It seems Maruti is not pleased with Baleno being the best-selling car in its segment as India’s number one carmaker has decided to jump into performance hatch space with RS moniker. The Baleno RS might contribute only a small proportion of overall sales but it indicates Maruti’s foresight to see future. Maruti is stepping up the ante in the domestic market, it all started with the advent of Nexa brand featuring premium popular products like S-Cross, Baleno, Ignis and Ciaz. Maruti entered the performance segment with Baleno RS which comes with the new Boosterjet engine.
Despite performance-oriented hatchback, Maruti has made sure that it comes at a decent price too. Available only in a single variant, Baleno RS comes at Rs. 8.69 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi) which is quite affordable than Polo GT TSI (Rs. 9.30 lakh) and Abarth Punto (Rs. 9.60 lakh) by a long way.
Engine and Performance:
Now moving towards the most talked about things about Baleno RS, it’s the engine. It draws juice from a 1.0 litre direct injected turbocharged engine that delivers 100bhp power@5500rpm and peak torque of 150Nm between 1700-4500rpm, linked to a 5-speed manual gearbox. The Boosterjet powertrain offers 20% more power and 30% more torque than the standard 1.2l K-series petrol motor. The Baleno RS ticked at 170 km/hr in the fourth gear which is quite impressive.
Despite three cylinders, the engine didn’t bog down at any point and low-end torque delivery is quite good. The engine is pretty refined and idle but it does become audible at higher revs however there aren’t any harsh vibrations. The need of automatic gearbox won’t be missed as the clutch is very responsive and light too. Gear shift throws are short and well sorted.
Ride and Handling:
Despite 950 kg of weight (heavier by 60 kg than the standard car), it feels like a light weighted car and never feels unsettled even at higher speeds. The body roll is very well contained and does not make occupants feel uncomfortable. Baleno RS has a knack to be a fast car thanks to 100bhp/tonne of power weight ratio. Braking capabilities have been brilliant owing to disc brakes at all four corners to improve stopping power.
The suspension has been stiffened up and steering wheel behaves beautifully. Despite heavyweight it feels eager to turn and inspire confidence at triple digit speeds. However, we drove Baleno RS on a briskly smooth race track but it might show different colours on public roads with bumps and potholes. Steering is responsive but to be honest it is neither as bristling as Abarth Punto’s nor deaden as Polo GT TSI’s.
On the exterior front, RS version is similar to standard Baleno but Maruti has given some mild cosmetic updates to freshen things up. To lend some character, Baleno RS sports new front grille flanked by projector headlamps with LED DRLs and new front bumper with obtrude tip in gunmetal grey colour. The side remains similar except for the new 16 inches black alloy wheels while at rear revision has been done in the form of revised bumper with black appliqués and RS badge.
The cabin is exactly the same as standard Baleno except for the all black interior with chrome garnish. Sporty seats, RS badge etc could have been a better move. So you get a big 7-inch touchscreen system with Apple car play, automatic climate control, multi-functioned steering wheel, 339 litres of luggage capacity with plenty of storage spaces inside the cabin and practical bits.
For safety, RS is equipped with dual airbags (Driver+ front passenger), ISOFIX child seat, ABS, EBD, engine immobiliser and reverse parking camera with display assistance. In addition, RS comes with disc brakes on all four wheels.
At a price of 9 lakh, Baleno RS almost ticks all the right boxes like decent performance, good braking power, rich features, corner carving, excellent fuel efficiency and trusted ownership value. Baleno RS is definitely felt a lot quicker and more fun to drive than the standard sibling. However, it might feel underpowered against Polo GT TSI and Abarth Punto but comes at a price too. Except for the power quotient, Baleno RS is the clear top contender in the performance-oriented affordable hot hatch segment in India.