Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS: Car review

For its engine size, the acceleration is intense; for its proportions, the handling is excellent; for its performance, the price is adequate. With the Baleno RS – short for Road Sport – Maruti Suzuki has forayed into the high-performance hatchback segment. We drive it at a befitting place – the Buddh International Circuit near Greater Noida.

Exterior

The Baleno RS doesn’t look vastly different from the Baleno, yet it has a distinct personality. Changes include a new front mesh grille in chrome, bold front bumper, underbody spoilers married with black sports alloy wheels, and the signature RS emblem on the rear door.

While these changes give the car a rebel-like personality, the front mesh grille in chrome appears a bit too flashy for a car this sporty.

Interiors

The cabin of the Baleno RS is exactly the same that you find in the top-end Alpha trim of the Baleno. The all-black interiors add to the car’s personality. The coloured TFT multi-information display keeps a track of the car’s performance, including fuel-economy, driving time, and even how much torque and power is being generated by the engine. The SmartPlay infotainment system has features such as navigation, Bluetooth, voice command, Smartphone Connect and Apple CarPlay.

In such an athletic car, you should not take your hands off the steering wheel, and so there are steering-mounted audio controls.

Engine

The car brings to India one of Suzuki’s latest innovations globally – the 998cc Boosterjet direct injection turbocharged engine. This all-aluminium, three-cylinder engine produces a peak power of a little over 100bhp and a maximum torque of 150Nm. It is mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. There is no automatic gearbox option, as of now.

(Boosterjet combines the two modern automotive technologies: direct injection and turbocharger.)

Performance

It doesn’t take much time to realise what this car is capable of. Shift into first gear, release the clutch and press the accelerator … in under a second you might start to feel that everything around you is being fast-forwarded. The car touches a speed of 100kph in a little over 10 seconds, and has a top speed of 180kph. The Boosterjet pulls strongly from 2000rpm onwards, and keeps pulling beyond 5000rpm, so you never feel the car is running out of power, except when the rev limiter kicks in at above 6000rpm.

Now it’s a powerful engine, yet it is frugal. The claimed fuel-efficiency is a high 21.1kpl. The car has a fuel tank of 37 litres and an ideal range of over 700km on a full tank.

(Part of the reason the Baleno RS is so quick is that it’s built on a lightweight platform – its weight is just 950kg.)

Handling

The Baleno RS uses the same tyres as on the top-end trims of the Baleno – 195/55 R16. These grip well and appear adequate for the performance of the car. The steering is pretty accurate as well.

Safety

The Baleno RS has been launched as a single variant (Alpha). It is equipped with dual airbags, seatbelts with pre-tensioners and force limiters, disc brakes in all wheels, ABS with EBD, and has ISOFIX child-seat restrain anchorages. Driver seatbelt reminder buzzer with lamp and rear parking sensors with camera are among the other safety features.

Verdict

At Rs 8.69 lakh, ex-showroom, Delhi, the Baleno RS is the most affordable supermini in India. It’s Rs 1.4 lakh more expensive than the top-end Baleno Alpha, but has a far better performance and slightly better fuel-efficiency. It doesn’t come with an automatic gearbox – like Volkswagen Polo GT TSI, which has a seven-speed DSG gearbox and is just Rs 42,000 more expensive.

However, the five-speed manual gearbox of the Baleno RS is a smooth shifter and the powerful performance of its turbocharged petrol engine will set your heart racing. Buy it if you want to make your everyday drive a little more enjoyable, a little more spirited.

(RS, or Road Sport, pioneers a line-up of high-performance cars that will be sold through Maruti Suzuki’s Nexa sales channel. The Baleno RS is the first of such cars.)

[“Source-financialexpress”]