First report: In its relatively short stint with us, the Baleno proved to be quite an all-rounder.
My past couple of months with the Baleno were primarily spent driving around in the city and in peak traffic. However, an outstation trip to drop off some equipment was the perfect chance to sample the Baleno’s highway manners.
Loading up the equipment was effortless, and the 318-litre boot – although not class best – is sufficient. The true test though would be the efficiency. While I had managed a decent 13kpl in the city, how would the 1.2 naturally aspirated petrol fare when put to work on a long, high-speed drive?
On the highway, the NA engine and AMT combo could manage around 16kpl.
Once I hit the highway, the engine’s free-revving nature came as a pleasant surprise, and since highway driving lets you sit happily in fifth for most of the time, I rarely had to endure the AMT’s biggest weakness – its slow shifts.
On some ghat sections, I tried engaging manual mode and shifting using the lever, but here too it isn’t as responsive as I would have liked, and there is a fair bit of waiting before the gears engage.
What is good, or rather improved, in this iteration of the Baleno is the high-speed stability. Cruising between 90-100kph feels a lot more reassuring, and the ride is flat as well.
Side bolstering is too soft, to the point where it fails to support you effectively in corners.
Over long distances, though, the soft seats, more specifically the soft side bolsters, don’t offer sufficient support, causing your body to move around through bends. The other negative is the single USB Type A port at the front, which, in 2022, feels behind the times. The music system and speakers, however, are rather good. There is a good clarity to the system with sufficient bass as well, which will come in handy as cabin insulation in the Baleno isn’t the best. Road noise and wind noise do seep into the cabin, and on multiple occasions I found myself checking if one of the windows wasn’t fully shut.
What is very impressive on the Baleno, and to be fair, every Maruti, is the performance of the air conditioning. The AC, even with a low blower speed, is extremely effective, and cools the cabin faster than most cars.
Effective air-con meant cabin was cool by the time the engine warmed up.
After my drop off, the return journey was after sunset, and the other big plus of the Baleno are the LED headlamps that offer strong illumination. The high beam level is perfect for long-throw highway illumination and the overall brightness is strong too.
Now all this is fine, but the big one was, of course, the efficiency, and to be fair, I wasn’t expecting it to be anywhere near its claimed figure that is north of 20kpl. The uphill ghats, spirited driving and typical scattered highway traffic meant the best I could manage was around 16kpl. Sure, a longer drive with a bit more consistency could better that figure, but with a full load and the convenience of an automatic, you can only expect so much.
LED headlamps offer fantastic illumination on poorly lit highways.
That said, after the highway stint, the Baleno has proven its mettle as an all-rounder. The stability at speed, fantastic AC performance, a sorted music system and smooth engine make it a perfect family hatchback that can do it all.
Now that it’s parting time, I sure hope they update the features list with some modern bits like a sunroof, ventilated seats, and a couple more USB ports or wireless charging. Still, for the short duration that I had it, it sure left a lasting impression. Now to find a new long termer that can do the same. Sigh, this is going to be tough.
A single USB-A port is not enough, especially when travelling with company.