The Nissan Micra and the Renault Pulse, the Skoda Rapid and the Volkswagen Vento, or the Renault Kwid and the Datsun Redi-GO, these are products of partnerships or alliances between two automakers. While some are simply based on the same platforms but look different, like the Kwid and Redi-GO, others like the Micra and Pulse are essentially the same products that come with some minor cosmetic changes and a different badging. Product and technology sharing between automakers is not a new concept for the Indian market. So when Maruti Suzuki and Toyota announced their partnership, we were expecting something similar to happen. While the companies have said that they'll jointly work on products in the future, for the initial phase, they have decided to keep things simple where Maruti will provide Toyota with the entire car and the latter will simply rebadge it and sell it as its own product. The first model to come out of this partnership is the Toyota Glanza, a rebadged Maruti Suzuki Baleno. We got to spend some quality time with the car to find out if the Glanza is simply the Baleno being sold by a different brand, or does it offer something more.
Now if you think about it, the Baleno is probably the best model for Toyota to test the waters with. You see, Toyota did not have a product in the premium hatchback space, while Maruti Suzuki, on the other hand, has been leading this segment with the Baleno for about four years. Given the Baleno's popularity, it would have been a wasted effort to go head to head with it with multiple variants, which is why Toyota decided to offer the car only in the two top-end trims - G and V - which are the Zeta and Alpha trims of the Baleno. So we know the choice was right, the only question is how are the two products different, or, not different from each other?
How Does It Look From The Outside?
Let us not ignore the obvious; the Glanza is, in fact, the Baleno with the Toyota badging. I am not saying that the Baleno is not a good-looking car, in fact, its design and styling one of its key USPs, but we wished Toyota has made some extra effort in creating a bit more distinction between the two cars, more than just slapping on a new twin-chrome slat grille. In fact, it still features the same chrome underline that extends into the headlamps. The Glanza also gets the same headlamp design with LED projector lights as standard, and this one being the entry-level G variant, it comes with guide lights instead of LED daytime running lamps, offered with the top-end V trim. Even the bumper looks the same with its wide black central airdam and black housings for the round foglamps.
The profile of the car is no different either, featuring the same body-coloured ORVMs with integrated turn indicator lights, and blacked-out pillars. The Glanza also comes with the same 16-inch dual-tone alloy wheels, which in our opinion Toyota could have avoided and gone for a new design to create some amount of differentiation. Similarly, the rear section too is identical to the Baleno featuring the same rounded LED taillamps, which also comes with guide lights in the top-end model. There is also the same chrome strip on the tailgate connecting the two taillamps, and the rear bumper with reflectors.
How Does It Feel From The Inside?
We wish the cabin was a slightly different story but that's not the case here. Get out of a Baleno and step inside a Glanza and you'll literally notice no difference in your surroundings, that is, unlike me, if you weren't able to ignore the Toyota logo on the steering wheel. In fact, the car even gets the same dual-tone black and blue fabric upholstery. Toyota, new seat covers aren't much to ask for, are they? Well, moving on to the dashboard, of course, you get the same layout featuring large air-con vents with silver bezels, glossy black frame for the infotainment system, and below you have all the controls for the air-con system, plus the steering wheel gets control for music and telephony.
Now, I certainly don't have any complaints regarding the features, the Baleno is a pretty well-equipped car and the Glanza offers everything that the former gets. So you get the Smartplay Studio, or as Toyota calls it, Smart Playcast Audio, with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink as standard. The car also gets automatic climate control and a smart twin-pod instrument cluster with an MID unit offering information like distance to empty, fuel efficiency, battery capacity (hybrid version) and more. Of course, for that added comfort and convenience, the car also gets tilt-adjustable steering, height-adjustable driver seat, power windows with one-touch up-down function for the driver, a USB and a 12V charger upfront and a separate 12V charger for the rear passengers. The top-end V trim offers some additional features like - a rear parking camera, automatic headlamps, follow me home headlamps, and UV protected glass for the windows.
The Glanza also comes with a host of standard safety features like - dual front airbags, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist, ISOFIX child seat mounts, rear parking sensors, and seatbelt reminders for both front passengers. Plus you also get added safety and security bits like an anti-pinch window for the driver, rear wiper and defogger, electrochromic inner rearview mirrors (IRVMs), high-speed warning buzzer, immobiliser, and more.
How Does It Drive?
Now, as already mentioned, the model we got to drive was the entry-level G variant, which is also the only trim to come with a smart hybrid system, and yes it's the same system that the Baleno gets, featuring both a Lithium-Ion and Lead Acid battery. The engine is the tried and tested 1.2-litre, four-cylinder, Dual Jet, Dual VVT, petrol engine, which is also Bharat Stage VI (BS6) compliant. This particular version, with the smart hybrid system, is tuned to churn out more power than the regular petrol version, which gets the 1.2-litre VVT engine, 8 bhp to be exact, offering a maximum output of 88 bhp. However, peak power in both the versions is achieved at the same 6000 rpm. The torque output, on the other hand, remains the same at 113 Nm, for both models, however, in the hybrid version we drove, peak torque kicks in a little late at around 4,300 to 4,400 rpm.
So, on paper, the specs of the Glanza are quite ample, but sadly you don't see all that power effectively translate onto the road. The car feels quite peppy once it gets moving and around 2,700-3000 rpm you start noticing the torque kicking, so you do get a decent mid-range as well, but once you start hitting the high revs and reach the 4000 rpm mark, the engine just feels like it's ready to give up. And achieving the max power at 6000 rpm starts looking a dream. In fact, compared to the older BS4 version, the new BS6 model feels a tad less responsive, and one of the reasons for that could be the recalibration made to the engine to achieve BS6 compliance. But, as long as you are driving within the city, you won't feel the need to hit the red line, because there is enough power and torque to keep you engaged even in the lower rpms. One of the reasons for that is the torque assist function offered with the hybrid version, which uses the energy stored in the Lithium-ion battery during acceleration to offer better power delivery, which also lowers fuel consumption to offer better efficiency. In addition to that the hybrid version also gets ideal start-stop and breaking regeneration function, and with a claimed fuel efficiency of 23.87 kmpl (hybrid version). Also, the 5-speed manual gearbox is well mated to the engine, and although I wish the shifts were a bit smoother, they are still quite precise and slot well. However, if you are looking for the convenience of an automatic, both the G and V variants of the Toyota Glanza, come with an optional CVT automatic version as well.
Coming to ride and handling, I have to say, I didn't notice much of a difference. The suspension is a bit on the softer side so it handles the undulations on the road pretty nicely, but the ride becomes bouncy if you are on a really bad patch of road. The steering is also a bit too light for my liking and it doesn't offer much feedback, but people who drive around the city on daily basis might like the feel of it and find the light steering convenient to manoeuvre the car in traffic. I also wish the car was better insulated because, even with all the four windows rolled up, the cabin does become noisy with a lot of road and tyre noise seeping in, but the engine remains pretty quiet for most part of it.
Should You Buy It?
Instead of positioning the new Glanza as a premium aspirational car like the Maruti Baleno, Toyota is targeting the millennials and young working professionals, positioning it as the fun hatchback for those evening or weekend getaways. And that seems to have worked for the Japanese carmaker. The Toyota Glanza is now the company's best-selling model, after the Innova Crysta, with an average of 1800 to 2000 units being sold every month. Furthermore, priced between ₹ 6.98 lakh to ₹ 8.90 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) the Glanza is also marginally cheaper than the respective Zeta and Alpha trims of the Baleno. Couple that with Toyota's trusted aftersales service and the Glanza certainly makes for a smart choice for anyone looking out for a premium hatchback in this price range. Especially, if you are looking for a Toyota, in particular, that is slightly more premium than the Etios Liva.
Photos: Pawan Dagia