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I’ve always maintained that Suzuki are masters of small-capacity petrol engines. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno being perfect example of just how sweet modern naturally-aspirated petrol motors are. Despite being throttled and strangled to deliver even higher economy figures and meet tighter emission standards, there is great joy to be had from a zippy petrol, something that was evident during our first drive in Jaipur a couple of months back. I was particularly impressed with the CVT transmission-equipped petrol Baleno and immediately put in a request for a long-term test – this is, after all, the perfect spec for a city car.
However it’s always a bit of a lottery with these long-term cars. You ask for a spec and colour but unless you’re the first to reach the stockyard, you rarely get what you ask for. In our case we found ourselves with a manual petrol, not that I’m complaining because this is a lovely car for my short commute. It reminds me of why we’ve always had petrol Marutis at home – eager motor, snappy gearbox, enthusiastic road manners and great fun to cane. This one even has good ride quality, not something you’d usually associate with Marutis.
Another thing you don’t normally associate with Marutis are plush cabins and despite the abundance of hard plastics Maruti Suzuki Baleno’s cabin is actually pretty good. It feels like an expensive hatchback (which it is) and is loaded with equipment, particularly Apple CarPlay which mirrors your iPhone on to the touchscreen head unit and works very well (something even our Merc does not have!). In terms of equipment the Baleno really has everything: LED DRLs, xenon lamps, climate control, twin airbags, ABS, navigation, reverse camera, a bunch of displays on the screen between the dials, steering adjustable for rake and reach, push-button start, height adjustable seats, 16-inch alloys, anti-UV coating on the glass house, rear wash/wipe and more. It’s remarkable really; a few years ago even mid-size sedans didn’t have so much equipment.
Gripes? 83bhp isn’t quick enough in this day and age, even though the Baleno does make amends by shedding considerable amount of weight compared to the Swift. Also the sharp handling of the Swift has been lost in this new platform; there is more roll, and the steering is no longer as direct or precise. But it does feel more grown up and with better suspension compliance particularly at the rear, it has more planted road manners at speed. Oh well, you gain some, you lose some.