“Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” The year was 1999 when the Baleno moniker first made its debut in India. Tho that name initially belonged to a sedan, by 2015, it was passed onto a hatchback that also debuted the NEXA brand that became Maruti Suzuki’s premium sales channel. Despite transitioning from sedan to a hatchback and losing out on most of its length, the Baleno hatchback still managed to offer a longer wheelbase.

Upon its launch, the Baleno was an instant hit and managed to outsell all its competitors and any look-alikes that posed a threat. However, as value-packed as the Baleno was, there was still a lot left to be desired. If only the build quality was as tempting as its price and the safety as high as its sales figures, I suppose we’d be doing this review a whole lot later. The competition caught up and began giving the Baleno a run for its money, and after all that running, the new Baleno has ironically put on more weight, 55 kgs, to be precise. Armed with dashing new looks and a list of flamboyant features, is the new Baleno ready to take the fight to its competition? Let’s find out.

The changes are pretty obvious, and despite having the same overall shape, the new Baleno looks a lot more upmarket than the previous one. Starting with the new wider upright grille and the addition of some chrome. What really stands out is the new tri signature headlamps that come equipped with relatively bright DRL and led headlamps. What is a very obvious miss here is the addition of led indicators…I mean, come on, Maruti..you’ve come this far; you may as well go all the way.

The Baleno also gets a new wheel design, and tho all other trims get 15″ alloy wheels, this top-spec Alpha variant gets 16″ precision-cut wheels. Personally, all of this chrome isn’t up to my taste, and hopefully, Maruti will launch a sportier de-chromed variant in the future. At the rear, you have a newly designed bumper along with a set of LED taillamps that come standard across all variants and follow the tri beam aesthetic from the DRL.

It’s the interior of the Baleno that’s probably seen the most significant overhaul, with a whole host of new features being added to this cabin. Starting with the most obvious, that’s a new leather-wrapped steering wheel that looks and feels great. Look past it, and you’ll notice a heads up display which is not only remarkable as hell but also something you don’t get even a couple of segments above. Another minor change that will be much appreciated is the new extendable armrest, something previous owners complained about quite a lot.

Another really cool feature not seen even a couple of segments above is the 360-degree surround-view camera. The camera quality is crystal clear and makes navigating through tight parking spots. Still, as cool as this feature is, I found it to be more of a gimmick in the real world because parking and manoeuvring the Baleno isn’t a challenge which is why this feature is usually seen on cars that boast much larger proportions. A feature that isn’t a gimmick is the new cruise control system that should make highway commutes more relaxing.

Though fit and finish could have been slightly better, I quite like the new dual-tone layout of this cabin, and it certainly makes the interior appear a lot more upmarket. I also hoped that Maruti would add a sunroof to the Baleno this time around but alas, it’s something we may have to wait for but may or may not see.

 

The infotainment in this top-spec Baleno is taken care of by a large 9-inch touchscreen which is only limited to this variant. The screen is quite crisp and clear while being responsive and easy to use.

The backseat space isn’t a place most Baleno owners will find themselves, but in regards to your family and friends, it is a relatively comfortable place to be so long as you are below 6-feet of height. Maruti has added 2 rear AC vents and a type C and type A fast charger at the rear, making longer journeys more hassle-free for the rear passengers.

The new Baleno is powered by a rather familiar 1.2-litre dual jet petrol engine producing 89 bhp of power and 113 Nm of torque. No longer can you get the Baleno with a CVT, but instead, you get either an AMT or a manual gearbox option. Maruti claims that opting for a CVT would have increased the car’s overall price by 1.50 lakh! I doubt most Baleno owners will care about the slow shifting AMT when they’re getting to save nearly a lakh. The AMT on this Baleno is rather lazy and never really knows what gear it wants to be in when you put your foot down. After a couple of seconds of pondering, the gearbox will suddenly slot gears, and the engine will begin screaming in agony as it climbs up the rev range with haste.

The engine on the new Baleno definitely has potential. Still, this engine and gearbox combination isn’t going to entice any enthusiasts, and the best way to deal with this delay is by taking manual control of the AMT or, better yet, get a manual if the thrill of driving is what you seek. Maruti claims fuel efficiency figures of 22.35 kmpl for the manual and 22.94 kmpl for the AMT. However, we saw figures come as low 14.5 kmpl with some spirited driving and go up to 18 kmpl when drove with restraint.

The Baleno now also features new suspension and brakes while the overall dimensions remain relatively the same as the old Baleno. Maruti has added more high strength steel to add more density to this car, which should show an improvement in safety. The new brakes are now an inch larger than before and deliver good feedback upon braking. The suspension is soft and rides well at low speeds and only loses composure at higher speeds over broken roads and corners. The Baleno has a tendency to understeer, and the soft setup doesn’t do it any favours but take it easy, and the Baleno shows potential to be a great cruiser. It performs pretty well over our Indian roads, especially when driven at a leisurely Indian pace.

The all-new Baleno makes a compelling proposition, especially for its price. Sure the competition has moved forward but so has the Baleno. It introduces some segment-first features and ones that aren’t even seen a couple of segments above. It stands as quite an attractive package and most certainly attracts masses like it always has. Maruti has raised the stakes, and only time will tell how its competition will de-throne the segment best seller.