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Old 24th February 2018, 20:25   #1
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Default Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

What are the odds? You are driving you new car home and are planning to take a pit stop. Searching for a proper space to pull up your eyes fall on a familiar shape. Your very first car, sold almost 9 years prior and seen just a couple of times since. Parked. Coincidently it's of the same manufacturer and a spiritual predecessor of sorts of your new ride. Yeah, I know. I could not believe my eyes too. But there she was, a California Gold M-800 5 speed. Encountered as I was driving my week old Baleno RS home.

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In a way this was a predecessor in more that one aspect. The 5 speed was one of the first times Maruti had two variants of the same model differing in power output. Another that I can think of was the Alto 800 and the Alto 1.1 litre. Now the Baleno and the Baleno RS. The RS takes me back to a 3 cylinder heart but a turbo charged one at that.

Should I get a new car?
The lack of back seat space meant that the Polo GT was becoming a bit of a pain especially when travelling with parents. My son's car seat meant that 2 adults on the rear seat was quite a squeeze. Couple that with limited leg room meant that a replacement was in the offing. Additionally the car was touching 90k. A belt change was imminent in the next 20k or so and I did not want to let the car go just after spending 20k odd on a timing belt change. This would mean hanging on to the car for 3 years or so. Everything considered, this looked like an ideal time for a change. Easier said than done, as the GT TDi performance was a tough act to follow and there was no way I was settling for something with less than 90% of it's capabilities. I briefly pondered with picking up a used 3 series 320d but found that I would have to look at 2008 - 2011 examples to meet my budget. Shelved that as a future project.

New car but which one..
I really wanted to go back to petrol but wanted something that would be quite powerful, spacious and at a price point that would compensate for the increase fuel bills. The Honda City mid variant fit this bill for a brief period of time, till the new facelift was launched at a price that took it out of my budget too. That immediately ruled out a petrol sedan. If going over 10 lakhs, it would have to be a diesel. The choice was between the Jetta, Creta and the S-Cross 1.6. I was unwilling to go through another German ownership experience immediately after the Polo. The S-Cross was a great choice especially after the price cut, but for two reasons. One, I just could not get over the shape. Two, the lag. Situations where the Polo used 3rd gear, the S-Cross needed second. 50% of my drive is in the city and this would be tiresome. The Creta impressed. Especially the top end diesel. Excellent driveability coupled with a step up in performance when needed. Interiors that oozed quality and space were just what the doctor ordered. Things seemed to be going the Creta way when the news of the Baleno RS started doing rounds. With the BoosterJet turbo petrol. I was cautiously optimistic. Price and the final tuning would be the deciders.

RS Launch, test drive and a decision
The RS was launched at a price that fit my budget. The T-bhp test drive was a dampner. However I still had hope as I really believe that a F1 test circuit is no place to test a performance hatch. It is just too big for such a small car and would mask performance unless you have a crazy powerplant like the GTI. I lost no time getting a test drive. One word to describe the experience was lively. The roll on accelerations were very good and the car did show a willingness to rev. The suspension was not as planted as the Polo GT which I initially thought was a result of the lack of weight but have since realised that it's not entirely true. More of that later. The engine was responsive from the start with no low rpm tendency to stall like some petrol cars have. The mid range too was very good and the car did change direction very well though with a bit more nervously compared to the GT. The RS was a bantam weight boxer light on it's feet to the GT's WWF style punch. One downer is that the RPM is limited to 5500 rpm. However the gear shift is light and the throw relatively short which makes working it a pleasure. Shift well and the car picked up speed very quickly. I was sold. Proceeded to book a Ray Blue RS with strict instructions to the sales advisor that I would call him once I am close to finalising a deal on the Polo. I almost forgot. The alloys too were a damp squid. They looked okay in motion and from a distance but come closer and they were pretty ordinary for a car with the RS's credentials.

Have I made the right choice?
As I put my Polo GT on the block, I did drive a few other cars. Notable among them were the Fort Figo Sport and the new Hyundai Verna AT diesel. Two excellent cars that I enjoyed driving. The suspension tuning on the Figo does make a difference and the automatic on the Hyundai Verna is tuned excellently. However they did not have so much to change my decision on the RS.

In between I changed my decision on the color and opted for the premium silver instead. This I felt would go better with the black alloys, which was vindicated when I recieved the car as well.

Booking and Handover
The booking experience was quite decent. Nothing unpleasant but nothing stand out either. I generally make my expectation very clear to the sales person include communication, follow-ups etc. The only minor irritant was that they wanted me to pay the full amount upfront before alloting the car which I quite obviously denied. It was quite quickly sorted out and they ensured that I go to see the vehicle in the yard before payment. I was alloted a May 2017 vehicle, though I took delivery in September. The explanation was that not being a volume model Maruti did have stock in their yard.

The day for the pickup dawned and as usual it turned out to be a hectic day at office. Nothing special about the pickup except the fact that you get to cut a cake when the car is delivered. Along with the car Nexa has a standard package (at cost of course) that includes mats, a mobile charger, a couple of cushions and a few car care items. The car care items were the best of the lot including a small bottle of shampoo, a microfibre cloth, and a dashboard polish. A coupon for 5 litres of fuel is also handed over. The car was delivered with 2 litres of fuel.

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- The 1.0 BoosterJet engine. Versatile, flexible, competent in both city and highway.
- Spacious interiors, very good legroom, wide cabin and a big boot.
- Projector headlamps that work quite well and light up the road adequately.
- Auto dimming rear view mirror.
- Auto headlamps.
- Touch screen infotainment system with voice recognition that does a good enough to be pratically useful.
- Excellent ride quality both on good highways and unevenly surfaced roads as well.
- MID with practical information screens and graphics for brag value!
- A good selection of setup options to setup various features on the car.
- Request sensor on boot and doors that work well, providing a keyless experience.
- Automatic climate control that cools the cabin quite fast.
- Light controls that require little effort to operate.
- Maruti service assurance.

- Soft suspension spoils what would otherwise be a great experience.
- Soft foam on seats. Firmer seats would have been better on longer drives.
- Plastic quality which is still some way off from VW and Hyundai standards.
- Interior design is good but lacks pizzazz. The ignis interiors have much more character. Interiors while for the most part better that regular Maruti also do not convey the premiumnness that the Nexa brand is supposed to deliver. This aspect is still a work in progress.
- Uninspiring alloy design. Just the standard Baleno alloys painted black.
- With the skirts the 195/55 R16 tyres look small and the car undertyred. 7J alloys and 205/55 R16 a decent upgrade.
- Fog lamp colors do not match that of the projectors.
- Steering wheel does not self centre.

Drive on,

Last edited by Zappo : 5th March 2018 at 12:42. Reason: Corrected the date to May 2017
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Old 24th February 2018, 22:12   #2
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The experience so far...
Space is just great. Legroom at the front and the back is very good. The back seat legroom is with the driver's seat adjusted to my 5'11" frame and I sit lower than usual too. The seat are quite wide too. I realised this especially when I sat in the new Swift whose seats are narrower. However one grouse that I do have is that the seats are just too soft. They should have been firmer which would be much more supportive especially during longer stints.

The noise levels inside are pretty well contained but the doors and windows still do let in a bit of external noises, not cutting them out to an extent that a European car would. I would put this down to the lack of thickness of the body panels and the window panes more than anything else. Suspension noises over rough roads are well contained and there is a certain damping and softness to the shocks as you go over potholes etc.

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Mats look snazzy but unfortunately are a bit lacking in functionality. I may have been spoilt by those marvelously engineered rubber mats of the Polo but come on Maruti. Even the mats supplied with my 800 did a much better job that this. Especially the drivers side mat the top end of which always seems to fold over every time I exit the car. Quality and finish of the mats are quite good though.

Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS-pic5.jpg

Features!! This car is quite packed with the lot of them. Puddle lamps on the door and...

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footwell lighting as well.

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A mid display with quite good graphics. Quite a few screens that you can scroll through. Recently I've been having fun using the display shown below to figure out how to improve my mileage figures. I was surprised how well it aids you in that respect. It shows you how you are currently faring against the more recently calculated average. Coming to mileage; It's a petrol. It's sensitive. If you want mileage that has a certain level of disconnect to your trigger happiness on the gas pedal get a diesel. The fuel costs are up 30% on my GT for similar monthly mileage. Babying the throttle has got me 20 kmpl. Spirited drives will see the mileage dip into the low 12s. Unless to try very hard of drive really badly, it is probably quite difficult to drop the mileage into single digits. A combined city, highway (50% split) gives me around 14 - 15 kmpl. In a nutshell it delivers a mileage has an inverse relationship to your aggressiveness on the throttle.

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Quite a generous collection of settings cover almost all the options that most of us would need. The guide me lights are there for both car and home.

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One of the largest touch screens in any car this side of 20 lakhs. A far cry from the monochrome unit on the Polo. Boot up takes a few seconds more than expected when you start up but use that time to buckle up and the screen is ready by the time your hands are on the wheel. My ICE requirements are pretty average and this satisfies me. However the bass does cause the door pad to shiver if turned up high. The Polo's ICE was better in this regard. I anyway use moderate volumes.
Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS-pic-9.jpg
Navigation is limited by the lack of updates. Use regular destinations and routes and it works fine. Just don't expect it to pick out short cuts and update routes like Google.

The voice recognition feature works fine for the most part. I use it to to change music artists as well as to ring up people in my contact list. Some names do trip it up and ambient noises when the door is open etc. Practical and useable for the most part.

Recently got the Android Auto update as well done during the 3rd service. My major benefit will be being able to use Google navigation displayed on my console. However I noted that since the upgrade the audio stops playing in the middle of the playlist for not apparent reason. Not sure if this is due to the upgrade.

The armrest is quite useful and is quite easy to rest my elbow on. However without the adjustable option the usability might be limited for shorter driver who need to move the seat forward to meet their desired driving position.
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Automatic climate control works quite well. I especially like the round display where the temp is displayed quite prominently with a host of other info around it.
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Height adjustable seat belts. Helped a lot when I was driving my grandmother who is on the shorter side.
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to be continued...

Drive on,

Last edited by shibujp : 3rd March 2018 at 22:21.
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Old 24th February 2018, 23:09   #3
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As mentioned by a few owners the auto headlamps are a bit aggressive, turning on quite a bit earlier in the evening. But I am quite used to it now and other road users do not seem to be quite so much bothered by it. Also does not hurt to be quite a lot more visible on the road. I generally keep it in auto now. One grouse though is that the fog lamps do not switch off when I switch to park mode at night.

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If there is one area where the RS falls short it is in the choice of suspension tuning. The attempt to control costs and appeal to a wider set of buyers is very evident here. To their credit Maruti has used stiffer springs at front and added some extra metal to stiffen the chassis. In real life the ride is excellent on a wide variety of roads and the car holds it's line pretty well on the twisties. High speed composure on the highway is good too except for a bit of floatiness at the front that I will get to in a bit. The ride at the back is a long way off from the stiff kneed Swift and on the highway there is no unwanted vertical pitching or bobbing like the previous generation Verna. Calling it a nervous handler in any situation is a serious dis-service. Maruti is still some way off the handling/ride compromise that Ford seems to be so good at but they have been able to deliver that big car feel to their larger hatches and sedans since the third gen Swift. The RS is no exception.

Turn in is quick thanks to the lightness of the front axle. Body roll is there but very well contained and the car settles well after in initial dive. The lack of weight means that you can't just fling it into a corner with abandon and then hope that the weight over the axles keeps the car in line. You need to keep in mind that the car is light. Set the car up for a corner well and there are no histronics. Else you can provoke a wriggle and feel a general lightness of the rear especially if there are mid corner bumps.

What the RS actually lacks is a complete retune of the suspension bits. I would be wrong to say that it is an absolute dud. This means a completely different set of spring and damper settings. If they have this as a 50K option on the RS, I would happily sign up. in particular the front suspension is too soft and in my experience a large contributor to the floatiness one feels at high speeds on the highway. In addition, getting on and off the throttle gives a rubbery vibe. As an immediate fix I got a pair of suspension buffers that did make a lot of different to the feel of the front. No doubt, a stiffer tuning would result in a harshes ride but for enthusiasts who are willing to trade that for dropping speeds on the rougher bits, it would be a no brainer.

The steering feel is typically Maruti and I don't feel the RS has anything special. It is reasonably feelsome, weighs up pretty well at speed, and is quite light at parking speeds as well. My bemchmark after all these years remains that of a Ford Ikon 1.3. Nothing has come close for the past decade or so. The steering of the RS does not self centre well and initially caught me off guard. Adjusting your line on a car that has a steering wheel that self centers is just a matter of loosening your grip on the steering and letting it slip through your fingers and then tighening your grip at the right moment. None of that on the RS. Steering input have to be delivered an after a turn you have to conciously pull the steering back into line.

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The heart of the matter. The 1 litre BoosterJet. It is a fantastic little cracker.Maruti does have this habit of coming out with these engines that are very well tuned with very good driveability and the BoosterJet is one of them. The 3 cylinder MPFI 5 speed, the 1.2 litre K12, the GB13 engine in the Esteem, this engine is right there with them. The charm of these engines are not in the figures on paper or a power delivery that takes your breath away with the savagery. But it in the usability and thrills they deliver in everyday use. As i mentioned in the start this engine seems to share so much with the one in my 5 speed MPFI right down to that bassy rumble. Up the revs and you can hear this sporty rasp, almost a snarl inside that eggs you on. The revs build up quite quickly. But at 6000 rpm the rev limiter cuts in and rains on your parade. Shift up at the 5000 rpm mark through the gears and by the time you reach 5th you are doing some serious speeds. Does this mean that it's a high rpm performer? Far from it. There is plenty of torque available at low rpms so that getting a move on from idle with part throttle is not a hassle at all. The turbo lag is pretty non existent. In gear performance in 3rd and 4th is very good and handy for those overtakes on two lane highways. On 4 lanes too there is enough meat to pick up speed in 5th gear too. The responsive nature means that it does well on hair pins and curves on the hill, ensuring that the turbo lag does not bog you down. On a trip to Ooty it felt much easier to drive that my Polo GT in which the turbo lag caught me out on the hairpins.

Engine refinement is quite good but the engine does have a 3 cylinder thrum at all times. Pushing through the revs is not as smooth as the Hondas but there are no unpleasant vibes either. It is rarely as quiet as some of the Honda petrols. However the noise is far from intrusive and with some music you hardly notice it. The engine note is pleasant and the rasp at high rpms will appeal to most enthusiasts. I love revving it just to hear the engine note. Maruti seems to have done some work on delivering the right sound inside the cabin as it sounds quite different outside. And after 90K of a tractor like Polo diesel which I had no complaints about, the Baleno's engine is whisper silent to me!

I have felt that the engine is quite flexible and able to balance both city and highway requirements quite well. In the city the responsiveness and the low rpm torque make traffic easy to manage. On the highway the adequate torque across a broad rpm range makes overtaking and high speed cruising quite easy with enough torque available in 4th and 5th to pull off overtaking with pleanty more available just a downshift away.

That said it's a pity Maruti had to detune this engine. Having and extra 25Nm and 8-10 bhp would have been a blast. But in it current state of tune it still delivers the fun quotient in spades and to me that is quite sufficient given the sum total of the entire product.

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The rear parcel tray is a bit higher than the rear seat back. Though it has quite a deep recess things do have a tendency to fall onto the seat while braking etc. A minor inconvenience but looking at the sloping roof line and the head rests you do understand the compromises the designers had to deal with.

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A new team bhp sticker takes place at a new position as opposed to the LCLC sticker on the hatch on my previous rides. A related request...could we have some of the other stickers in the size of the LCLC sticker?

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Projectors!! It's amazing how this has quickly become a standard for sub 10L cars. The beams were setup for a very short throw from the factory. However once I adjusted them things were fine and the headlamps are quite good now. The headlamp unit looks quite good too with the chrome on too mimicking the BMW "eyebrow".

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The wipers and washer nozzles could be better integrated and discreet. Both work quite well and are sufficient for our conditions.

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My dashcam position on the windshield. This unit did duty in the Polo and has found it's place on the Baleno as well.

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Due to the skirts the reqular mud flaps of the Baleno cannot be installed. Suzuki UK has these flexible mud flaps that Maruti should make available here. In our rainy conditions mud flaps are a necessity. That said, the side skirts actually prevent a lot of mud or dirt getting into the door sills.

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The gearshift is another item from the Maruti parts bin. Has got a nice patterned grip knob though and a chrome ring on top. A clear plastic window on top ensures that the shift pattern markings do not fade in the long term. The gearing is short and well suited to the nature of the engine. There are no flat spots and power is consistent till the red line. Being short geared, gearshifts are in order to make fast progress else you bump of the redline at 60 kmph in 2nd and 80 kmph in 3rd. What does help a lot is the light clutch and the slick gear shift that "snicks" through the gates. It was a bit notchy at first but has become smoother since the 3rd service. It's short throw as well with me occasionally ending up in 4th while shifting from 1st to 2nd.

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Plastics are a notch above the regular Maruti quality. One mistake that Nexa showrooms typically make is polish it to a gloss shining look which makes it look cheap. The standard feel with a matt look is good enough. That said the quality is not upto Hyundai standards not is the fit and finish upto VW's.

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not quite done yet...

Drive on,

Last edited by shibujp : 3rd March 2018 at 22:05.
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Old 24th February 2018, 23:40   #4
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The detailing on the indicator housing is very nice. Has a crystal effect on closer inspection.

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The rear camera is very well integrated and the guidelines are quite accurate.

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Pulling upto the red line means less than half a feet separation from the obstacle in question.

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Initially opening the boot was a pain. Either the car had to be unlocked using the key fob or the request sensor on the doors. That is...till I discovered a request sensor helpfully placed on the right of the boot opening switch. The placement of the switch also means you can open the hatch without getting your fingers dirty especially in rainy conditions.

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Boot mats should be standard fare. Almost none of the manufacturers at this price point carry this even as an accessory. Got a piece of floor lamination material cut to size at a local accessory shop which does the job very well.

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Another miss. The cars diet should be clearly indicated on the filler cap especially as the car is available in both variants. Had to get a sticker for this. I don't like pasting it on the fuel hatch so this discreet location worked fine.

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Request sensors on the door work well. Unlocking using the request sensors does not trigger on the guide to car headlamps mode. This works only when the car is unlocked using the key fob. Neat.

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Could have thrown in a shark fin antenna instead of this "stick stuck in a blob of dough" variant. Perhaps retro fitting the one that comes with the Ciaz is an option.

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Yellow fogs do not match the light color of the projectors. Got a pair of Osram LED fogs and test fitted one on the left side that has easier access. The light color matches the projector now.

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Full credit and more to Maruti for giving a vehicle in this segment 4 wheel discs. As a result braking is excellent and the car sheds speed very fast. The rear disc does look quite small but from experience does the job. However the brake pedal feedback is not as good as the Polo GT where you could precisely feed in the braking force and stop accurately. Also the ABS in the RS is tuned quite aggressively and cuts in quite early when it senses slip. However as I put on the kilometers I seem to be getting better at modulating the brake pedal accurately. The Yokos too on the Polo would have contributed in no small way to the braking feel. The Michelin Primacy 3STs are not quite there in terms of grip and brake feel.

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An unassuming performer is what I would call the RS. Coming from Maruti it gets compared with the GT cousins. Most people who knew of my GT always have the question why Maruti next. It is difficult to change perceptions and convince them that the RS does run the GT quite close in performance and actually beats it in certain aspects. In the lack of expectations too lies in a perfect sleeper. Most folks think that it's a regular Baleno done up with skirts and stuff. It is neither a slight to VW's shortcomings nor a love of Maruti's qualities that caused the shift. I love a fun car and if one ticks the right boxes, it's a matter of whether the failings can be endured or compensated that determine the possibility for ownership. Both the Polo GT and the RS are pioneers in their own right. The GT for realistically giving a taste of what a fast, manual hot hatch would deliver at a realistic price and the RS for proving that performance and mass appeal need not be at loggerheads. Both have contrasting philosophies on how to achieve performance but deliver great fun all the same. Nothing can take away the fun that the GT was and I look forward to the great experience that the RS promises to be. As a first time foray into the performance enthusiast domain, Maruti has done a great job. Yes there are loose ends that in the interests of cost have not been tied up but the basic package is extremely good and the failings can be put right with a few well chosen mods.

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Drive on,

Last edited by shibujp : 3rd March 2018 at 22:12.
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Old 4th March 2018, 18:14   #5
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Thread moved from the Assembly Line to the Initial Ownership Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 4th March 2018, 23:03   #6
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Hey, nice write-up. One question, how does the RS engine perform in the rarer air at higher altitudes? You dis drive up to Ootty, would you say the RS has a definite edge over an NA engine in the hills?
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Old 4th March 2018, 23:19   #7
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Originally Posted by Gear-ge View Post
Hey, nice write-up. One question, how does the RS engine perform in the rarer air at higher altitudes? You dis drive up to Ootty, would you say the RS has a definite edge over an NA engine in the hills?

I did not feel any lack of power from the engine in the hills or any issues stemming from turbo lag. I have not driven an NA engine in the hills for quite a few years now so can't really make a comparison but as a standalone assessment the car did just fine.

Drive on,
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Old 5th March 2018, 05:47   #8
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Congratulations! and a well put together review indeed. Quite a move going from the Polo to the RS
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Old 5th March 2018, 09:29   #9
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Congratulations on your new possession! Excellent choice of shade and alloys.Very well written review.
I would like to here from you on the following points:
  • How is the ground clearance? One of my friend has got an RS & he is complaining about GC
  • How is the built quality compared to normal Baleno

Last edited by ShubhamGhute : 5th March 2018 at 09:47.
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Old 5th March 2018, 10:18   #10
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Originally Posted by ROG_AK View Post
Congratulations! and a well put together review indeed. Quite a move going from the Polo to the RS
Thanks! Good to have your ride too as a reference to compare notes with.

Originally Posted by ShubhamGhute View Post
Congratulations on your new possession! Excellent choice of shade and alloys.Very well written review.
I would like to here from you on the following points:
  • How is the ground clearance? One of my friend has got an RS & he is complaining about GC
  • How is the built quality compared to normal Baleno

I haven't had any issues with the GC so far. The only aspect that I have been taking extra care of is the chin spoiler, having scraped the chin of both my Swift and Polo occasionally. But even that has fared quite well with only an especially stepped difference between the road and the entrance to a house catching me out.

Does you friend have clearance issues in the middle of the car or at the front?

No difference in build quality from regular Balenos that I could make out. It's pretty much the same IMHO.

Drive on,
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Old 5th March 2018, 10:32   #11
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Hey Shibu, congratulations on your new ride!! And that 800 still looks well-kept.
How are the wheels/tyres holding up on broken roads?
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Old 5th March 2018, 11:06   #12
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Congrats on the new car mate! Does the car feel its weight? What I mean is does it feels safe or safe enough when compared to your Polo?
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Old 5th March 2018, 11:29   #13
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Originally Posted by shibujp View Post
The RS takes me back to a 3 cylinder heart but a turbo charged one at that.
Congrats once again Shibu for this acquisition. I really never imagined a Silver Car can be made to look that good bro!!

The Polo 1.6 GT TDI is such a performance oriented machine, that it is so tough to look for a replacement. I still remember how you were flying along with the Laras and Abarths on the return leg of one of our BHP meets.
So if you felt that RS was the 'Right Way' forward, I think I must just go ahead and give it a TD once.

Wish you very happy mile munching, and a fuss free motoring.
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Old 5th March 2018, 13:08   #14
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Originally Posted by shibujp View Post

An unassuming performer is what I would call the RS.
I agree. Thanks for your review. I had been waiting for it, because your test drive reports in the official review thread had helped me decide on my choice of Baleno RS. I too chose premium silver colour and have received many compliments for the same.

A bit more from you on the upgraded tyre size and the change in drive compared to the original tyres would be helpful. For now I am satisfied with the OEM tyres.
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Old 5th March 2018, 14:47   #15
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Default Re: Shibujp's Maruti Baleno RS

Congrats on the RS shibhujp

Quick question - Isn't 205/50 R16 the right upsize?
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