This was the least powerful car I had ever driven on the Buddh International Circuit, the mecca of Motorsports in India. And yet, on the back straight, this little Maruti was flying past the 170 km/h mark before I braked hard into the tricky right hander. A few corners later, we (the car and I) aimed for the infamous double apex parabolic C10 and C11 curves. The trouble here is that if you mess up with your entry into C10, it’s hard to correct your line all the way till C11. In the process, you can either forget all your racing lines till date or pray that no one else is watching your ‘amateur’ skills. Save for all that drama from the tyres, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno RS thankfully made me a hero today as I aimed for the next few corners with a grin on my face.
Before we get down to the Maruti Baleno RS review, let me elaborate what the RS moniker stands for. It officially means “Road Sport” and not “Race Sport”. So the Baleno RS is more of your everyday road car that can be enjoyed thoroughly whenever you have the urge. It’s got the same spacious and practical interiors but jazzed out design to make sure others take notice of the premium you paid for.
The Baleno RS is available only in one trim level – the fully loaded Alpha version which means you get all the bells and whistles as the normal Baleno. Infact, the interiors are unchanged which is a bit of a surprise. Maruti could have played around with a sportier looking seat fabric and a few RS decals here and there. Or even sportier pedals for that sake. The Punto Abarth does the job well in this regard IMO.
Aesthetically, the Baleno RS does not look as appealing as it does once on the move. I had ample time to watch other journos go around for their session and the car does look stunning at speeds. The one in golden stands out. Changes to the RS in terms of design includes
- Blacked out alloy wheels
- New front & rear bumpers
- Rear Spoiler
- Side skirts
- And the RS badge
These changes go a long way in making the RS stand out from its ‘sober’ sibling. This is a good move as compared to say the Polo GT TSI that has no visual differences as compared to the normal models. Want to see the Baleno’s wilder version with Lamborghini inspired doors?
But I was here at the Buddh International Circuit for a different reason – for a proper Maruti Baleno RS review! A 2.5 hour early morning flight followed by a 2 hour drive across NCR to this place, I was more than eager to get behind the wheel. As I rolled off the pit area, the excellent NVH levels impressed me a lot – the RS has a 3 cylinder unit and yet the car was completely devoid of those typical vibrations and rough noise. I spent the first couple of minutes understanding the car and the slightly heavier steering was apparent – this thanks to the extra 60 kilos under the hood. Maruti also claims the RS’ suspension has been stiffened slightly but yet she remained comfortable over the side strips around corners.
The beauty of the engine is in its explosive mid-range. 150 Nm of torque is not a big figure but when you consider that all this is available from as low as 1700 rpm, all the way till 4500 rpm, even driving on a track becomes fun. Take for instance a 60 kmph corner that I was happily doing in 3rd and not downshifting to 2nd. Talking of which, the RS hits its rev limiter at a shade over 6,000rpm which is good for 85 kmph in 2nd and 130+ in the 3rd gear. On the back straight, as visible in this image captured via my helmet cam, the RS hit 170 km/h in 4th. Given the road, I think she will do 180 km/h on the speedometer which is impressive for what is basically a 1000 cc engine.
All that torque will also make the Baleno RS a very good urban car. I am really looking forward to driving this on my 35km Delhi to Gurgaon commute someday. Low end torque combined with low NVH levels will definitely make this a fuss free car for low speeds. Not to forget excellent fuel economy that will keep your pocket happy!
It is the most powerful Maruti hatchback ever, even producing more power and torque than the first Baleno (sedan) that was known for its performance. The engine-gear box set up is perfect but what is not are the tyres. They simple give in too early and cry for mercy easily. The entire area around the track was reverberating with the screeching sound of tyres as Baleno RSs of all colors went around corners! Owners are advised to shell out 2% more over the car’s value and upgrade to stickier rubber – this will also add to the confidence factor.
Thankfully the brakes work very well and inspite of back to back sessions by multiple drivers, the brakes didn’t show signs of fading. Ofcourse down-shifting and using engine braking always helps but the reassurance of disc brakes all around and their working ability adds to the peace of mind. Good move this by Maruti (over the normal Baleno)
Head over Page 2 for our verdict and more images