Maruti Suzuki has finally forayed into the 100PS+ performance hatchback space with the launch of the new Baleno RS. We've always regarded the Baleno as a sweet-handling car, and after our Affordable Hatchback Track Test, we felt that the chassis deserves a powerful motor. Our wishes, as well as of many others, has been granted and at Rs 8.69 lakh (ex-Delhi), the Baleno RS is priced quite well when you consider the competition, namely the Ford Figo 1.5 AT, Volkswagen Polo GT TSI and the Abarth Punto.
While the Baleno RS looks quite similar to the regular hatchback, there are a few differentiators such as the blacked-out honeycomb grille, front splitter, side skirts and black mesh under the rear bumper. There's also a body-coloured rear spoiler that completes the sporty look of the Baleno. In contrast, the Figo and Polo GT look identical to their 1.2-litre naturally aspirated-engined siblings. Though there's one car that looks like a proper hatchback, and that's the Abarth Punto. With bright, contrasting stickers and tastefully designed alloys wrapped with fat tyres, the Abarth Punto is quite a looker. And then you have the Abarth badging all around to remind everyone that they are staring at a performance-oriented hatchback.
The Baleno gets the smallest engine here and makes the least power (102PS); however, its 950kg kerb weight is also the least in this group which gives it the second best power-to-weight ratio at 107.36PS/tonne. The Figo has the next best at 104.3PS/tonne followed by the Polo GT at 94.67PS/tonne. The Punto makes the most power in this quartet at 145PS and weighs the most at 1,198kg, which gives the best power-to-weight ratio at 121PS/tonne.
On paper, the Punto seems to beat every other hatchback; however, as we found during our track test, the Italian does suffer in the dynamics department due to its soft suspension and tyres that were simply not up to the task of handling the car's power. There were instances where there was excessive wheelspin at the inside tyre while exiting a corner. Better equipment certainly would have enhanced the Punto's capabilities.
The Polo and Figo handle quite well and we have no doubts that the Baleno RS should be in the same league.
While we await to cure the itch of pitting the Baleno RS against its rivals (read track test), the table below gives you a detailed idea of the how these cars stack up on paper.