Maruti Baleno review, test drive

    The all-new Baleno is the best looking Maruti hatchback yet. But does it pack in enough to give the i20 and Jazz a run for their money?

    Published on Oct 13, 2015 04:52:00 PM


    What’s it like on the inside?

    On the inside, you do feel like you’re sitting in a Maruti, albeit a very modern one. Yes, we’ve seen bits like the steering wheel,the control stalks and buttons from other Marutis whilst the power window switches continue to be carried over from the first-gen Swift. Only Suzuki can make such good paisa vasool of its parts bin. This also tells you that like all Suzukis, the Baleno too is built to a cost, which is evident in the quality of some of the materials. The plastics, especially on the door pads, don’t feel particularly upmarket, the seat fabric isn’t very premium either and the all-black interior feels a bit gloomy too. But, whatever Suzuki may have saved by using some low-cost materials, it has more than compensated with a great driver interface, especially on the top-spec Alpha version.

    Let’s start with the blue-lit instrument panel, which really stands out like an island in a sea of black. The dials with ‘chaplets’ look rich but it’s the 4.2-inch TFT display in the centre that is packed with a multitude of functions. You get a trip computer which calculates average speed, range and real-time and average fuel consumption  and a unique power and torque meter. The last bit is a bit gimmicky but enthusiasts can entertain themselves by seeing how the Baleno delivers its grunt.

    The centre piece (literally) is the 7-inch touchscreen which sits nice and high in the V-shaped centre console for better line of sight. It’s essentially the same unit as in the S-Cross and Ciaz so what you get is a high contrast display with sharp and very legible fonts. But the big news is the introduction of Apple CarPlay which is a first in the segment. 

    You get the same interface as your iPhone gets paired instantaneously with the car’s touchscreen with a USB cable. The ease of use and familiarity of the system, because it mirrors your phone, makes CarPlay instantly addictive. You won’t want to use anything else. Before Android users start jumping up and down in protest, Maruti is planning to introduce Android Auto in the car as well in the near future.

    Practicality is one area where the Baleno scores brilliantly. Suzuki has made full use of the long 2520mm wheelbase to give a genuinely large cabin that can rival the best in class for passenger space, comfort and storage space (lot of large bins and bottle holders). In fact, rear seat space is one of the highlights and apart from a relative shortage of headroom, passengers won’t have much to complain about. There’s a generous amount of legroom and the cabin is wide enough to seat three abreast too. However, the flat contours don’t hold passengers snug who are likely to be tossed around during spirited driving.

    The front seats are pretty large too with generous thigh support and foam density that is a touch on the soft side. What you get is nice, springy cushioning and a pair of front seats that are amongst the most comfortable in any hatch.

    There’s been no stinting on boot space either but it's not only the 339litre capacity that’s impressive but the intelligent way the boot has been designed to hold large pieces of luggage, without having to flip the 60:40 split-folding seats (on the Delta version upwards) forward. Unfortunately, the loading lip is both higher and narrower than we’d have liked.



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