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2022 Maruti Suzuki Baleno Review

S. Muralidhar | Updated on: Mar 23, 2022

The Baleno has been updated and repositioned to deliver new tech, more value and be more accessible

The Baleno has been an extremely popular model in Maruti Suzuki’s NEXA portfolio. So much so, Maruti officials say that more than one million Balenos have been sold in the country. It is also one of Maruti’s models that is popular amongst young buyers.  Frankly, the Baleno hasn’t aged, yet, and the design continues to remain fresh. But, Maruti has decided to execute a redesign and a refresh in features, so that the Baleno can be given a new market position. The idea certainly seems to be to make it more accessible and relevant in today’s context of safety and connected car tech. 

Design

My test mule at the organised media drive wore the classic NEXA Blue metallic body paint. One of my first reactions was that the 2022 Baleno is extremely familiar, and its overall stance and design almost seem unchanged. Company officials, however, mentioned that almost all the body panels are new, including the doors. It is then good to see that Maruti Suzuki has chosen to stick to a design language for the Baleno too; something that we have only seen with the Swift in the past.

With the design changes at the front, the new Baleno looks wider and squatter; largely due to the sleeker bonnet slab. The chrome character line that runs across the fascia is there, with just a marginal change in design compared to the outgoing model. The bonnet grille is also wider and sports a slightly different honeycomb design. The headlamps are all-new too, with a completely new DRL light signature. The L-shaped LED tube is gone and in its place there are a trio of LEDs. The front fender is just a bit less chubby and now sports sharper, sportier cuts and a wider airdam.

It is from the side that the new Baleno looks the most like the outgoing model. But it gets some minor changes to the grab-type door handles and a new set of 16-inch alloy wheels gives it a bit more character. 

At the rear, the new Baleno again has very familiar elements, though it is obvious that the split tail-lamps are new. They also sport a 3D construction and feature a new light configuration. The tailgate is also new and the the chrome garnish that runs from the top of one tail-lamp to the other has been retained, but in the top trim variant that you see in these pictures, it now houses the reversing camera at the centre. The top trim variants also offer the new 360-degree surround view camera 

The Baleno’s dimensions haven’t changed much and the 2022 model’s size is nearly identical to the outgoing model. There are some changes under the skin, but no major changes have been made to the chassis. The suspension setting has been tweaked and it gets larger 14-inch brakes. The new model also gets a lot of new safety equipment, quite a few are part of standard fitment, making this one of the safest cars made by Maruti Suzuki for Indian buyers. More on this later. 

Cabin

Step into the 2022 Baleno’s cabin and you are likely to be pleasantly surprised at the genuine step-up in perceived quality. The dashboard layout has changed quite significantly and a number of new features in the variant I was driving made the cabin look more upmarket.

Like the exterior design and its familiarity, the cabin too has a few lines that can be traced back to the outgoing model. But, many of the features stand out and are fresh. the sporty, flat-bottomed steering wheel, the digital auto climate control, the touchscreen infotainment system and the head-up display (HUD) are all new.

The dashboard layout is quite busy, but still relatively pleasing to look at. The structured layout with contrast trim elements like the faux aluminium insert that runs across the middle of the dashboard boost the perceived quality of the cabin. There is even at attempt at symmetry, and the design and execution of all the new features is very good. 

Maruti is playing catch up with some of its competitors who have moved ahead in the game with cabins that are loaded with connected car tech and other convenience features. Two new features that the Baleno gets, and which makes it stand out from the rest of the premium hatches in the market are the HUD and the 360-degree camera. These features are novel, may be even useful, though they may be more useful in cars with a bigger footprint.

I think it is still a good call to bring in this sort of tech that helps boost safety on the road. The HUD can be deployed or folded in at the touch of a button. Information displayed can be customised too; as also adjustments for matching the display height to the driver’s eye-level. For drivers who haven’t used a HUD before, this might take some getting used to. The 360-degree parking camera displays a generated aerial image on the infotainment screen based on inputs provided by the cameras on the door mirrors and the rear reversing camera. The functionality has been extended by allowing the user to even play back the spherical aerial image to get a final confirmation about the status of the car. 

The 9-inch infotainment system offers a surround sound and speaker algorithm by Arkamys. It also integrates voice commands. There is also the addition of 40 connected car features, Amazon Alexa integration, all controllable using the new Suzuki connect app. Almost all of the telematics was developed in-house by the team at Maruti with assistance from Suzuki Japan.

The new Baleno’s cabin also looks nicer thanks to the black and bluish-grey colour theme that runs across all the major elements - dash, door panels, and even the seat upholstery. The seats themselves sport taller side bolsters than the previous model and were comfortable to sit in during the 4-5 hours that I spent driving and shooting the car. But I found the squabs to be soft even through the upholstery and that could make the seats uncomfortable over long journeys. Overall, space in the cabin is good for a car in the hatch segment. The boot offers 318-litres of luggage space. 

Performance

The new Baleno sports the same 1.2-litre, K12 petrol engine of the previous model, but with some improvements. The 1,197cc, 4-cylinder engine’s peak output remains nearly the same 90PS and peak torque is also the same 113Nm. The CVT gearbox of the previous Baleno has been dropped and in its place the 2022 model gets a revised version of Maruti’s proprietary AGS (auto gear shift) gearbox. This is Maruti’s version of the Automated Manual gearbox that other manufacturers offer.

Maruti has positioned and offered AGS as an affordable clutch-free transmission option in the past, specifically in models that are in price-sensitive segments. But it is a departure with the new Baleno and points to two factors that may have influenced the decision. One, according to company officials, is the growing confidence within Maruti R&D that its AGS has evolved into a much more refined version of the first iterations. Second, the plan is to make the Baleno more accessible and democratise the rest of the segment-first tech by reducing the differential between the 5-speed manual and the auto gearboxes. 

The K12 engine is one of the most refined mills from Maruti and quite literally purrs from inside the bonnet. It is a healthy roar from the engine even when I plant my foot on the throttle. The engine offers a meaty mid-range and since my first test mule was the manual gearbox, I thoroughly enjoyed the peppy performance of the Baleno. Gear shifts are smooth and quick and the Baleno’s powertrain can be easily directed to behave exactly like you’d like it to.

The AGS offers a sort of dual-character. First, to ensure that the Baleno’s premium positioning can be reflected in the gear-stick too, it is shorter, features smoother slotting and also gets a nice gear knob. It is still a AGS and so only comes with a handbrake; no electronic parking brake. The AGS in the new Baleno is much improved over the versions we have seen in other models like the Celerio. Yet, its shift quality and unobtrusive performance is best experienced at part throttle.

A stomping of the accelerator pedal leads to the return of head-nodding shift shocks, as the AGS box tries to match your need for speed; but throttle response itself is pretty good. Manual (+/-) gear selection using the gear stick helps mitigate some of the AGS shift behaviour during heavy acceleration.

The Baleno’s ride quality is really good; it was a highlight even in the outgoing model. The suspension set up enables it to easily sail over speed-breakers and uneven tarmac. The 195/55 R16 Apollo Alnac 4G tyres my test mule came shod with offered good levels of grip and as such the Baleno is agile enough to let you take corners at decent speeds. 

Bottom Line

The new Baleno is being offered in four trim levels for the manual transmission version and in three trim levels for the AGS version. The 2022 model is the first from Maruti’s small car stable to get six airbags (Zeta and Alpha variants). Two front passenger airbags, ABS with EBD, Brake assist and ISOFIX anchorages are standard across all variants. But, the rear middle passenger only gets a lap belt as yet, though regulation changes will make a 3-point belt mandatory. The base Sigma variant is pretty stripped down, but the other variants gets varying levels of equipment.  Overall, the new Baleno is a much improved package. The mileage numbers are also impressive at 22.35kmpl for the manual and 22.94kmpl for the AGS. The mid to top trim levels of the manual gearbox would be perfect for their refinement and drivability. The AGS auto gearbox is not quite like the CVT, despite the latter’s rubber band effect being an equally niggling issue. But if you want to go clutch-free, the AGS will have to be it. Prices range from Rs 6.35 lakh to Rs 9.49 lakh. 

Published on March 02, 2022

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