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Used Suzuki Baleno review: 1995-2001

1999 Suzuki Baleno GLX Station Wagon.

Suzuki Baleno is an unusual size, being larger than most small cars and smaller than the medium-sized ones. Because if falls between the size crack it tends to remain unnoticed by many used-car buyers. Which is a shame, because this fully imported Japanese car has a lot going for it.

Baleno is sold in an unusually large number of varieties for an imported car. It comes as a three-door hatchback, four-door sedan and five-door station wagon

There’s also a choice between standard models and the sporting Baleno GTX. However it should be said that the GTX isn’t in the same full-on sports category as its smaller brother the Suzuki Swift GTi. Rather it sits midway between the GTi and a standard car, being a sort of high-speed luxury machine, not a full-on racetrack bruiser.

Unusually, Baleno GTX is offered in all body styles so you can get a practical sporty vehicle in the form of a GTX station wagon.

Engine size in the everyday Baleno is 1.6 litres, the GTX uses a 1.8-litre unit. The smaller engine has a single overhead camshaft, the bigger one a twin-cam setup. However both engines have four valves per cylinder for good breathing at mid to high revs. It’s necessary to keep the engines spinning well to get the most from it so this isn’t the ideal car for the driver who wants to slog around in top gear all the time.

Most come with a five-speed manual gearbox but an optional four-speed automatic transmission is offered on upmarket variants of the standard car, but not on the GTX.

Suzuki Baleno. 1996 Suzuki Baleno GTX.

Baleno is an exceptionally easy car to drive, with good visibility in all directions and steering which is well weighted. It is a snack to reverse park, especially in its shorter three-door form.

Ride comfort is good, though some may find the seats don't support particularly well in the standard model. Handling is typically Japanese-safe in that the steering tends to be slightly vague in the straight-ahead position and to understeer fairly markedly if the car is pushed. Naturally the sporting GTX is better than the rest of the range in its road feel and, with a little extra help from a better set of tyres and perhaps some suspension tweaks can be a real joy to drive.

Some of the components used in the Baleno are adapted from the 4WD Suzuki Vitara. This means the Baleno is tougher in its makeup than the average small car.

Sales of the Suzuki Baleno were slow for the first couple of years, so the importer took the interesting step of selling many of the initial imports to a car-rental company. This could mean some cars have been driven hard by uncaring hirers so try to find out the history of ‘your’ car right back to day one. Let the buyer beware.

Insurance premiums are generally the same moderate amount for all variants of the car, but some companies may ask extra to cover the sporty Baleno GTX.

The Baleno is reasonably easy to work on but as always with a small car there can be awkward areas that are frustratingly hard to reach.

Spare parts are generally reasonably priced, though we have had a couple of complaints about the cost of less-common bits.

The number of Suzuki car dealers in Australia is rather limited. If you are living in an out of the way area it might be an idea to check on the whereabouts of your local one before committing to the car. 

Suzuki Baleno is well worth a look if you want a quality car capable of being used for families with pre-teen children, and which is easy and enjoyable to drive. In particular, the GTX models are a real bargain and offer a lot of enjoyment to the person who really likes to get stuck into their car.

What to look for

Make sure the engine starts almost the moment you turn the key, even when it’s cold. Look to make sure all the dash warning lights go out within a second or so of the engine starting. Be sure that it idles smoothly as soon as it starts. 

Look at the body for signs of previous crash damage. The latter is usually easiest to spot by looking for a slight ripple in the shape of the panels when they’re viewed end on. Also look for tiny spots of paint overspray on unpainted parts like the badges, tyres and glass.

Check Baleno's interior for damage; tears and cigarette burns can cost a lot to repair. Also look for misplaced footprints caused by bored kids, or even by big folks who really should know better. 

If the automatic transmission is slow to go into gear and/or hunts up and down too much when hillclimbing, have an expert look it over. Also look at the oil on the engine and automatic transmission dipsticks for signs of severe discolouration or burning caused by too-hard driving.

Make sure the brakes pull the car up cleanly and smoothly.

Listen for noises from the suspension during time you spend driving on rough roads.

How much

Expect to spend from $6000 to $9000 for a 1995 Baleno GL hatch; $7000 to $10,000 for a 1996 GLX sedan; $8500 to $12,000 for a 1998 GLX wagon or a 2000 GL hatch; $11,000 to $16,000 for a 1999 GLX sedan; and $12,000 to $18,000 for a 2001 GTX sedan.

Car buying tip

Any sporty car is a possible candidate for weekend racetrack use. If in doubt, keep well clear

Pricing

Year Price From Price To
2001 $1,900 $4,070
2000 $1,800 $4,070
1999 $1,800 $4,070
1998 $1,800 $4,070
1997 $1,800 $3,850
1996 $1,800 $3,850
1995 $1,800 $3,300

View all Suzuki Baleno pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

$2,550
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$1,800
Highest Price
$3,300

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GL 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $1,800 – 3,080 1995 Suzuki Baleno 1995 GL Pricing and Specs
GS 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $1,800 – 3,080 1995 Suzuki Baleno 1995 GS Pricing and Specs
GL 1.6L, ULP, 5 SP MAN $1,800 – 3,080 1995 Suzuki Baleno 1995 GL Pricing and Specs
GLX 1.6L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $1,900 – 3,300 1995 Suzuki Baleno 1995 GLX Pricing and Specs

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