New Baleno test drive: the hatchback hero gets a makeover

The Baleno is not just another hatch. It is the car that helped Maruti Suzuki stamp its strong mark on the premium hatchback segment. The Baleno showed its own younger sibling Swift and several other cars from other manufacturers in the segment that hatchbacks too can have more luxury features. And 10 lakh satisfied customers vouch for its success. The Baleno offers a rare mix of performance, beauty, luxury and fuel efficiency. When Maruti plans a revamp of such a car, it is obvious that a lot of thought would have gone into it.

The sedan avatar
Not a single body panel is old. But if there is any resemblance to the old Baleno, it is deliberately done by Maruti. When the hatchback was launched in 2015, the Baleno that we knew was a mid-size sedan. The hatchback was well equipped to even rival the sedan in all aspects. The new Baleno, while building on all those that were good about it, also comes with new additions.

The old Baleno

Not just a facelift
If you thought that it is just a facelift with minor changes here and there, you are wrong. Maruti has in fact gone the whole hog by using a heavily reworked Heartect platform, a brand-new interior and added several new features that are a first in the segment. Besides, it has improved a lot on safety, driveability and handling.

Better safety
The Baleno was the favourite whipping boy of so-called critics on the social media over its “poor” safety. Thought it never affected the sales of the car, the unfounded name-calling continued incessantly. However, check the Euro NCAP website and you could see that the Baleno has a crash test rating of four stars in 2016, which is much better than several cars from Europe. Now, the safety department has been improved and this could easily be the safest car by Maruti.

Sturdier car
The new Baleno can boast of more than 20 safety features, including six air bags, ESP, hill hold, ABS, EBD, speed alert, front seat belt reminder and LED fog lamp, among others. The reworked Heartect platform and high-tensile and ultra-tensile steel make it sturdier. Though it is a bit smaller than the outgoing model, it is 5mm longer, 10 mm taller and 55 kg heavier, probably due to the weight of the new body shell. Despite an increase in weight and power, fuel efficiency has in fact gone up, from 21.01 kmpl to 22.35 kmpl.

Exterior changes
Among the changes outside, the most noticeable is the new LED headlamps. Both the grille and the bumper are larger and the bonnet is flatter. The new 16-inch alloy wheels too are eye catching. The tail lamps protrude into the boot. The boot space has reduced from 339 litres to 318 litres but feels and looks about the same size.

All-new interior
The interior makeover is impressive. It includes a black, silver and dark blue theme, dual-tone dashboard with a mix of violet and black with silver inserts, nine-inch infotainment system, flat-bottom steering, body-hugging seats and the segment-first heads-up display. A feature that is usually seen in Beemers and Mercs that shows key information directly in your line of sight -- the windshield -- has come down to a hatchback. It seems Maruti has spent more time in revamping the inside, which could be described as sleek, stylish, premium and sculptured.

360-degree camera, Suzuki Connect
The new Baleno also gets the 360-degree surround view camera. The higher models get a nine-inch infotainment system while the lower variants get seven-inch system. The heads-up display shows info like speed, rpm, fuel efficiency and indictors. Other details are available in the new instrument cluster. Even if all the windows are covered, the 360-camera is enough to park the vehicle; the outside view is so detailed. The Arkamys surround sound system has a premium feel to it. The touchscreen is compatible with Apple Carplay and Android Auto. It has 40 connected features, including Amazon Alexa support.

PR Images Baleno

CVT out, AMT in
The addition of 7 bhp of power to the K12N engine takes the total output to 90 bhp and results in enthusiastic performance. The updates in the manual gearbox and suspension make driving a pleasure. The fuel efficiency has gone up by 15%. The engine is paired with a five-speed gearbox. The CVT has been dumped for an AMT. Interestingly, the AMT system that Maruti calls AGS is much better than the old CVT. The AGS also helps in keeping the price factor in check. The AGS was smooth on highways as well as during the bumper-to-bumper traffic in Goa.

New colours, accessories
Among the six colours that include Nexa blue, four are new. The accessory collections are under the themes of Elegrande and Novo Spirit. The first one is premium. The accessories list includes metallic finishes, body-side moulding, bumper garnish, 3D mats, seat cover, interior styling kit and illuminated door sill. The Novo Spirit provides a youthful energy with a similar range of accessories.

The all-new Baleno has an ex-showroom price of Rs 6.35 lakh to Rs 9.49 lakh.

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