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Maruti Suzuki’s premium hatchback – the Baleno, gets a major update with oodles of tech, improved efficiency, styling, and cabin.

Story: Sarmad Kadiri
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

There are more reasons than one that make the Maruti Suzuki Baleno Nexa’s top-selling model. So, while updating the premium hatchback, Maruti Suzuki didn’t just reinforce its virtues but also strengthened its weaker aspects and, although this is a facelift, the changes are quite significant.

Specification:
Model: Maruti Suzuki Baleno MT / AT (Alpha)
Price: Rs 9.00 lakh/Rs 9.50 lakh (ex-showroom)
Engine: 1,197 cc, in-line four, petrol
Max Power: 90 hp at 6,000 rpm Max Torque: 113 Nm at 4,400 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual/AMT, front-wheel drive
Suspension: MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear
Weight: 955 kg

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Design
The essential design remains the same with its smooth, flowing lines and an easily recognisable silhouette. What immediately grabs the attention are the new projector headlamps with attractive new arrow-head-inspired LED daytime running lights (DRL). Even the front grille is wider now with a ripple-like effect and a sleek chrome garnish. There’s a new front bumper with a bolder fog-lamp housing and a wider air dam with a couple of horizontal slats. In effect, the new model now looks wider and squatter. Overall, the car is shorter by five millimetres and the height has gone down by 10 mm. The shoulder-lines have been revised and the sharper LED tail-lamps merge with them seamlessly. Adding some spunk to the profile are 16-inch precision-cut alloy wheels, wing mirrors with integrated turn indicators, and, as before, chrome door-handles. With these tweaks, the Baleno has a greater road presence now and is being offered in six colours, including the Nexa signature Celestial Blue.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Interior / Cabin
In the past, Maruti Suzuki did receive some flack when it came to offering features in their cars. Now, however, the country’s leading carmaker will take it no more as the biggest changes in the new Baleno are visible in the cabin design and the technology that the car offers. The cabin has been completely revised, including a new dashboard, new seats, and a few segment-first features added to the mix. As we got inside the cabin, we immediately noticed the well-padded seats which are more supportive than before. As before, the cabin is one of the roomiest in the segment with ample leg-room both for front and rear passengers. The rear seats are 60:40 split for storage flexibility but, with its 318-litre boot, the storage space has gone down by 21 litres in the new car.
The revised dashboard now sports a nice black-silver-and-blue colour theme. The blue colour flowing on to the doors goes well with Nexa’s signature indigo colour. There’s also a new flat-bottom steering wheel which gets modern toggle buttons and silver accents. One gets a good grip on it thanks to the thumb recesses. Even the driver’s instrument cluster has been updated to keep things fresh. Rear passengers will be glad to see a couple of fast-charging Type-C USB ports and a-c vents.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Features
The talking point is the new nine-inch Smartplay Pro+ touchscreen which is not just larger than the one in the outgoing model but has better touch sensitivity, crisper graphics, and is loaded with features. It comes with an interactive voice assist and the widgets on the home screen can be customized to one’s liking. Now cruise control and sliding front arm-rest are also part of the parcel.
The acoustics from the Arkamys surround sound system lift your mood and there’s Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, so that you’re always connected. In fact, the new Baleno boasts of 40 connected car features which can be remotely accessed through one’s smartphone. Useful things such as driving behaviour and trip reports or checking real-time car status such as battery health are now available at your fingertips. It also allows one to remotely control the car door lock/unlock, engine immobiliser, and even the hazard lights.
In a bid to score over the competition, the top variant of the Baleno boasts of some segment-first new-age features like 360-degree view which is pretty useful while negotiating narrow or congested areas. There’s even a heads-up display with an adjustable screen, so the eyes remain on the road while checking things like speed, time, temperature, and rev-counter. However, the Maruti unit doesn’t provide navigation prompts as in some premium systems. Shorter drivers might find the HUD screen slightly obstructive, but there’s always the option of retracting the screen by long-holding the HUD button. Voice-activated Alexa assistance comes in handy so long as you have your phone network connected. On your command it plays music, tells you the weather prediction, and does practically everything else that Alexa can.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Missing Features
Despite being packed with features the 2022 Baleno misses out on things like wireless phone charging and sunroof. But what’s most surprising is that for a spacious car like this, one which can actually ferry five adults in relative comfort, there is no rear middle-seat head-rest.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Safety Features
It’s good to see six airbags now available on the top two Zeta and Alpha variants along with other safety features like hill hold (only on AMT) that prevents the car from rolling back on inclines and ESP. On lower variants, the standard safety features include dual airbags, ABS with EBD, front seat-belt reminder, rear parking sensors, and a high-speed alert system.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Engine Options
Talking about speed, now there’s just one engine on offer, the 1.2-litre K Series DualJet petrol that comes with variable valve timing and makes 90 hp at 6,000 rpm and 113 Nm of torque peaking at 4,400 rpm. It comes with the fuel-saving Idle
Start-Stop system which turns off the engine when the Baleno comes to a halt and cranks it up when it gets going again. This time round there is no SHVS mild-hybrid system for additional torque boost and efficiency. The standard option remains a five-speed manual gearbox, but now the automatic alternative is an AMT (AGS, as Maruti Suzuki call it) instead of the more expensive CVT sported by its forebear. The idea here, Maruti Suzuki say, is to make the AT version accessible to more people.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno 1.2 Manual: Performance
This is one of the smoothest powertrains in the segment. Power delivery is linear with ample go at lower revs and an equally adequate mid-range, which is just enough for your city driving. It might not be the quickest but can comfortably maintain three-digit speeds on open roads without sounding coarse or running out of breath. What’s also nice is that the additional noise shields and body adhesive further reduce the road and engine noise from filtering through, so the cabin feels quieter now. The manual shifts are precise as before and more effortless now due to the updated hydraulic clutch system. This makes driving in congested traffic more bearable and easier on your right knee.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno 1.2 AGS: Performance
Precisely why the automatic transmission version is expected to have an even bigger share of the pie. But can an AMT fill the shoes of the CVT which is known for its smooth and linear power delivery? Maruti Suzuki engineers have been refining the AMT with every new model launch. Improvements were seen even in the recently launched Celerio, but they have further refined the system in the Baleno. Every time the AMT has to shift down to gather momentum, there’s a slight blip to match the revs. Although it still can’t match the finesse of CVTs and dual-clutch gearboxes, the jerks and knocks are more restrained now. The highlight is the promise of class-leading fuel economy with a claimed figure of 22.94 km/l which is about half a kilometre more than the manual version. During our drive comprising a mix of highways and city roads, the Baleno returned nearly 17 km/l, which is decent for a spacious hatch.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Ride and Handling
Sporty handling hasn’t been the focus area for the segment and no one seems to mind that. The Baleno steering isn’t limp or dull. It is precise enough and has electrically added weight to it. It’s light enough to be twirled with a single hand, which aids quick U-turns and makes parking easy. Improvements have been made in the suspension and ride quality, so it doesn’t bottom out as easily as before. Now it feels more mature over road undulations and even when going over severe potholes there’s no metal clang from the suspension. However, it still lacks European composure, especially during high-speed driving. The good thing is that the brakes have been updated, too, which boosts the driver’s confidence further.

2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno: Conclusion
The key takeaways are the improved fit-and-finish of the cabin, the new infotainment system with a 360-degree camera and connected features, the efficient engine, and improved suspension. We would’ve liked the new model to offer vital features like a middle-seat head-rest and, maybe, fancy bits like wireless charging. Personally speaking, the AMT is not my favourite automatic gearbox but it has helped Maruti Suzuki price the top-end model well at Rs 9.5 lakh (ex-showroom). Having said that, the Baleno has improved in almost every respect and will remain the driving force behind Nexa showrooms for now.

 

About the author: Sarmad Kadiri

 

 

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