Car review : Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS

We were happy to hear that Maruti was planning to build a fast car. Especially when we encounter several other models hogging the roads with their lazy engines and sluggish speeds. It was good news because now those would move along faster and get out of the way.

On paper this car seems to be able to take on the big boys in it’s league such as the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI, Fiat Punto Abarth, and Ford Figo 1.5. We decided to keep an open mind and acknowledged Maruti Suzuki’s attempt at breaking the trend of making a long line of dreary economy cars. And right away you can tell they have put in some thought into it. The car looks aggressive and i am sure no one has ever said that about a Maruti ever. The side skirts on the RS look brilliant and the rear bumper looks amazing. The front grill and the headlamps are quite uncharacteristic of a normal Maruti and that impressed us. The car has a lot of physical appeal and presence on the road.

Maruti-Baleno-Interior

The cabin inside is spacious with plenty of legroom. The entire centre console is snazzy with a new touch screen display that supports Apple CarPlay. It took a while to sync with my phone but once it did, it worked great. The screen was responsive, no lag time while shifting between menus or scrolling and it is a great looking display. The AC controls have a new design too and they look fantastic. I was almost surprised i was sitting inside a Maruti. Plenty of storage options around the glove box and the driver’s arm rest. Steering controls, Driver side mirror controls, rear parking camera, driver and passenger airbags; all come included in the only model being built with the RS pedigree. The driver side console exhibits and RPM indicator a speedometer and a multipurpose screen in the middle. Now this screen shows a ton of information and it can be changed to suit whatever you wish to see. Everything from torque delivered, power, outside weather, current fuel economy, current range, door open graphic and various other things. This screen is not only helpful but brilliant in design and its display is crisp. I found myself fiddling with it and switching between different screens. I like this a lot.

The test drive was scheduled and as i sat inside the car i did feel i was sitting a bit high up. Although you can adjust the height of the driver’s car seat, it didn’t make much of a difference. I would’ve preferred to sit a bit lower since this is an RS model and also because sitting this high blocks the view to the information screen. The steering wheel would get in the way of the gorgeous display and i had to duck every time i had to see what was being displayed. The car has a keyless entry and an anti-theft system that is pretty neat. The key should be within 81 cms for the push button start to activate. Any further and the engine gets killed. Another brilliant feature.

Moving on the drive now, i found the steering to be light and responsive. The suspension is soft and it deals with bumps really well. Brakes are responsive as one might expect. Transmission is smooth and they have decided to stick with the 5 speed manual gearbox. Now the RS model has a 1.0 litre turbocharged booster jet engine compared to the naturally aspirated 1.2 litre engine of the standard Baleno. The RS model churns out 101 BHP at 5500 RPM. But, there is a problem. And a glaring one at that. The turbo is practically invisible on the lower revs and the 1.0 engine struggles to lug the 1.3 ton car around. There is a very slow throttle response as you wait desperately for the revs to pick up so that the turbo can wind up. And once you’re past around the 2500 RPM mark, the power kicks in and the car shows it’s racing credentials. But by then the poor 1.0 litre engine is crying for help, begging you to shift up. And the process repeats itself. The turbo-lag is tremendous and very very noticeable. It ruins the experience as the car transforms into a bullock-cart once you shift up and bring the revs down. Talking about practicality, you would have to spend your entire time driving on high revs to really feel what the car can do and that throws their tall claim of 21.1 kmpl out of the window.

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Let’s not focus on the negatives alone as the car really does pack a punch when it picks up and i am sure it will be an absolute beast on a highway. But picking up a 9.72 lakh car for driving in a city will be a bad idea in my opinion. Especially since the turbo might as well not even be there and the 1.0 litre petrol engine struggles by itself.

It is definitely a set in the right direction and we applaud Maruti Suzuki engineers for coming up with this. It certainly is a great car to look at and it comes loaded with some great features as well. I can tell, some real thought and purpose has gone into this car. Booking amounts are as low as 11,000 rupees and expected deliver time is 3 months on paper but the showroom attendant assured me that it will take only about a month. This car certainly caught my attention and it give me hope that car manufactures are taking things seriously now. This might just be the first Maruti Suzuki i don’t hate. And that is saying a lot.

image credits : Google image search

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