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.
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.
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.