The Baleno has been a very popular car from Maruti Suzuki and has been around for a while. Now, after six years we are getting a new model. It may resemble the old Baleno, but it’s now based on the fifth generation Heartect platform that offers better build quality and safety compared to the outgoing one. The body panels are all new, the interiors are completely changed, the suspension has been reworked and even the engine is updated.
So let’s begin with what’s new on the outside. The front looks actually all-new, there’s a larger honeycomb grill with a chrome underlining that’s placed under the new headlamps. They are wider and have a triple element DRL. The air dam is wider too and the fog housings have grown as well.
The new Baleno has got a flatter bonnet, making it seem much wider. In the profile, it looks very similar, but the body panels are changed. The alloys have a smart new design. There’s a sharp agrees on the shoulder with a Chrome strip that underlines the windows and extends up to the rear. The rear looks distinctly different with the C-shape tail lamps, extending out over the sides and making the rear look wider. There’s chrome once again that underlines that glass area of the tailgate and below that is an all-new bumper. Overall the car looks sharper looking.
Dimension wise, the new Baleno is five millimetres less in length and 10 millimetres down in height. Boot space is now 318 litres instead of the earlier 339 litres. But still, it can accommodate more luggage. However, the loading lip is high and you have to hold your luggage up and keep in. The rest of the dimensions remains the same.
The cabin is a whole new world and it is actually quite interesting. It gets a dual-tone with navy at the bottom and the smart silver strip that runs right across and the black on top of the dash. The AC vent is a C shape that looks quite nice. The blower controls have now gone lower and they are of good quality as well. Everything feels easy to use. The dashboard gets an all-new free-standing nine-inch touch screen. The graphics of which are really sharp and nice. You get a new steering wheel, the door panels also are all new and they have that dual-tone colouring and you also have nice padded armrests on the door.
The seats are so comfortable. It is springy, soft and comfortable. On the whole, the interior is more modern and it is far more premium looking, but there are some things that take away from the premiums like this roof lining, which is still felt and feels a little old fashioned and there features that are missing like there is no sunroof, there are no ventilated seats, there’s no wireless charging as well. But you do get some class-leading features like the heads up display. And what’s interesting about the heads up displays is you can toggle through a few functions. You get the fuel efficiency, the current fuel efficiency that you have. It also comes with a tachometer, speedometer, navigation, time, and you can also have a simplified format over. They would just give you the speed, direction and time.
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An interesting feature in the heads-up display is the blower controls when you use them. You can actually see the fan increase decrease or the temperature that’s increasing or decreasing, but you would have to have the screen on the particular meter on the setting for this to show up as well. And it’s good because it’s safe. It means you never really have to take your eyes off the road when you’re increasing or decreasing temperature. Another class-leading feature that you get is a 360-degree camera. You get a 360-degree view of the car is not the greatest of the resolution, but yes, you can see all around the car, which is very handy for parking. You get connected car features. You also get an Arkamys sound system.
While looking at the storage spaces and practicality, there is a large enough glove box, two pockets for one-litre bottles, a cup holder in the area behind the gear lever, a place for the phone in front of it, a bin in the console between the seats as well. And you have a 12-volt charger and a USB A in the front. The rear seat is pretty much the same and the seats are extremely comfy. The window line is nice and low, there’s a lot of glass area. Legroom is good and you can stretch your feet. Headroom is good enough to even for taller people. And as far as features, you get a USB A and USB C. You also get the air convents and you get a small storage slot too and get space in the door pocket.
The first-gen Baleno was offered with two petrol engine options the K12B with 83hp and the K12C with 90hp, while the new one will only be offered with one K12N that produces 90 HP and 113 Nm of torque. This engine is one that we’ve seen in the Maruti Swift and the Dzire of late and now the Baleno gets it. The newer version of the engine comes only with AMT and an MT eliminating CVT from the outgoing Baleno. The AMT, which Maruti calls it AGS is definitely not as smooth as the CVT. I mean, you notice the difference instantly there is that pause between the gears, especially when you go over.
When the gears move from first to second or second to third you do feel that slight hesitation between the gears. So yes, there is a difference, but it’s a trade-off because you are exchanging that for better fuel efficiency and you’re getting it at a better value. This system from Maruti also has come a long way and it is much smoother. When you wanted to access it quicker, there is an availability of manual mode, which does the job easily.
The engine struggles below 2000 RPM and you need to wind it up to get going. And then the hesitation before it shifts in the AMT is accentuated. When you push hard and flatten your foot on the accelerator, however, when you drive with a lighter foot and don’t demand a sudden burst of power, it actually feels much smoother.
The company has improved the performance of the AMT, so as long as you’re not an aggressive driver, this AMT does the job well enough. This AGS works well to keep you in the right gear, so if it’s city driving, this would be the better choice because you won’t have to work the gears that much. Now, this is not the only area that Maruti has improved, it has improved the ride quality. It’s soft, well-cushioned, the bumps and potholes get done away with, and I think what adds to the comfort within the cabin is the softness of the seats.
However, the trade-off is that as you pick up the pace, it does feel more bouncy in the backseat. Dynamically the Baleno feels much better than before. The steering too is good while it’s light and easy enough for city traffic and nipping in and out of gaps. Even as you pick up the pace and go faster all-around corners, it gives you good enough confidence. The Baleno has been given all-new suspension, with notable changes including a new torsion beam at the rear, new springs all around, 20mm of increased suspension travel and recalibrated damping at all four wheels. The Baleno’s improved dynamics make it a far nicer car to drive.
According to Maruti, the AGS is a step down from the CVT, it is 15% more fuel-efficient. They claim the fuel efficiency figures at 22.5 kilometres per litre for the manual and 22.94 kilometres per litre for the AMT, we did also drive the manual while the clutch was light and easy and the shift smooth enough. One had to work the gears, especially in the hilly terrain and for highway overtakes. The moment you drop below 2000 RPM, it needs downshifts, so even in city driving, the left foot will get a workout. So the Baleno has improved dynamically and that just makes you wish that there was a more powerful engine on offer this engine just doesn’t have the bottom and grant at one would like.
Coming to the AMT or the AGS as Maruti call it, it is definitely a step down from the CVT if you’re used to that. But as far as AMTs, it really does well on its own. And if I were to pick one of the two, the manual or the AMT, I would definitely pick the AMT because it is the easier one to drive. On the whole, otherwise, Maruti has done a great job and this Baleno is a big improvement from the older one.
The new Baleno is more modern, it’s more premium it’s got smarter interiors, it’s got sharper looks and the ride is more comfortable. The dynamics have improved as well. So yes, it does have a lot going for it and you get all of that packaged at a good value. Compared to its peers like Hyundai i20, the new Baleno is priced lower, but while comparing the first-gen Baleno the cost has gone up, which starts at Rs 6.35 lakh and goes up to Rs 9.49 lakh (ex-showroom, India). There is a huge scope for improvements but still, the new Baleno is the best product and best seller in the category and we hope the same continues.