The first thing that comes to mind when someone utters Maruti, is a small hatchback that's reliable, durable and the only selling point it'll have is its cost of ownership and fuel efficiency, no? This theory of Maruti Suzuki has worked extremely well over years and as a result, it's got more than half of the market share and has practically put India on wheels.In the past couple of years, Maruti has tried to break out of its 'small-car maker' image and brought in a few 'premium' cars that take on the European carmakers. One of these premium cars, the Baleno, has been received really well in the market and has found 1,50,000 homes in the past few months that it's been in the market.Going one step forward in breaking the small-car maker image, Maruti has attempted something it had never done before -- a hot hatch. Now, if you expected a funky little hatchback with only one door on either side, some jazzy decals and a potent 1.6-litre engine under the hood, you'd be completely mistaken. Maruti has a different idea of a hot hatch. Based on the Baleno, the Baleno RS doesn't get any jazzy decals or anything of that sort, but subtle changes in the styling. Like a redesigned grille, smoked headlamps, a lower lip and black alloys. Apart from these not-so-in-your-face updates, there's also a small badge on the boot that says RS. In Maruti-speak, RS stands for Road Sport. And unlike the RS models of the Swift and the Ciaz, this one goes beyond just cosmetic changes.For the first time, Maruti has attempted a turbo-petrol engine. Courtesy the turbocharger, the displacement has been brought down to a mere 998cc. But despite having lesser displacement than a compact hatchback's engine, it develops a good 101bhp -- 17bhp more than the naturally aspirated 1.2. And in terms of torque, too, there's a big bump from 115Nm for the 1.2 NA to 150Nm. And pair this sort of power to a 950kg kerb weight, and the results are one quick hatch.The turbo kicks in at about 1700rpm, where all the Newtons start to pile up, and once you hit about 4000rpm, you're at a sweet spot with plenty of punch from the engine. And that stays that way right till it maxes out at 6000rpm. Though it's a three-pot block, it doesn't have the vibrations or the noise that ordinary three-pots make. In fact, the engine note has been tuned well, especially at high revs and vibrations are well taken care of.Doing the job of sending all this power to the wheels is a five-speed manual transmission. It's the same transmission that pairs in with the 1.2-litre petrol engine, albeit that the ratios have been reworked. The shifts are smooth and the throws are fairly short that aid in quick gear changes for that spirited run.The Baleno has always been a capable car that can take plenty of abuse and still continue to surprise you with its driving dynamics. The RS is just that. It's not got much tweaking on the chassis except for stiffened suspension. Being a front wheel drive with 101bhp, there's no surprise that there's a fair bit of understeer when you throw it into a corner, but that said, once you get the hang of things, you can get it to work well and corner hard. The only fly in the ointment is the light steering that doesn't offer much feedback. There's absolutely no connect between what the steering tells your palms and what the wheels are going through down on the road.Overall, the Baleno RS is a good handler and the BoosterJet engine has got the spunk that the car always lacked. And the fact that it's only available in the top-end Alpha spec means you get all the creature comforts like auto AC, steering controls, a smart multimedia system among other things. And that makes the Baleno RS not only a fun-to-drive car, but also comfortable and feature loaded.Though the engineers at Maruti have spent a lot of time in bringing in a new engine and sharpening the handling, the designers have stuck to subtly changing only the exterior styling. On the inside, everything remains identical to the regular Baleno. No faux carbon fibre inserts, no loud stitching on the upholstery, no RS badging, nothing at all. But the all-black dashboard doesn't look half bad in the RS, and the overall layout looks good to the eye and is ergonomic, too.The Baleno RS has a few challenges before it appeals to a driving enthusiast. And the major challenges are the VW Polo GT TSI and the Fiat Punto Abarth. While the Polo has excellent handling characteristics and a brisk dual-clutch gearbox working for it, the Fiat has a jaw-dropping 140bhp of oomph. The weapon that Maruti has chosen to win the enthusiast's heart is the price tag. At Rs 8.69 lakh (ex-Delhi), it's about 50k cheaper than the Polo and a good Rs 1.25 lakh cheaper than the Punto.Would you not pay half a lakh more and get sharper handling and a quick gearbox? Yes, you would. But what the Baleno RS also offers is great after-sales service and what made Maruti what it is today\: peace of mind.Specs3-cylinder, 998cc, 101bhp, 150Nm, 5M, FWD, kerb weight\: 950kg, price\: Rs 8.69 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi)VerdictFun to drive and offers good handling characteristics. At the same time, it's comfortable, spacious and easy on the pocket.