The Baleno RS has arrived as a landmark offering for Maruti Suzuki since it is also a debut of the brand’s first turbocharged petrol motor – a 1-litre, three cylinder unit which shows a lot of promise. For a brand so deeply rooted in diesel power and efficiency, this is a big deal. However, some would say Maruti is simply playing catch-up to the Germans and the Italians (Read: VW Polo GT TSI and Fiat Punto Abarth) in the still-nascent field of affordable hot hatchbacks. Find best offers on Baleno RS
It isn’t common for a mainstream hatch to deliver on speed, practicality and efficiency in equal measure, but the Baleno RS has that specific brief nailed. More on that later though. Coming back to the heart of the matter, in a few years this new turbocharged engine will certainly replace the existing 1.2-litre K Series NA motor. We got acquainted with it earlier this year when we drove the Baleno RS at the BIC, coming away impressed overall. However, now it’s time to gauge the car’s real-world credentials and limitations through a full road test treatment.
The Baleno RS is the textbook definition of ‘understated’ as far as the exterior design goes. In terms of cosmetic add-ons or upgrades over the standard car, there’s nothing major to report – upfront there’s a slightly different grille and at the back you will find a racier-looking rear bumper and the RS emblem. The alloy wheels, too, come from the standard car but are finished in gloss black for a meaner stance. Lastly, there’s the tastefully executed body kit (including the front lip, side and rear skirts) which goes great with the dark blue paint on our test car
Inside the Baleno RS cabin, there is no change compared to the standard car. We were fairly impressed with the interior of the Baleno, and that is not simply restricted to the way the dashboard or the instrument cluster looks. The all-black look continues to charm, while the materials used and the fit & finish are good for the segment it will play in. The only doubt we have here is whether the consumers would expect some sporty elements in the interiors to go with the RS badge
Under the hood, the Baleno RS gets a 1 litre, 3-cylinder, turbocharged petrol engine. Now since Maruti Suzuki has never done forced induction petrol engines in the past, the Baleno Boosterjet engine is completely new technology for it. The engine makes a substantial 101 bhp and 150 Nm. Despite being turbocharged, the max power and peak torque output is well spread out across the rev range and the engine almost feels like it is naturally aspirated, with very little turbo lag. Of course what everyone really wants to know is how the car’s outright performance is! And on that front too, the Baleno RS does not disappoint
Power delivery is very linear and the RS accelerates well on its way to three digit speeds. On the back straight at the BIC, we hit speeds of just over 160 kmph in fourth gear with the car still eager to accelerate more. Another point to note is that Maruti has not gone for an automatic gearbox like some of its competition and stuck to a 5-speed manual gearbox only. The gearbox isn’t as short and slick as that on the Swift but still feels very rewarding when shifting extremely quickly. Now if you are wondering why the Indian spec Baleno RS is almost 10 bhp down on power as compared to its global counterpart – blame it on the quality of fuel that our country has to offer. When BS VI fuel comes in, the Baleno RS will have the potential to match its international counterpart’s output at 110 bhp.
Baleno RS does get a slightly retuned suspension as compared to the standard car as it is slightly heavier. But a lower ride height and stiffer suspension setup should have been standard given the car’s sporty claim. That would have definitely differentiated the RS from its competition – and also more substantially from the regular Baleno too. So unfortunately the RS has a lot of body roll, especially when we took it to its limit on the track. The RS does get disc brakes all around – which is a good thing – 14 inch up front and 13 inch at the rear. As a result, the braking on the car has improved by leaps and bounds. On the safety side, ABS and two airbags come as standard – in keeping with Nexa portfolio products.
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
DRIVING DYNAMICS ;
The Baleno RS has gained 60 kgs over the regular model and the carmaker has retuned the suspension making it a tad stiffer. The steering weighs up beautifully and the handling is much better than the regular Baleno. It now feels more eager to turn in and that inspires confidence at high speeds. To keep up with the performance, Maruti has got rear disc brakes to improve stopping power and the brakes really feel more effectiv
BOTTOM LINE ;
The Baleno RS’s ride quality is very similar to the regular Baleno. The front suspension has been tweaked a bit with stiffer coils to handle the slight increase in weight. But the track isn’t the best place to test ride quality.
What the Baleno Rs. lacks in is drama. I would have liked to have seen more visual differentiators at least. More so, because there is nothing aurally different about the new engine. But, the bottomline is that the Baleno Rs. is still firmly in the premium small car segment; it is just a level sportier than its regular variant. And that is a perfectly good position to be in. At least, it is a start for Maruti Suzuki to plan real RSs in the future. Next, can we get a true blue Rs. on the Swift please?