Maruti-Suzuki launches Baleno, priced between INR 4.99 and 8.11 Lakhs

One of the most-awaited car launches of 2015 happened today as Maruti-Suzuki, India’s largest car-maker, pulled the wraps off the Baleno. As most of you would remember, this nameplate isn’t new to India and adorned a premium mid-size sedan from Maruti-Suzuki some time back. This time though, the Baleno makes a comeback as a premium hatchback and has two cars in sight - the Hyundai i20 and the Honda Jazz.

Suzuki’s designs have always been conservative apart from a few exceptions like the original Swift in 2006. The Baleno sticks to that tradition and tries to please all and offend none with its safe and suave ‘Liquid Flow’ styling. That said, the car has its own design flourishes too. The swept-back headlights, for instance, look very similar to those in the Swift at first glance. Look closer though and the subtle differences are apparent. The top-end variant, with HID projector lights and LED Daytime Running Lights, look and feel premium. Accentuating the premium feel further is the V-shaped chrome strip that underlines the small honeycomb grille and extends inside the headlights. The wavy hipline that rises up from the tip of the headlights, then drops slightly to go under the door-mounted rear view mirrors before sweeping past the door handles and ending in the taillights gives the Baleno a distinct identity. The roof-mounted spoiler, LED taillights and the thick chrome strip are the only highlights in an otherwise bulbous rear. The Baleno is longer, wider and has a longer wheelbase than the Swift and is a proper full-size hatchback.

After the S-Cross, the Baleno is the second Maruti-Suzuki product to be sold through the premium NEXA dealerships and the interiors are a testimony to that. The multi-function steering wheel is similar to the ones we have seen in other Suzuki cars and the blue-ringed instrument cluster appear to have been inspired by the positive feedback on the dials in the S-Cross. Taking prime place in the V-shaped center console is a large touchscreen infotainment system. Dubbed ‘SmartPlay’, the system has in-built navigation as well as Apple’s CarPlay that lets the occupants to use and converse with Siri, a first in a car sold in India. The car otherwise is well-loaded too with Antilock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) and twin airbags being standard fare. The feature list also includes push button start, height-adjustable driver’s seat, follow-me-home headlamps, automatic climate control, tilt and telescopic steering, voice command, rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, leather-wrapped steering, UV-cut glass and HID projector headlamps with LED Daytime Running Lights.

Powering the Baleno are the same engines that power the Swift. The 1.2-liter petrol engine churns out 83 horsepower at 6000 rpm and a peak torque of 115 Nm at 4000 rpm. The popular, Fiat-sourced 1.3-liter diesel engine that’s badged DDiS 190 generates 74 horsepower at 4000 rpm and a peak torque of 190 Nm at 2000 rpm. Both the engines are mated to a 5-speed manual transmission while the petrol variant can be bought with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) too. These aren’t class-leading specs but given that the Baleno is almost 100 kilos lighter than a Swift despite being structurally stronger, makes this a reasonably peppy car. More importantly, the Baleno has an ARAI-certified fuel efficiency figures of 21.4 km/l for the petrol and a whopping 27.39 km/l for the diesel variants, a number that could potentially attract thousands of thrifty Indian customers each month.

The Baleno has been launched in four trim levels - Sigma, Delta, Zeta and Alpha. The petrol variants are priced between INR 4.99 and 7.01 Lakhs while the diesel variants retail between INR 6.16 and 8.11 Lakhs. The sole automatic variant (CVT), available in Delta trim level, is priced at INR 6.76 Lakhs. At these prices, the Baleno undercuts its main rivals by a handsome margin and could end up being a potential threat to Maruti’s own Swift and Dzire too.

India is the first country in the world where the new Baleno is launched. India will also be the sole production hub for this car as the Baleno would be made here for the world. The car is expected to be exported to as many as 100 countries including Suzuki’s home country of Japan in the not so distant future.

Maruti-Suzuki, the erstwhile king of hatchbacks, might have come late to the premium hatchback party but they are sure to create ripples in the market with the new Baleno. The car looks good, is spacious, has a plethora of safety and convenience features including a few segment-firsts and is backed by Maruti’s excellent after-sales support. Add to that the frugal engines and the premium car-buying experience promised by NEXA, there is really nothing more that one could ask.

Watch out Hyundai and Honda, Suzuki is back with vengeance!

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