Maruti Suzuki has finally entered the hot-hatch segment in India with the Baleno RS. At Rs 8.69 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), the Baleno RS is priced Rs 1.4 lakh higher than the similarly equipped Baleno Alpha and about half a lakh less than the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI. The big question then is, is the premium that Maruti Suzuki is charging over the standard Baleno justified? And, should you put your money on the Baleno RS when you have a dual-clutch equipped Polo GT TSI in proximity? Let’s unriddle this…
Before comparing the performance and specs with the Polo GT TSI, let’s first see what the RS has in store compared to the standard Baleno. Cosmetic changes include revised front and rear bumpers, and a new grille. On the equipment list, the rear disc brakes are something you get additional with the RS version. But the big mechanical difference is the 1.0-litre, direct injection, Boosterjet engine that makes 102PS of maximum power. There’s another thing that’s different, and that’s the transmission, although Maruti Suzuki hasn’t been vocal about it. The transmission is equipped to withstand higher torque compared to the 5-speed manual unit of the standard Baleno. Nevertheless, it’s the additional power that you feel, which, since we have driven it now, makes a big difference in the way the car moves.
Coming back to the big question then, is the Rs 1.4 lakh over the Baleno Alpha justified? Well, as an enthusiast would be pleased with the RS and its manual transmission. But, for a layman, the less powerful Baleno with its option of an automatic transmission makes a lot of sense, especially when you factor in the price. So, the premium that you pay for the Baleno RS makes this car more exclusive, and that is probably what the manufacturer wants to state here.
The other side of the coin is, how does it fare against the competition? Compared to the Volkswagen Polo GT TSI, the Baleno doesn’t command the same level of premiumness, and the Polo also feels more powerful of the two (we are yet to test the Baleno RS’ performance, and therefore we can’t comment on how it’d fare against the Polo GT TSI on the racetrack). However, Baleno RS has some crucial factors going its way, the first being a manual transmission, which gives you more command on the car, and the other is the Maruti Suzuki badge. The company says the owning the Baleno RS will be nearly as easy on the pocket as the standard Baleno. Also, the obvious peace of mind associated with a simple manual transmission will and the Maruti badge is sure to weigh in its favour. The Maruti factor will also ensure that you get a better price for your used RS when you’re done with it. All these factors together will make the Baleno RS a more rounded package compared to the Polo GT TSI.
Finally, considering that the Baleno RS caters to a niche segment, Maruti has priced it at a bit of a premium. And, this feels all too obvious when compared to VW’s Polo GT SI. We wish the RS had a better set of tyres and some interior updates to distinguish it from the standard Baleno and, that would have helped the RS partly justify its Rs 8.69 lakh. While we think the Baleno RS makes for a very exciting hatchback that can be a sensible everyday car for most people, it also needed to be priced lower, by Rs 40-50,000, to be good value too.