car than one with full of swirl marks.
 
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Congratulations on your new ride, Ivin. Wish you millions of happy miles on your red hot RS [:)].
That ceramic coating, does it protect against swirl marks as well? Please do post some pictures of interiors as well. Any accessories planned?
 
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interesting how you came to narrow down your choices. closest competitor was polo gt. i must say i considered the same two. but ambiguity regarding thier service network in rural areas let me down. next, after having used a baleno for more than a year, i can vouch for the ample leg space it can offer. this will definitely not be sufficient in the polo.

hey and one more thing : your title about 'pussy cat' made me think the baleno is being timid. lol. misleading to a certain extent. but having read the article, i got the hang of it![glasses]
 
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Congratulations on your new ride, Ivin. Wish you millions of happy miles on your red hot RS.
That ceramic coating, does it protect against swirl marks as well? Please do post some pictures of interiors as well. Any accessories planned?
Thank You Prabhagar for the wishes. Yes, ceramic coating does protect against swirl marks, stones, cat paws etc. I did not do the coat to the interiors as I am not a fan of a glossy black dashboard. But seeing the outside finish, now I am planning for the interiors too. Accessories that I thought were alloys ofcourse (had Momo revenge in mind), yet to fix it(also read as budget issues) and if possible , tune to euro spec. 110bhp and 170nm torque. Need to start from A, need to see if any engine part is different, or just ecu and minor other things. Just that I am not getting time to investigate further.

interesting how you came to narrow down your choices. closest competitor was polo gt. i must say i considered the same two. but ambiguity regarding thier service network in rural areas let me down. next, after having used a baleno for more than a year, i can vouch for the ample leg space it can offer. this will definitely not be sufficient in the polo.

hey and one more thing : your title about 'pussy cat' made me think the baleno is being timid. lol. misleading to a certain extent. but having read the article, i got the hang of it!
Thank You[:)] . We always have atleast the chance of changing the service centre ofcourse, which is never the case with VW. The horror stories are not way behind as well. To me, ASS should be top notch. I have suffered enough with Chevy Beat for 7 years. I cannot do that anymore. Skoda Rapid was also in my mind. But you know, never ever a German once you come to know how they are serving Indian customers.
And nice to hear you got a hang of the Pussy Cat [;)]
 
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Hey Ivin! Congratulations on the Car!

I recently bought the 1.2 Alpha. I just did a teflon protection for my exterior paint. Do you think . that will be enough to avoid the loss of gloss and protect from scratches?
 
Thread Starter #15
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Hey Ivin! Congratulations on the Car!

I recently bought the 1.2 Alpha. I just did a teflon protection for my exterior paint. Do you think . that will be enough to avoid the loss of gloss and protect from scratches?
Thank You . Wish you the same. Teflon would help for sure. But I really don’t think it can survive more than 2-3 pressure washes tbh. Again u can take care if it by washing yourself and make it last longer
 
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