Over the years, premium hatchbacks have been quite popular among buyers who’d prefer an extra dose of styling and features over the practicality of compact sedans and lower-spec iterations of compact SUVs. Ever since its advent, the Maruti Suzuki Baleno has stayed on top off the sale charts, with the Hyundai Elite i20 being a close second. Then there’s the Honda Jazz and Volkswagen Polo, both of which have not seen any substantial changes since forever.
Tata forayed in this space with the Altroz early this year, hoping to change the game. Well, since the Hyundai Elite i20 is soon to get a major makeover, the Jazz is expected to get a mid-cycle facelift – yet again – very soon and the Polo, well, it’s a decade old now. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno, on the other hand, is still fairly new. So, we decided to stack it up against the newly launched Tata Altroz for an in-depth comparison. Here goes.
But before we delve right into the specifications department, let’s take a quick look at the exterior and interior. The Maruti Suzuki Baleno was first launched in 2015 and has been soldering on since, thanks to its mature looks with the right blend of character. A mid-cycle facelift last year resulted in a slightly better design for the alloy wheels and the front bumper. The Tata Altroz, on the other hand, looks way futuristic and edgy in comparison to the Baleno. The attention-to-detail here is simply impeccable and all the edgy bits gel well to give the Altroz a distinctive look and a certain advantage over its rivals in the exterior department.
Where the Altroz shines in terms of its exterior design, its interior falls a bit behind thanks to a much conservative design. Although, an edgy interior would have worked perfectly in line with the exterior, the conservative interior makes it just that more traditional and acceptable to the mature audience. The Baleno, too, gets a conservative interior, but its all-black theme suggests a bit of sportiness. In the interior department, I must add, it’s the i20 that takes the crown for the best laid-out dashboard with the richest materials, despite its age.
The Altroz, however, does not fall short in terms of the equipment. The top-spec trim comes with projector lamps, DRLs, LED taillamps, 16-inch alloy wheels are all in line with the competition. On the inside, you get a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Apple Carplay/Android Auto, climate control, push-button start, a leather-wrapped steering, and so on. The Altroz brings some segment-firsts to the table such as a part-digital instrument cluster, cruise control – only second to the ageing Jazz CVT and Polo – and ambient lighting.
In the powertrain department, the Altroz seems to have a slight edge over the Baleno. Where the Baleno, as of mid-2020, is a petrol-only model, the Altroz gets both a petrol and a diesel engine option. More importantly, the Altroz is the only premium hatchback as of now that retails with a diesel engine. So, if it’s a diesel premium hatchback you’re looking for, the Altroz is your only option. And I must say, having driven the diesel Altroz earlier, it’s no slouch either.
The Maruti Suzuki Baleno and Altroz both get a 1.2-litre petrol engine, which is a three-pot unit in the Altroz and a four-pot unit in the Baleno. The K12 unit under the hood of the Baleno makes 82bhp and 115Nm of torque. The numbers are identical for the Altroz, too, as it churns out 85bhp and 113Nm of torque. The petrol engine of the Altroz falls short in terms of the Baleno in terms of overall refinement and tractability. Another edge the Baleno has over the Altroz is that it also comes mated to a CVT automatic transmission. So, if it’s a petrol hatchback you desire, the Baleno seems to be the perfect option as of now.
While both cars have their ups and downs, it would be safe to say that both of them are excellent products and you’d not be wrong to choose either. Since, we have to pick one, we’d pick the Baleno for its petrol powertrain and the Altroz if a diesel engine is a necessity. And if waiting a bit doesn’t hurt, I’m sure the upcoming third-generation Hyundai i20 will take the segment by storm.