2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Review: Stying, interiors, performance, ride and handling reviewed
Maruti Suzuki is calling this the ‘all-new’ Baleno. All through the product presentation that took place before we got to the driving, I just kept dismissing that as marketing spiel. This was just a facelift, wasn’t it? It was just some fresh styling and upgraded interiors. Okay, there’s also the fact that the CVT was replaced by an AMT, but that’s supposed to be a downgrade, isn’t it? How in the world is this ‘all-new’. Scratching my bald head, I approached the new Baleno. It sits in a hotly contested segment — there’s the Tata Altroz, the Hyundai i20, the Volkswagen Polo and the Honda Jazz. All solid contenders that have their own strengths and characters. How does the Baleno fit in to all this. I opened the driver’s door to climb in… but wait, let us talk styling first.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Styling
There are a few tweaks to the Baleno for 2022, but they aren’t particularly radical. Up front, there’s a new face with a tweaked grille, new bumpers and new headlamps. The headlamps are interesting — they are projector LEDs, but they also have a new DRL signature, one that will make its way to more Marutis in the future. The changes to the face were done with the intention to make the car look a little wider than before, and they do that rather effectively.
Move over to the side, and there’s not too much that has changed. Maruti has made the shoulder line more prominent but it isn’t a change that stands out immediately. What you will notice are the new 16-inch wheels with a new wheel design. From the rear, the changes aren’t as extensive as the front. You do get new taillights. These are wider and squatter, complementing the changes up front well, and that’s about it.
Overall, the changes to the Baleno aren’t too significant, but they are certainly more prominent than the previous update from 2019. They make the Baleno recognisably different from before, and should keep interest alive in the car.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Interior
More than the styling on the outside, it is the interiors where the Baleno has improved drastically. There are a number small changes that make it so — for starters, the steering wheel is new. Its the same unit out of the Swift and feels great in your hands. Behind the ’wheel is a familiar instrument cluster with an analogue speedo and tachometer, with a digital MID between them. What’s new from the cockpit is the addition of a head-up display. This is a first-in-segment feature, but I must say it is a very well executed one. The display is crisp and information is easy to read. There are three screens you can switch between — one that shows up the speedo, the tacho or the live real economy. The display can also be adjusted for position and brightness, or can be stowed away if you don’t want it. Its a proper piece of work, not something built to a cost and compromising on functionality. It isn’t very distracting either and blends right in after a few minutes behind the wheel. The bigger question is — do you need one? The only real advantage is that you can receive information about the car without taking your eyes far off the road. And in that sense, it does help. But I do get the impression that it is more there to attract customers who want some novelty with their cars.
The centre console is completely redesigned as well. There’s a new 9-inch touchscreen with a new UX, though I didn’t really fiddle around too much and plugged it straight in to Apple CarPlay. Wired CarPlay, I must add. The HVAC controls are redesigned and are laid out much better. There’s no USB Type Cs up front so you’re going to have to deal with the older port. Another big talking point for 2022 on the Baleno is the addition of a 360-degree camera. It does what it says on the label —gives you a bird’s eye view of everything that is going on around you. It is a little crude compared to the units we’re used to on luxury cars but it works. Again the question is — is it really necessary? The Baleno after all, is a car with a tiny footprint. And my answer remains the same as before — it isn’t, but it is a nice novelty.
Move over to the backseat you’re greeted by a generous amount of knee room and adequate headroom. There is a new AC vent in the back, along with fast charging ports — a Type A and Type C here. The backseat is genuinely useable but certain things stood out. There’s no armrest, which would have been a nice addition, but there’s also no headrest for the middle seat. Not even a fixed one. This is a bit of a bummer because the rear seat is genuinely useable and a middle headrest would have been a nice addition to have.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Engine, Transmission and Performance
Under the hood is an evolution of the K12 engine previously found in the Baleno, now massaged to make more power and reduce frictional losses. It makes 88bhp and 113Nm — power figures are up by 5bhp while torque remains the same. And in terms of characteristics, not much has chanced. This is a four-cylinder and it remains incredibly refined right through the rev range with nothing by way of vibes entering the cabin, and sounding really sweet when you wring it out. The power delivery is linear, progressively getting more enthusiastic as the revs rise but never feeling overwhelmingly fast. The engine feels largely the same — a quiet, smooth, refined motor that is easy to drive and fun to wring out.
In terms of transmissions, it comes with a manual as standard and you get the option of an AMT. The manual is brilliant — typical Maruti, with a very slick shift action and a light clutch. It is genuinely a joy to row through the gears and makes the Baleno’s drivetrain rather engaging. The AMT, on the other hand, replaces the CVT. Does it feel like a downgrade? Well, I was never a fan of the CVT’s characteristics either but the AMTs were always worse. I have to say though, that with this update, Maruti has really improved the AMT’s characteristics. The shifts are smoother, less jerky, are better timed and overall it feels more in tune to how you’d like an automatic to behave. A big change is the fact that it now blips the throttle when it downshifts, significantly smoothening out those shift. A slight bit of head toss is still present on upshifts but it has been significantly improved from before. At low to medium throttle, you barely feel the shifts. I never thought I’d say this about an AMT, but this a transmission that I can see doing duty well in city conditions. Okay, it doesn’t keep up when you start driving hard but take it easy and the gearbox works fine!
2022 Maruti Suzuki Ride and Handling
Another aspect that has improved on the Baleno is the ride and handling characteristics. The Baleno had a tendency to crash through bumps a fair bit, but the ride quality — particularly how isolated the cabin feels from the outside — has improved. It soaks up bumps with impressive composure and keeps the occupants cosseted on the inside. Low speed ride is great, however when you pick up speeds you do feel it to be a little floaty. At high speeds. undulations in the road do cause some amount of vertical movement and that could have been better contained.
Handling is better than before as well, and a big chunk of that is courtesy the steering wheel. Now with self centering added to its arsenal, it feels more natural and more composed in the bends. It is very softly sprung so it does roll a fair bit and doesn’t really make for an enthusiastic corner carver. There is better balance in the chassis though, it feels more composed over bad roads, deals with them a lot more confidently while feeling a lot more posed in the bends.
2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Price and Verdict
That brings me back to where I started. Is this Maruti Suzuki Baleno ‘all-new’? I think calling it so would be pushing it too far, but there is no denying the fact that this is a significantly improved Baleno. With changes to the engine, ride, steering, handling along with the styling and interiors, a facelift this is not. The Altroz and i20 were fresh contenders in this segment, and this update to the Baleno makes taking the fight to them a lot easier.
Prices start at Rs 6.35 lakh, but the variants we tested were priced at Rs 8.99 lakh (MT) and Rs 9.49 lakh (AMT) — all ex-showroom. At that price the Baleno really has what it takes to take on the competition. Combine its easy-to-live-with driving characteristics, space and features with Maruti’s service network and after sales experience, and you have a genuinely strong contender in the premium hatchback space.