Baleno makes a comeback

Baleno makes a comeback
Highlights

Baleno makes a comeback. Maruti Suzuki seems to have been keeping its promise with introducing the country with a slew of premium cars this year.

Maruti Suzuki seems to have been keeping its promise with introducing the country with a slew of premium cars this year. It has also positioned it above all of its current products, and the Nexa chain of dealerships is ready to treat the discerning luxury crossover buyer the way he/she should be treated.

But, all said and done, the Nexa experience, no matter how pleasing, won't survive on profits earned by selling a Rs 15 lakh crossover alone. Nexa needs that volume driver, and soon. Hyundai has been selling 10,000 units of the Elite i20 every month on an average, and the new Honda Jazz, too, has received a warm welcome.

Clearly, there is a market for a big, feature-rich Rs 8-10 lakh hatchback, and even though the Swift is still going strong, the time for a swish, sizeable Maruti hatch has come. So, on to the Baleno. The Baleno name was used on a three-door hatchback that Suzuki sold in Germany back in the day, and since this hatch is making its debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show (and will also be sold globally), Suzuki has seen fit to revert to an old nameplate.

For India, though, it will receive a new name, because the Baleno sedan, while loved by scores of people, is an old product, and Maruti may want the hatch to have an identity of its own. At 4,023mm, the Baleno doesn't classify as a sub-four metre vehicle, but we expect Maruti to shave those extra millimetres off in a bid to secure that precious excise duty sop.

But, despite the trimming, the Baleno should still be one of the biggest hatches in the country, with ample space for five people and their luggage. It's based on a new modular platform, so Suzuki may roll out a sedan based on the Baleno hatch for international markets, as well as a mild hybrid version of the hatch sometime in the future.

A new 1.0-litre, direct-injection turbo 'Boosterjet' petrol motor will power the Baleno hatch. Suzuki hasn't confirmed figures yet, but we expect it to develop close to 90bhp, along with a healthy dollop of torque. This compact new mill weighs very little, and with the Smart Hybrid Vehicle by Suzuki (SHVS) tech, which will make its Indian debut on the Ciaz, is also extremely fuel-efficient.

For India, it will also get the 1.3-litre DDiS diesel engine we see in other Marutis. The best part is, India doesn't have to wait too long for the Baleno. After appearing at Frankfurt, the car will be launched here during the festive season, and we expect it to be priced between Rs 6-10 lakh.­

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