Maruti-Suzuki’s Baleno is reborn as a premium hatchback

Apple’s CarPlay and an automatic transmission? Might even make your rush hour commute ‘fun’

Your music, messages, phonebook contacts and even Internet radio apps, right on your car’s infotainment display? The perfect antidote to our traffic madness

First shown off at the Frankfurt Motor Show a couple of months ago, the new Baleno’s finally in India. Now in hatchback guise (in case you remember, the previous generation was a sedan) that should make it a lot more practical, the Baleno gives you a choice between a 1.2L petrol engine (with the option of a CVT automatic transmission on a mid-level variant) or a 1.3L diesel. Features you get with the Baleno (depending on which variant you pick) include UV-blocking glasses, steering audio controls, voice commands, keyless push start-stop, a colour multi-information display, reverse parking camera, 16in wheels, projector headlamps, LED DRLs, and a 4.2in high-contrast LCD panel for the infotainment system. In all, a feature-packed premium hatch that shouldn’t have trouble stacking up to the competition.

Apple CarPlay is pretty user-friendly

There’s one added feature that should help the Baleno stand out - Apple CarPlay. For those of you have been living under a rock the last few months, CarPlay is Apple’s new infotainment system for cars. No, CarPlay doesn’t really mirror your phone’s display to the car’s infotainment screen as some aftermarket systems do, but it’s a way of letting you use your iPhone in a safe manner. How does it help? For starters, no more fiddling around with wonky phone holders with suction cups that never stay put, no more squinting and taking your attention away from the road as you try and jab at a tiny icon, and no more annoying Bluetooth pairing.

CarPlay cuts straight to the chase, letting you use your apps, while making sure the icons and controls are all car-friendly. You get to play your music, use Siri, make calls, listen to podcasts and even play streaming Internet radio while stuck in what seems like the world’s worst traffic jam. Best of all, it’s extremely simple to use - plug in your iPhone via USB, click on connect and you’re done. We got to play around a bit with the Baleno’s CarPlay system, and the experience is rather seamless - the touchscreen is snappy, with apps loading instantly.

Prices for the Baleno VVT (petrol) start at 4,99,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi), while the DDiS 190 (diesel) variants start out at 6,16,000.