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Becoming the latest made-in-India Suzuki model to receive a disappointing assessment from a global safety watchdog, the Suzuki Baleno has been handed a dismal zero-star rating by the Latin New Car Assessment Programme (NCAP). The Baleno – manufactured at Suzuki’s plant in Gujarat – follows the Swift in being rated zero stars in the Latin NCAP crash tests, with the latter being tested in August this year.

The Baleno received a score of 20.03 percent on adult occupant protection, 17.06 percent on child occupant protection, 64.06 percent on pedestrian protection, and 6.98 percent on safety assists. The model tested by Latin NCAP had just two front airbags, as the Baleno for Latin American markets only gets two front airbags as standard.

In the frontal impact test, Latin NCAP says the Baleno’ showed stable structure performance’. In its detailed report, Latin NCAP noted that protection offered to the driver and passenger head and neck was good. Chest protection was rated adequate, and safety for both the driver and front passenger’s tibias was noted to be sufficient, with the footwell area deemed stable. The Baleno’s bodyshell was also rated stable and considered as capable of withstanding further loadings.

However, the Baleno lost points as Latin NCAP said the knees of both front occupants could ‘impact with dangerous structures behind the fascia.’

It was in the side impact test that the Baleno lost the most ground. The side impact test revealed a high amount of door intrusion. While head, pelvis, and abdomen protection levels were sufficient, the high degree of door intrusion resulted in ‘poor’ protection for the passenger’s chest. Neck protection for Baleno occupants in the whiplash test was deemed marginal.

Latin NCAP attributed the zero-star rating for the Baleno to its poor side impact protection, marginal whiplash protection, lack of standard side body and head protection airbags, lack of common Electronic Stability Control (ESC), and the decision of Suzuki not to recommend Child Restraint Systems (CRS) for the tests.

It must be noted here that Suzuki does offer the option of six airbags and electronic stability control (ESC) on the Baleno in Latin America, but not as standard. What’s also worth noting is the Maruti Suzuki Baleno on sale in India only gets two airbags, even on the top-spec variant – six airbags and ESC aren’t available as even an option.

In its statement, Latin NCAP shared that Suzuki refused to test the version with optional safety equipment, which the safety watchdog says raises questions about the ‘effectiveness of those extra safety elements.’

Commenting on Baleno’s performance in the tests, Alejandro Furas, Secretary-General of the Latin NCAP, said, “Baleno’s zero-star rating is part of an ongoing disappointment, after the Swift’s zero-star rating some weeks ago. With abysmal safety performance in adult and child occupant protection on offer from Suzuki as standard to Latin American consumers. Latin NCAP calls on Toyota and Suzuki to significantly improve the standard safety equipment on these models as soon as possible and be tested to demonstrate the improvements. Basic vehicle safety, which is taken for granted in mature markets, is a right that Latin American consumers should claim without having to pay extra for them.”

It’s worth remembering at this point that Latin NCAP’s crash tests are more comprehensive than the Global NCAP tests India is familiar with, as it takes into account several aspects of a vehicle about safety, including pedestrian protection and safety assist systems. Global NCAP hasn’t yet tested the Baleno, which is now well over six years old, launched in India back in October 2015.

Also read: Top 10 safest cars in India as rated by Global NCAP – Tata Punch tops the list.

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