Shootout: Hyundai Elite i20 vs Maruti Baleno vs Honda Jazz
Shootout No. 149
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 6.45 – 10.33 lakhs (Hyundai Elite i20), Rs. 6.02 – 9.81 lakhs (Maruti Baleno), Rs. 6.49 – 10.51 lakhs (Honda Jazz)
The Maruti Baleno has been carefully designed to beat its rivals, it excels on multiple counts
The premium hatchback segment has now seen the entry of Asia’s largest car maker, Maruti Suzuki. Popular for its hatchbacks, the Indo-Japanese automaker has brought back the Baleno name plate to rage war against the leading premium hatch in the country, the Hyundai Elite i20. Cars from this class are popular in the urban environment and Honda’s Jazz also excels in this area. But among the three, which among these premium hatchbacks is the ultimate choice?
Motor Quest: The Hyundai i20 was launched in Asia in 2008 while the Honda Jazz made its Asia debut in 2009. The Maruti Baleno first went on sale in the country in 1999. The next generation versions of all these cars was launched recently itself, the Elite i20 being launched in 2014 while the Jazz and Baleno went on sale last year.
Styling – Hyundai created quite a sensation when it launched the Elite i20 as its European design made it an instant hit with style seekers. The Korean automaker’s latest design language makes the i20 look bold and unconventional while the Honda Jazz seems like a shrunk down MPV in comparison, running on smaller 15-inch wheels compared to 16-inchers on its rivals. The Maruti Baleno on the other hand is the freshest car here and also has a lot of European design influence to it.
The Baleno is the longest and widest while the Jazz takes the honours of being the tallest. The liquid flow design works well on the Maruti and it certainly looks the best of this lot, the only gremlin being the lacklustre design of the alloy wheels. The Elite i20 has the most attractive wheels and the rear tail lights really shine on the Korean car. The floating roof appearance surely looks appealing on the Hyundai while both the Baleno and i20 get daytime running lights and projector headlights which the Jazz misses out on.
Interiors – Honda and Hyundai have subscribed to the dual-tone philosophy as the cabin of their cars come with black and beige, the Jazz using it on the seats, doors and roof while the Elite i20 takes it further on the dashboard too. The Baleno uses an all black cabin for a sporty feel and quality levels are good but not better than the Honda, and far from the high standards set by Hyundai. As expected, the Jazz is the least equipped, missing out on keyless go, push button start, dedicated lock/unlock button, automatic headlights, reverse parking sensors, follow me home lights and reach adjustment for the steering, something that is now considered mandatory on cars of this price.
While the Jazz does get multiple views for the reverse camera, EcoAssist Lighting on the cluster and Magic seats, the latter is reserved for the top spec VX trim only. The Honda also has a smaller 6.2-inch touchscreen in front of the 7-inch screens offered by Maruti and Hyundai but the Jazz gets touch controls for the climate control AC. While all cars get a touch-screen infotainment system with navigation and one touch up/down driver side window with pinch guard on their top trims, the one on the Baleno is the most responsive and the car also gets segment unique Apple CarPlay integration.
Usually no one outdoes Hyundai when it comes to equipment but Maruti Suzuki has managed to do just that. The i20 does get rear AC vents, 1 GB storage for the audio system, cooled glovebox, cornering lights and auto retracting outside mirrors (open when you approach the car). But the Baleno offers more with features like speed sensing door lock, voice commands, UV cut glass, red ambient lighting and electro-chromatic rearview mirror (available on lower trims of the i20 but Hyundai has removed it on the top trim after giving it AVN). The Baleno also has a richer full colour instrument cluster with torque and power output meters and along with the Jazz, both get a distance to empty meter (something even the Renault Kwid gets) but the same is shockingly omitted by Hyundai on the i20!
The Jazz has the most practical cabin while the i20 has the most appeal and the Baleno packs in the most equipment
An area where all these cars excel is comfort as all offer a cabin with adequate space. The Elite i20 has the least space on offer but covers up by offering very good seats which are high on comfort. The Jazz boasts of the most legroom and kneeroom at the rear, it also has the most headroom but the seats are the least impressive here with below average under-thigh support. The rear seat gets fixed headrests while there is no centre arm rest at the front. The Baleno has almost as much space as the Jazz with more than adequate kneeroom and legroom but headroom is a bit lacking for tall passengers. Being the widest car here, the Maruti can easily fit three at the rear while the 339-litre boot is bigger than the Hyundai (285-litres) but with the high loading lip, it can’t match the 354-litre trunk of the Honda. The Jazz also boasts of the most storage bins inside the cabin with plenty of storage bins.
Performance – We always focus heavily on diesel engine performance but this time, we decided to do the opposite. So let’s get the discussion of diesel engines out quickly. The Honda Jazz is the most powerful diesel hatchback here with the 1.5-litre i-DTEC mill belting out 100 PS of power and 200 Nm of torque. The Hyundai Elite i20 is the next most powerful with the 1.4-litre U2 unit generating 90 PS and class best 220 Nm of torque. The Maruti Baleno pales in comparison as the vehicle employs the rather old 1.3-litre DDiS powerplant that is offered in the lower 75 PS tune, generating 190 Nm of torque.
The Baleno’s engine feels old in front of the modern oil burners in the i20 & Jazz
The diesel Baleno maybe down on power to its rivals but the lighter weight ensures it’s not too far off. The Jazz boasts of the best city performance as there is almost no low-end lag while the i20 is the most refined here and also revs the quickest, having a strong mid-range. The Baleno is loud but the Jazz is worst with even higher NVH levels in the cabin. Low-end lag is the most prominent in the i20 while the Baleno too isn’t very good low-down and feels best in the mid-range but unlike the Jazz which redlines at just 4100 RPM, the Hyundai and Maruti motor rev all the way to 4750 RPM and 5400 RPM respectively. The Baleno’s dated powertrain also means it uses a 5-speed gearbox in front of the 6-speed units on the other cars which give them better cruising ability. The gearbox and clutch combo for both petrol and diesel models is best on the Hyundai with slick shifts, all petrol cars using a 5-speed gearbox.
All three cars have petrol engines which are very similar to each other, so all displace 1.2-litres with peak power coming in at 6000 RPM. The Jazz is the most powerful with 90 PS while the Baleno and i20 produce 84.3 PS and 83 PS respectively. While torque output of the Maruti and Hyundai is the same at 115 Nm, the Honda is down at 110 Nm. Looking at these numbers, it’s difficult to say which car will be the best to drive but the K-Series motor takes top honours with ease. What helps the Baleno is the light weight and the K12 mill that doesn’t feel lacking in any way like its rivals. Low-end performance is the best in the Elite i20 while the Baleno excels in the mid-range and the VTEC motor screams in the top-end, redlining at just under 7000 RPM.
The petrol Baleno is not only fast and fun, it’s also more frugal than its rivals
The Maruti Baleno is so good in performance that not only is it the fastest in the 0-100 km/hr sprint, it also posted better in-gear acceleration for the 30-80 km/hr run in third gear while the Jazz manages to triumph in other crucial in-gear numbers. The i20’s petrol mill is the most refined and offers smooth performance but loses out by feeling the slowest and least eager here. The Jazz is the best sounding car here but the Baleno isn’t far behind. But drive the Maruti and get into the Hyundai or Honda and you feel that the i20 and Jazz are just under-powered, such is the advantage of the Baleno in petrol engine performance.
This also makes the automatic choice tip in favour of Maruti and even though Honda offers paddle-shifts on the automatic Jazz, the CVT gearbox on both cars dulls the driving experience with the rubber band effect at higher revs. Meanwhile, the i20 isn’t offered with an automatic gearbox and that’s great news because Hyundai would have given it the highly outdated 4-speeder. For both the petrol and diesel models, it’s the Baleno that excels by being the most frugal while the Jazz follows second and the i20 comes in last. The i20 comes with the biggest fuel tank here of 45-litres while the Honda stands at 40-litres and the frugal Baleno makes do with a smaller 37-litre tank.
Driving Dynamics – Maruti has changed sides of late and rather than focusing on handling, the company has turned attention to the ride of its cars. The Ciaz was a pleasant surprise and the Baleno is as good, if not better. Ride quality is simply exceptional and the vehicle takes on bad roads with a load of confidence, something the other two cars aren’t as good at. The Elite i20 does ride better than the Jazz and both Hyundai and Maruti have opted for a softer set-up while Honda has gone for a stiffer suspension. Hyundai has done a better job in insulation so there is little road and tyre noise while the Jazz fares the worst and the Maruti performs slightly better than the Honda. The Baleno also excels in high speed stability and feels the most composed of the three, that is in spite of its lighter weight and shortest wheelbase of the lot.
The Baleno has the best ride & handling balance but the brakes aren’t strong
The feeling of composure can be attributed to the Baleno’s heavier steering as it offers the best feedback here while the i20 offers the least as there is very little feel on offer. Hyundai’s lifeless steering makes it very hard to drive the car fast as you can’t point and shoot like the Japanese cars. The Jazz fares better than the i20 in steering feel and the handling is also very good but the small 175 mm rubber feels inadequate when you up the pace by several notches. The Baleno and i20 come with bigger and more grippy tyres while the ones on the Jazz have low rolling resistance for better mileage, something that robs away grip drastically. Braking performance is the best on the i20 while the tyres play a role in the Jazz taking slightly longer to stop, the Baleno having the poorest brakes here both in terms of stopping time and pedal feel.
Safety and After Sales Service – Maruti Suzuki has made dual airbags and ABS as standard on all trims of the Baleno while the i20 gets airbags on all its trims but ABS isn’t offered on the lower Era and Magna variants. All trims of the Honda Jazz get ABS with EBD except the base E grade petrol model. Airbags too are offered on all trims except the base E. In terms of after sales service, Maruti Suzuki retails the Baleno through the premium NEXA network which promises the best sales experience. Hyundai is second in the service department while Honda, with the least number of outlets among the three manufacturers here, comes in last.
Verdict – The Honda Jazz comes in last in this comparison and that’s in spite of it being a very practical hatchback. The City based vehicle loses out by being the most expensive here with the least equipment. Between the i20 and Baleno, it’s the Maruti which offers more bang for the buck by being better equipped with more space, impressive ride quality and more surefooted handling. But the lacklustre diesel engine in a premium hatchback tips the victory in the i20’s favour. But if you are looking for a petrol car among the three, the Baleno is a no brainer.
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta
Further Reading –
Maruti Baleno Review
Maruti Baleno Video Review
Honda Jazz Review
Hyundai Elite i20 Review
Hyundai Elite i20 Long Term Review
Honda Jazz vs Hyundai Elite i20
Hyundai i20 Active vs Hyundai Elite i20
Ford Figo Aspire vs Hyundai Elite i20
Hyundai Elite i20 vs Maruti Swift vs Volkswagen Polo vs Fiat Punto Evo