Maruti Baleno RS Track Review – A Day at BIC with Maruti’s Hot Hatch
I drive down a 100 kilometers to Buddh International Circuit to verify if the Baleno RS really is what we've all been waiting for.
Maruti Suzuki is a brand that lives on the philosophy of selling ‘economical to buy, economical to run and economical to maintain’ cars. Their sales comprises of 33% of national sales. But as time passes, customers are left wanting more. More sex appeal, more comfort, more efficiency, more sporty, and more.
Volkswagen brought its astonishing GT TSI and Fiat threw in Abarth Punto, both of which are an enthusiast’s delight. It is 2017. and team NEXA has finally got the itch to bring in their cracker, the Baleno RS.
First glance from the outside: The Maruti Baleno RS front bumper sees a rather massive change with a protruding lip and a wider air dam. This also means that fog lamps (which are larger in diameter than the one in the baleno) are placed farther to create a sense of width. There is a new honeycomb grill in smoked steel finish, which stands out. Headlamps are the same and there is no other element in the front that suggests strongly that this is focused towards outright performance.
On the side profile, a slim plastic skirt adds to its aerodynamic stance. Baleno RS is 10mm lower due to stiffer springs on standard dampers. There are no new alloy wheels. They are the exact same units from the standard Baleno painted in gloss black, shame that Maruti Suzuki could not think of differentiating design.
Towards the rear, changes are prominent. Rear bumpers comprise of faux air diffusers with integrated reflectors. They suggest the Baleno RS is meant for performance. Add to that, a large RS badge. Would have loved if they could they pulled the exhaust tip out of the rear bumper.
Inside, there is nothing at all to suggest this is a performance oriented Baleno with a turbo engine plonked under the hood. Massive cost cutting there. Maruti Suzuki could have added minimalistic touches at the least to make this stand out and allure buyers.
Baleno RS is as well kitted as the top of the line standard Baleno. It gets dual airbags, touch screen AVN with Apple Car Play and Android Auto. Baleno’s head unit is noteworthy with its high definition graphics and smooth scrolling operation. Seats are well cushioned but could have done better with side bolstering, specially because we’re driving it at the Buddh International Circuit.
[table id=95 /]
Engine, Performance and Specs
The real changes are under the hood. Baleno RS comes with a 998cc, 3 cylinder turbo charged DOHC petrol engine, which produced a healthy 103 bhp and 150Nm of torque. This setup is mated to 5 speed transmission, the same unit as the standard Baleno. Maruti Suzuki has stiffened suspension to minimize body roll, and help minimize acceleration and decelleration pitch. On the first lap, I went easy to warm up with the gearbox and braking, and the Baleno RS feels right. There are disc brakes, and an effective ABS system, which works rather well at higher speeds.
Gearbox is smooth to shift, and precise. Baleno RS weighs 950 kilos (dry) and that means agility is not a problem at all. The problem is weight distribution. Maximum car weight lies around the front axle than the rear where only the torsion beam and spare wheel weighs things down. So, while taking corners with lift off, and turn right, before I hit the apex, the rear starts rolling brutally, causing spin outs now and then.
Maximum power is at 5500rpm, so, it really isn’t a rev happy engine. This rev sadness also slows you down while down shifting as you have to go down the rev range to downshift to a lower gear whilst braking. Baleno RS is electronically limited to 170 kmph and on the back straight of the Buddh International Circuit, it really could have done much higher speeds than it suggests. Brakes are effective at such high speeds but power braking makes the rear end go loose even before you’re halfway through.
[table id=94 /]
0-100 came at a lazy 10.8 seconds, which isn’t the fastest in the segment. Acceleration from standstill is linear, and there is no prominent shove off the turbocharger, which should be excellent for city driving.
Points to remember
– The Baleno RS we drove on track came with economy tires as standard, which is not the best setup for track driving.
– Sound system is decent and head unit is intuitive to use.
– Engine growl is beaty as you accelerate to higher rpms.
– Heat insulated glass ensures a cooler cabin when driving under the summer sun.
– Steering feedback is good, a switch to more grippy tires could improve overall feel.
– I pulled a timing of 2.55.021 secs as my fastest lap around the Buddh International Circuit, which is a full 7 seconds slower than the stock GT TSI timing.
Baleno RS had turns up as a decent package. It is fast around the track, and agile and fun to drive. At 8.69 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi), it is a real bang for your buck.