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The Maruti Suzuki Baleno nameplate has been around for a long time now. Enthusiasts still revere the Baleno Sedan that was launched in 1999 and was produced until 2007. After its discontinuation, the Baleno nameplate was gone for a long time. In 2015 though, it made a comeback, this time in the form of a hatchback.
Initially, enthusiasts were a bit disappointed to see the Baleno name being used on a hatchback that was nowhere close to the charm of the old sedan. Time, however, has a way of dealing with criticism. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno hatchback went on to become one of the bestsellers in the premium hatch segment and is much-loved by its users.
Over nine lakh Baleno hatchbacks have been sold in the Indian market so far. However, it was time for the next generation Baleno to arrive, and so it has. Spy images of the new Baleno started surfacing last year, and on 23 February 2022, Maruti Suzuki launched the 2022 Baleno.
Does it carry the charm of the Baleno? Do the fancy features on offer make it more value for money? We got behind the wheel of the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno in Goa to find out.
Design & Style
Since it was first launched, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno always carried a mature yet refreshing and youthful design language. This made it a favourite among ambitious, young individuals looking for a premium hatchback. Redesigning the hatchback for the 2022 model without compromising on that character was going to be a tough job.
That being said, the designers at Maruti Suzuki seem to have done a fantastic job on the design and styling with the new 2022 Baleno. Though the silhouette of the vehicle remains the same as the older model, many defining design and style elements have changed.
View the new Baleno from the front and the first element that will grab your attention are the stylish headlamps. It is sweptback like the outgoing model. However, it is sleeker and makes the front end look sportier. These are projector units and have the turn signal indicators integrated into them.
Then of course, there is the NEXWave Grille, that enhances the bold design and styling up front. The grille element is unique and it looks great, especially with the accentuated chrome strip underneath it. The bumper too features an all-new design and only adds to the youthful design of the 2022 Baleno.
The bumper also houses the lower grille which is flanked by the fog housing on both sides. Maruti Suzuki calls this design language ‘Liquid Flow' and this has only been enhanced with the arrival of this new model. The design lines are clearly seen on the bonnet and even on the side profile.
View it from the side, and the strong shoulder line, and sharp character line is very catchy. However, the 16-inch alloy wheels are more attractive. The diamond-cut dual-tone alloy wheels have a unique design that sets it apart. The new Baleno quite simply boasts the most stylish alloy wheels in the premium hatchback segment.
Get to the rear and you suddenly realise how mature a hatchback the Baleno has become, especially in terms of the design and styling. You now get a split tail lamp design. The LED tail lamps integrate the liquid flow design very well indeed, and the combination of curves and LED matrixes inside it make the tail lamps look oh-so-brilliant.
The slopping roofline, spoiler with integrated stop lamp and chiseled bumper add to the mature, yet youthful design. The thick chrome strip makes the hatchback feel so much more premium than it already is. The rear camera has also been integrated into this chrome strip.
On the whole, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno has now become prettier and curvier than its previous iteration. It looks brilliant and it is hard to put a finger on any design elements that could have made it better.
Cockpit & Interior
This is where the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno has been extensively upgraded when compared to the older model. It features a revised cabin layout and an all-new dashboard with a couple of segment-first features.
Tug on the door handles and swing open the doors, and the difference the new interior makes is immediately seen. Maruti Suzuki says it is a state-of-the-art cabin with smooth and natural flow lines. Well, one can make out that the design lines from the exterior have made it inside the cabin as well.
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno features a dual-tone interior with Blue and Black being the theme colours. The dashboard and steering wheel though get silver accents that add a more premium touch to the interior. You also get piano black inserts at certain areas.
The top of the dashboard is finished in Black while the mid-section is finished in a shade of blue. Separating the black and blue here is the silver strip that emulates the chrome strip seen on the grille up front. This silcer strip also underlines the centre AC vents which are placed underneath the 9-inch infotainment unit,
The 9-inch Smartplay Pro+ infotainment unit is the centre of attraction inside the 2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno. It boasts Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity which gives you access to various features including navigation, your favourite music apps, etc. Pairing your phone with the system is a fairly straightforward process and the interface is easy-to-use and intuitive.
Sound is reproduced via ARKAMYS speakers supported by Surround Sense technology. This allows you to customise the sound produced by the speakers according to your taste. You do get a great amount of bass which we're sure most Indians would love. However, the speakers themselves could have been of higher quality, which is a fact that is made apparent, especially at higher volume levels.
There is also a 360-degree camera on offer which is surprisingly very good. The video feed presented on the screen is of high quality and the latency is just not there as proven by a test. At the test location, a Baleno with extremely dark tint was dedicated for us to test just how accurate the 360-degree camera is. We drove around a set course with only the camera feed as our visual guide. Pretty impressive indeed.
The new Maruti Suzuki Baleno is also offered with Suzuki Connect, which is Maruti Suzuki's telematics solution. This allows you to be connected with the car at all times and gives you access to some first-in-segment features. You can now remotely operate the headlamps, hazard lights, door locks, engine immobiliser, etc, remotely.
Thanks to Suzuki Connect, you can also now cool the cabin through a command on your phone. It also gets the usual safety features such as vehicle tracking, geofencing, vehicle alerts, etc. You also get Amazon Alexa and Smarwatch connectivity with the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno and that allows you to give voice commands to the car. Very tech-savvy indeed.
Coming back to the dashboard, you have the controls for the automatic climate control under the blue element. The centre console is pretty simple and straightforward. You get a cubbyhole ahead of the gear lever. Behind the gear lever is the handbrake lever and then comes the centre armrest. This armrest opens up to reveal another cubbyhole for added storage space.
The steering wheel is brand new and seems to have taken a lot of inspiration from the steering wheel on the Maruti Suzuki Swift. You do get sgterring-mounted controls for the audio, voice commands, and cruise control. It also gets tilt and telescopic adjustment.
Behind the steering wheel is a digital-analogue instrument cluster. The tachometer and speedometer are analogue units while the MID in between displays lots of information for the driver. It displays the distance-to-empty, average fuel efficiency, current fuel efficiency, trip meters, odometer, etc.
This brings us to what is probably the most-talked-about feature and one of the most useful features on the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno. Yes, we are now coming to the Head-Up Display (HUD). There is a little control panel to the right side of the dashboard that allows you to control the HUD.
There is a button to raise the HUD display in front of the driver on the dashboard. The screen raises up in a dramatic fashion and it is an uber-cool feature that you can even flex. Then there are buttons to adjust where the information is projected on that HUD screen. This feature allows the driver to get information about the car without taking eyes off the road.
The overall quality of the materials used in the new Baleno is also impressive. In addition to this, the sheer number of features and advanced technology offered in the hatchback, makes it one of the best cabins in the segment.
Comfort, Practicality & Boot Space
The same dual-tone blue & black theme is found on the seats as well. These seats are finished in fabric and score very high in the styling department. The driver and co-passenger seats offer excellent thigh support with a good amount of bolstering as well. Taking tight corners is easy work with seats like this.
In terms of cushioning too, the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno has more than enough to keep the driver and front passenger in comfort even over longer periods of time. Roadtrips and long hours behind the wheel are bound to be a breeze in the Maruti Suzuki Baleno.
At the rear too, Maruti Suzuki seems to have prioritised comfort over anything else. There is a good amount of legroom, knee room, and headroom, so space isn't a constraint. Also, the transmission tunnel in the middle isn't too tall, which leads to more comfort for the passenger in the centre. Yes, the new Maruti Suzuki Baleno can seat three people in relative comfort.
This being a premium hatchback, lacks one very important feature. The passengers at the rear do not get the fold-down armrest, and thereby also miss the cupholders that are usually integrated into the same armrest. However, passengers at the rear do get AC vents and USB charging ports.
The door pockets also have lots of space in them enough space to accommodate a 1-litre bottle along with some knick-knacks. Maruti Suzuki always makes practical cars and the new Baleno is no different. You do get a 60:40 split-folding rear seat that allows for a more practical loading of luggage as and when required. The boot space with the rear seat up is 318-litres which is the largest in the segment.
Engine Performance & Driving Impressions
The 2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno is powered by the same 1.2-litre petrol engine that we in the Indian market are now very familiar with. It is the same engine that powered the outgoing model of the Baleno, however, it now comes with one major change. Maruti Suzuki has done away with the mild-hybrid system that was previously found on the Baleno.
The 1,197cc, 4-cylinder, naturally-aspirated petrol engine has a maximum power output of 88.5bhp at 6,000rpm and a peak torque output of 113Nm at 4,400rpm. There is yet another major change when compared to the older Baleno, this time with the gearbox.
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno was previously available with a 5-speed gearbox, or one could also opt for the CVT gearbox. Now though, Maruti Suzuki has shelved the CVT gearbox in favour of an AMT. We drove both transmission variants of the new Baleno and both of them are quite impressive.
Thumb the starter button and the four-cylinder engine quietly comes to life. It is quite apparent that the engine is very smooth and this feeling is only reinforced when you slot it in gear and set off. Low-end grunt is brilliant for a petrol engine of this size and the engine is quick to rev.
Mid-range performance is also great and the Baleno picks up speed pretty quickly. The engine sounds good until about 5,000rpm and it becomes a little gruff after that. However, it is nothing to complain about. The power too tapers off at higher engine speeds which is typical of a K-Series engine.
Also typical of a K-Series engine is the strong mid-range and low-end driveability and the 1.2-litre petrol in the new Baleno offers just that. It is easy to reach triple-digit speeds and it is also easy to stay there. Overtaking at high speeds though will take some effort and that is alright given the engine size. You might even have to downshift to get that extra drive.
Speaking of gearshifts, the manual gearbox is near perfect. Shifting is smooth and it requires shorter and effortless throws. This makes the driving experience dynamic and engaging. The little details matter here. The centre console is raised to bring the gear lever into an optimal position for the driver to make those quick gearshifts.
As expected of a Maruti Suzuki car with a petrol engine, the clutch pedal is nice and light. This is certainly a boon in the urban jungle, especially while tackling stop-and-go traffic. Now, there is another variant where the clutch pedal is non-existent.
The 5-speed AMT is obviously the most convenient option here. However, the compromise on performance to achieve more fuel efficiency is also quite obvious. We did that there is a little lag while shifting and it wasn't as quick as we wanted it to be, Shifting to the manual mode does improve shifting time and response to an extent, however, it is still slower than a manual gearbox.
The new Maruti Suzuki Baleno features a reworked suspension setup and this allows for a more dynamic driving experience. It definitely handles better than the older model and this is especially true around tight corners taken at moderate speeds. However, we did wish for it to be more planted at higher speeds.
At low and moderate speeds, potholes are soaked up pretty well. At triple-digit speeds though, potholes unsettle the car and so do bumps. We expected the steering wheel to be extremely light at low speeds and weigh up as speeds increase. However, we found that the wheel was pretty heavy even at lower speeds. This can make long hours in traffic a little uncomfortable.
When you turn the wheel enthusiastically, the car responds pretty quickly and nicely, which goes to show that handling has improved drastically over the outgoing model. Body roll is well controlled and this boosts the driver's confidence.
Maruti Suzuki has improved braking performance on the new Baleno and it is quite tangible. We did end up wishing for more initial bite, but the difference in braking over the older model is felt. A set of disc brakes at the rear would have been much better instead of the current drum brake setup.
Safety & Key Features
Maruti Suzuki has in the past faced enough flak for the safety features in its cars. However, it doesn't look like it will face any such issues with the new Baleno. It does come with quite a few safety features.
- Six Airbags
- ABS with EBD
- ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Points
- Seat Belt Reminder
- Rear Parking Sensors
- Hill Hold Assist
With safety features like these, Maruti Suzuki has significantly upped the safety levels on the new Baleno
- Head Up Display
- 9-Inch Smartplay Pro+ Infotainment
- 360-Degree Camera
- Next-Gen Suzuki Connect
- Cruise Control
- Rear Type-A & Type-C Charger
- Rear AC Vents
- Tilt & Telescopic Steering
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno was always a car that was loved by its users. Now, with the new Baleno, Maruti Suzuki has taken things to the next level. It definitely carries forward the charm of the old Baleno but is so much more modern and gets some features that aren't even available in the next couple of segments.
The Baleno is also now safer and the AMT gearbox makes life behind the wheel easier. It is difficult to find something in the new Baleno to complain about. So, yes it is a massive improvement over the outgoing model.