In the 16 months since its launch in India, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno has had a lot going for it. It created a lot of excitement and somewhat redefined the premium compact hatchback segment in the Indian market. And sales of close to 150,000 cars during this period tell us how popular the Baleno is. Even as consumers continue to make a beeline for the Baleno, the company has upped the game in the segment by introducing the performance-oriented Baleno RS, powered by a new 1 l Boosterjet direct injection turbo engine.
The Baleno RS – Road Sport in this case, unlike the Rally Sport that most enthusiasts would associate the RS badge with – is primarily about the new engine. The suspension has been retuned compared to the standard Baleno, and the exterior has been refreshed to complement the positioning of the car, and the changes thereof are pleasingly appealing. But first, let's take a detailed look at the Boosterjet engine.
The Boosterjet 1.0 is one of the two engines Suzuki produces in the Boosterjet series, the other being the more powerful 1.4 l unit. The 998 cc, three-cylinder engine on the Baleno RS is a direct injection turbo engine that produces around 100 hp of peak power and 150 Nm of torque. The Boosterjet 1 l engine is claimed to deliver 20 % more power and 30 % more torque compared to a regular 1.2 l naturally aspirated petrol engine.
There are technical advances that enhance the performance quotient on the Boosterjet engine – at the core of the engine lie the direct injection system that delivers fuel at pressures of about 200 bar into the cylinders, giving the engine very efficient combustible air-fuel mixture that help reduce fuel consumption as well as emissions. In a DI engine, to quickly create an air fuel mixture inside the cylinder, the fuel to be injected must be atomised. Additionally, the shape of the intake ports and the pistons are optimised to generate a stronger tumble flow.
The turbocharger, on the other hand, utilises the energy of the exhaust gases to drive the turbines and force feed the compressed air into the cylinders. The result is not only output equivalent to an engine of much greater displacement, but also high torque at low revs. The turbine runs at around 200,000 rpm and this result in an output that is equivalent to the output of a much larger engine, explained CV Raman, Executive Director (Engineering), MSIL.
Some of the other highlights of the compact and lightweight engine include reduced friction timing chain, short port intake manifold, roller rocker follower with hydraulic lash adjustor, a dual relief oil pump, and integrated exhaust manifold.
From a performance perspective, the first thing we noticed was the ease at which the engine builds power. There is no visible lag, as the engine revs quickly through to the peak rpm limit. We could push the car to a maximum speed of around 162 km/h on the back straight at BIC, and at all times NVH levels on the engine was refined, albeit with a constant humming, yet not-so-unpleasant noise. Transmission on the Baleno RS is the same 5-speed manual unit found on the regular Baleno hatchback.
Now, the Boosterjet engine that is available globally delivers around 170 Nm of torque and 85 kW, or approximately 14 hp of additional power compared to the one launched in India. The engine has actually been detuned to cope with the poor quality of fuel available in our country at the moment. Most vehicles in India today run on petrol with octane rating of 91, while the European-spec Boosterjet needs to run on 95 octane rating petrol. One of the key parameters for petrol is the octane number, which essentially is a measure of its resistance to knock.
Apart from the engine, the other way to distinguish the RS from the regular Baleno is its exterior styling. The bumpers in the front and rear are new, with body spoilers all around the vehicle. The grille on the front has also been redesigned. The other notable change is the black-coloured set of wheels, and they look good. Overall, the Baleno RS offers freshness to an already popular car, and that should make things easy for the company to attract more consumers to its NEXA outlets, through which the Baleno is retailed.
Inside the Baleno RS cabin, there is no change compared to the standard car. We were fairly impressed with the interior of the Baleno, and that is not simply restricted to the way the dashboard or the instrument cluster looks. The all-black look continues to charm, while the materials used and the fit & finish are good for the segment it will play in. The only doubt we have here is whether the consumers would expect some sporty elements in the interiors to go with the RS badge.
Maruti informed us that the suspension on the Baleno RS has been re-tuned and stiffened by about 10 %, to add "character" to the car. The ride and handling on the Baleno RS is fairly sorted, and it never felt nervous on the circuit. The only complaint we had was with the tyre grip, which seemed to lose confidence with every additional lap we took. The 14-inch disc brakes in the front and 13-inch disc brakes at the rear do their jobs well.
The Baleno RS has been launched in a single variant – Alpha – and it complies with top-notch safety norms. Dual airbags, ABS, seatbelt with pre-tensioners and force limiters add to the safety quotient of the car, which has been tested at the company's R&D centre in Rohtak and meets future pedestrian safety, side impact and frontal offset impact regulations.
At a price of Rs 8.69 lakh, (ex-showroom, Delhi), we believe the Baleno RS has been decently priced. This is not meant to significantly drive up the numbers for the Baleno. The standard Baleno, any which way, continues to have a long waiting period. The RS, for sure, will add some extra dose of power and performance for the customers, who demand that little bit extra from their vehicles. And to that effect, the Baleno RS doesn't disappoint one bit.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay