Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door

Walking around the other day I noticed this little vehicle. Tucked away on the tailgate was the clue that this was no ordinary bland, three door hatch. This was a candidate for Unforgetting. The 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4.

1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.
1995 Suzuki Baleno: it´s neat and tidy, you have to hand it that. And these days neat and tidy is rare. So, we like the Baleno.

The car we all know as the Baleno enjoyed life under several different names, depending on the large number of markets Suzuki offered it in. In Europe, the Baleno name is the one we recognise. For those who appreciate dull and forgotten cars, the Baleno saloon (or estate) has an impressive reputation as a car so ordinary and unremarkable it stands out.

There are only a few vehicles in this class of being memorably forgettable, cars such as the wonderful Talbot Tagora, for example. Production of the Baleno spanned 1995 to 2002 and it is a precursor to both the Swift and the SX4 (which is also sold as a Fiat).

That said, this car is one that you might want to re-evaluate for it comes with a useful 4 wheel drive system. Until I glanced at this example I had no idea there was any more to the Baleno than its carefully anonymous looks. Since most people will underestimate the Baleno and so forget to search for it when selecting a used car, the prices are very low. Even in Denmark, a 4×4 Baleno costs nearly nothing but you can avail of the car’s solid construction, invisibility to the police and criminals and the freedom of not having to care about it.

Don´t forget about it: the 1995 Suzuki Baleno in 4x4 guise. Sorry about the blur.
Don´t forget about it: the 1995 Suzuki Baleno in 4×4 guise. Sorry about the blur.

Quite a few countries had factories producing the Suzuki Cultus (as it was mostly known): Colombia: Bogotá (GM Columbia), India: Gurgaon (GM India), Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan. The car is very globalised indeed. Suzuki also saw fit to offer a wide variety of engines: 1.3 L (G13B I4) , 1.5 L (G15A I4) 1.6 L (G16B I4) , 1.8 (L J18A I4) 1.8 L (BP-ZE I4) and Peugeot’s 1.9 L XUD9 diesel four-banger.

Suzuki has come a long way since the Baleno but what hasn’t changed is the solid engineering. If only they had remembered to style it in a more compelling way, maybe this car would not be so neglected. I’d rank it as clearly one for insiders and those in the know. The 4×4 feature certainly means it warrants a second look and a little bit of unforgetting. The front seats were quite smart too.

There are not so many reviews of the Baleno in any form; I did find one from Australia which summed up the saloon as a car which did not excel in any one area but where everything was done to a good general standard. I have since lost the link so you’ll have to trust me on that.

Honest John concedes that while the car is no looker, owners rate them for their durability.  Paradoxically, this is such a car for the head, you’d have to concede that ownership could make you end up loving it for its undemanding straightforwardness.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

7 thoughts on “Unforgetting: 1995 Suzuki Baleno 4×4 Three-Door”

  1. Forget unforgetting – I had no idea they did a 4×4 version of the Baleno at all, although I suppose with Suzuki’s background, it figures.

    The Baleno actually sold reasonably well in Australia back in the day; it helped that Suzuki had a pretty good reputation in those days, stemming from the first two Swifts and original Vitara (as well as the general halo effect of ‘Japan Inc.’ in the early 1990s). Both the hatch and estate are utterly forgettable to me in terms of their general generi-Japanese styling, but the sedan has the merit of looking like its rear end was styled with a meatcleaver. It’s an aesthetic talking point, of sorts.

    I never really noticed it before, but looking at it just now, the sedan’s tail-lamps have the merest hint of those on an E36 3-Series. I doubt many were fooled. I always think of the audience for this car as retirees upgrading their Daihatsu Applauses.

    1. Suzuki make the Swift as a 4×4 and the Jimny will soon be the world’s oldest BOF 4×4 in production (I hazard). In a way, Suzuki have even more claim to all-wheel drive excellence than Subaru. And they look nicer. The Baleno here is a pretty solid car. I think it’s well-designed (compare it to a Fiat or Opel from the same period and it as neat and professional). These cars got badly overlooked by the monthly magazines. Maybe Autocar reviewed it once.

    2. Yes, it is underrated as a piece of design. It is certainly rational and correct, which helps it to look much more contemporary than its real age would suggest. Suzuki blew it with the facelift for this model, though. Overly-tinselly and with a theme disconnected from the rest of the car.

      The new Baleno is certainly nothing to write home about, either.

    1. It actually was an Alpine favourite. I rather thought it was the most boring car available, and didn’t like the long estate body on the short wheelbase. The saloon was probably not even sold here.

  2. Why did Suzuki re-use the Baleno name on what is an entirely different car? Are there so many Baleno fans out there who are thirsting for the nameplate to return?

  3. I’m guessing the 4WD drivetrain evolved from the second generation Swift / Cultus / Barina. Britain got a 4 door saloon version of that one with the 1.6 litre engine and 4WD, but the bodystyle wasn’t available with any other drivetrain. If ever any car typified Suzuki’s extraordinary ability to answer a question nobody asked, this was it.

    To complicate matters further, the hatch eventually got the 1.3 engine and 4WD, but only with Subaru Justy badges.

    The mid ’90s Baleno seemed to be a decent thing with a gutsy 16V 1.6 litre engine giving warm-hatch performance without the usual egregious visual accompaniments.

    The story behind the new Baleno is that Maruti-Suzuki were taken unaware by the success of the Hyundai i20 in the sub-4.0 metre long tax class in India, and hastily cobbled together a competitor. It doesn’t seem to be built anywhere other than Manesar, but looks to be selling in reasonable numbers in Europe.

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