The Baleno is Maruti Suzuki’s performance version of its premium hatchback, a name enhanced by the fact that the RS means Race Sport. This variant is based on the top-end Alpha trim of the current Baleno and is powered by a new powerful 1.0-litre BoosterJet direct injection petrol engine. This one is already exported to Europe and Japan from India, and now the carmaker has launched it in our country. Well, the manufacturer has detuned this engine for the Indian market as against the international counterpart. Nonetheless, the Baleno RS with, 100bhp of power, still becomes the most powerful hatchback from the carmaker. But, does it make an enticing buy? To find out we put the car through its paces at the Buddh International Circuit.
A quick look at the Baleno RS makes it tough to spot any key differences but a closer look reveals the new bumpers at front and rear along with skirtings all around. The alloy wheels are the same as found in the standard Baleno but in the RS they’re painted in black. The rear bumper too features a blackened out area that looks particularly well with contrasting colours.
Overall, the Baleno RS looks sportier than the regular version without being too loud. While one might say Maruti has played it safe, I think this approach is better since cars with a loud exterior have always been received with mixed reactions from Indian consumers.
The interior gets an all-black treatment with silver inserts like the Swift. The design is fresh and the flattish dashboard goes well with the design concept. The centre console looks modern and neatly houses the stereo and climate control switches. The instrument cluster is contemporary and the higher end models even feature a colour TFT multi information screen.
There are various animated graphics designed to offer real time fuel consumption and power output information too. The steering seems to be borrowed from the Ciaz and S-Cross and is good to grip. Steering controls are easily accessible and quite handy. Fit and finish is impressive and on par with rivals. There are enough storage spaces but space offered under the front armrest could have been better. The seats are firm and supportive and good for long drives too. The headrests too are firm while headroom is good even for tall drivers (Hear hear,Lijo).
Move to the rear and you will be impressed with the rear kneeroom. We couldn’t measure it but overall space is excellent. There is, however, no rear armrest while leather seats aren’t offered even as an option. Boot space isn’t highest in segment but more than sufficientat 339 litres. The loading lip is high and is further exaggerated since the boot itself is quite deep
The real changes are under the hood. Baleno RS comes with a 998cc, 3 cylinder turbo charged DOHC petrol engine, which produced a healthy 103 bhp and 150Nm of torque. This setup is mated to 5 speed transmission, the same unit as the standard Baleno. Maruti Suzuki has stiffened suspension to minimize body roll, and help minimize acceleration and decelleration pitch. On the first lap, I went easy to warm up with the gearbox and braking, and the Baleno RS feels right. There are disc brakes, and an effective ABS system, which works rather well at higher speeds.
Gearbox is smooth to shift, and precise. Baleno RS weighs 950 kilos (dry) and that means agility is not a problem at all. The problem is weight distribution. Maximum car weight lies around the front axle than the rear where only the torsion beam and spare wheel weighs things down. So, while taking corners with lift off, and turn right, before I hit the apex, the rear starts rolling brutally, causing spin outs now and then.
Maximum power is at 5500rpm, so, it really isn’t a rev happy engine. This rev sadness also slows you down while down shifting as you have to go down the rev range to downshift to a lower gear whilst braking. Baleno RS is electronically limited to 170 kmph and on the back straight of the Buddh International Circuit, it really could have done much higher speeds than it suggests. Brakes are effective at such high speeds but power braking makes the rear end go loose even before you’re halfway through 0-100 came at a lazy 10.8 seconds, which isn’t the fastest in the segment. Acceleration from standstill is linear, and there is no prominent shove off the turbocharger, which should be excellent for city driving
Maruti is offering the Baleno RS in a single variant and hence the car is loaded with top spec safety features as standard such as dual front airbags, ABS, EBD and ISOFIX child seat provision. Additionally, the Baleno RS comes with all-four discs for better stopping power. In terms of after sales, we all know that Maruti has a very renowned and wide network across the country. The NEXA channel is growing with each passing day and the ownership cost of the Baleno RS will definitely be the lowest compared to the other performance hatchbacks in this segment.
The ride of the Baleno car is very good. We have only driven the 195/55R16 (top-of-the-line variant) and yet to experience the other variant that comes shod with smaller tyres. But the ride will more of less remain the same. The suspension absorbs all the bumps with ease making it a smooth ride. On the other hand, the handling of the Baleno is just more evolved than the Swift. The alacrity of the chassis is a lot more superior to the other Maruti products thanks to the lighter weight chassis. This not just enhances the power and efficiency, but also improves the driving dynamics. The steering wheel too is light and feels comfortable to drive in city. It does weigh up a bit making it a joy to drive on the highways too.
The Baleno RS is essentially a Baleno Alpha petrol variant with a turbo, one less cylinder and two more disc brakes. Subtle bodywork aside, painting stock alloys black don’t make them sportier. As well equipped as it is, it doesn’t have strong enough differentiation for the asking price. Maybe it’s just a case of expecting too much from a badge. When all the hype is removed the Baleno RS is, in fact, a more fun-to-drive car than the standard and that’s what counts.
Maruti Suzuki Baleno Ex Showroom Price in Chennai ranges from 5,39,698/- (Baleno Sigma Petrol) to 8,48,378/- (Baleno Alpha Diesel).Maruti Suzuki Baleno has 10 Variants of Petrol are available in India. Maruti Suzuki Baleno comes in 14 colours, namely Premium Urban Blue,Metalic Premium Silver,Pearl Arctic White,Ray Blue (RS),Autumn Orange (RS),Fire Red (RS),Granite Gray,Ray Blue,Premium Urban Blue (RS),Autumn Orange,Premium Silver (RS),Granite Gray (RS),Fire Red,Pearl Arctic White (RS).