The Baleno RS will not disappoint drivers who want the pleasure of fast driving

Very few people can afford a real sports car like a Ferrari, Maserati or Porsche. So many sporty car buyers have to settle for sportier cars or ‘pepped up’ hatchbacks like a Golf GTI, a Fiat Abarth or a Mini Cooper that are able to offer a fast car experience in a sensible and much more affordable car. Many car companies have promoted such ‘Hot Hatches’ because they add a lot to a car’s image and pull more customers to auto showrooms.

The Baleno hatchback introduced by Maruti -Suzuki in October 2015 has been a big hit and still has long waiting

list. It was not only more spacious and comfortable than their very successful Swift hatchbacks, but had many ‘mod’ features and great styling that made it an instant hit. It was powered by two peppy 4-cylinder engines. A 1200 cc petrol plant delivering 84 HP and a diesel mill pumping out 75 eager horses. Success however breeds competition and their industrial snoops soon learned that all their rivals like Hyundai, Honda, Tata, Renault and Toyota were looking at this marketing space they had created. So it was necessary to raise the bar once again.

The main addition of the RS to the standard model was a remarkable new petrol engine entirely developed by Suzuki. This was a small 998cc 3-cylinder engine that belts out an enormous 101 HP. It was no mean feat that a roughly 20 per cent smaller engine could deliver 20 per cent more power. More surprisingly it delivered 30 per cent higher torque or pulling power than the standard engine. But, unlike its naturally aspirated predecessor, this ‘boosterjet’ engine had direct fuel injection and turbo charging to enable a small

engine to deliver virtually seamless power delivery on a wide speed range. More torque also meant power at lower

engine speeds resulting in fuel efficiency.

This wide torque range encouraged the company to only offer a lower cost 5-speed manual gearbox as the torque was enough to overcome the need for frequent gear changes. Thus the RS today only has one petrol engine and one manual gearbox, but most drivers will agree that it is plenty. The suspension seems to have been stiffened a little to handle faster driving but not enough to stop a bit of roll when doing twisty roads at high speed. Most buyers will however prefer a soft and comfortable suspension to one that is tuned for fast driving.

Not much has been added to the otherwise excellent interiors except a few trimming touches and the changes are mostly on the exteriors. There is a new front bumper with a larger air dam that continues to project the look of the bow wave of a speed boat and fog lamps. There are also new spoilers but most noticeable is a subtle black skirting all around the lower edges of the car to give an interesting dual tone highlight to all the attractive colors available. There is also a large RS badge on the rear.

The Baleno RS is therefore a very complete small car for a sporty minded buyer who is willing to spend a bit more to get above the madding crowd of commonplace cars. It is good looking but has very comfortable inner space for five people, a decent sized boot and a peppy but economical engine that will not disappoint drivers who want the pleasure of fast driving.

The author is the region’s most celebrated automobile columnist