The current Maruti Suzuki Baleno is nothing like its previous namesake

The current Maruti Suzuki Baleno is nothing like its previous namesake
BalenoMaruti Suzuki
The Baleno was first launched in India as a sedan. The car, then powered by a gutsy 1.6 litre engine, went on to garner quite the fan following amongst tuners and performance enthusiasts across the country. When production of the sedan stopped in 2007, it left many car aficionados sulking.

Taking a leaf out of its own history books, Maruti Suzuki chose to reintroduce the Baleno in 2015. This time, however, it was launched as a premium hatchback, aimed at the likes of the Hyundai i20 and more recently, the Tata Altroz.

Maruti Suzuki, keen to reinforce the premium identity of the Baleno, sells this hatch from its Nexa outlets alone. Prices for this Maruti start off at Rs. 5.98 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi for the base Sigma model and go on to Rs. 9.30 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi for the top of the range Alpha Automatic variant.

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Although the Baleno hatch was initially launched with a diesel engine as an option, as of now, one can only choose between the 1.2 litre VVT engine and the 1.2 litre Dualjet Dual VVT motor, both of which will drink anything as long as it is petrol. Depending on which model you go for, the engine gets bolted on to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a CVT.

Once you close the bonnet and step back, you will at once feel that Maruti Suzuki’s HR manager has done a mighty fine job with regard to finding the right designer for the car’s aesthetics. The Baleno’s lines are simple, yet well defined. The surfaces are elegant and devoid of any superfluous slashes that seem to be the flavour of the season these days and the gentle contours in the right areas define the overall stance of the car.

After admiring the exteriors, it is time to sample the car from within. The interiors aren’t exactly class leading but they are well appointed and seem to be of decent build quality that will age gracefully. The cabin space is ample for a family of four but if the 5th occupant is somebody other than a child, then the rear seat would seem cramped.

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On the go, the Baleno is a typical Maruti, and that is a good thing. The car is smooth and refined and will handle almost everything the road throws at it. Stomp on the accelerator and the engine revs up in no time, feeling almost motorcycle-like. Keep the engine buzzing and you’re in for the time of your life whilst chasing corners along an empty mountain road. Of course, this sort of spirited driving is best sampled with the short throw gear shift lever and the clutch pedal of the manual transmission which go a long way in enhancing the thrill of the experience. In the city, however, the effortlessness, convenience and smooth shifting of the CVT is where the joy is to be found.

The Baleno’s ride quality is pliant and tackles road undulations with great aplomb. The handling is adequate and on par with the competition, but when you push this Suzuki hard, the tyres will make it ample clear when they’re reaching their limit.

All in, the Baleno is a solid buy for all those who want the practicality, solid reliability and low cost of ownership that has come to be synonymous with the Maruti Suzuki marque; but with elegant design, a comfortable cabin and sprightly performance thrown in as well.
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