As mentioned previously, I have always focused on both exotic and non-exotic classic cars, for both play an important role in forming the history as you know it. It thus gives me great pleasure to introduce this rather nondescript 1998 Suzuki Baleno, which you might not have noticed back then...
The Baleno (Italian for 'flash'), also known as the Cultus Crescent in Japan, was first introduced in 1995 as a successor for the popular supermini Cultus/Swift. It marked Suzuki's first foray into the competitive compact car market and was marketed as a distinct model, although it shared many internal components with its smaller sibling. Initially available as a 3-door hatchback and a 4-door sedan, a wagon version (a first for Suzuki) was introduced in 1996.
A facelift was carried out in 1998 for Japan cars, featuring a rounder grille and larger headlights, along with a renaming to Cultus. At the same time, a larger 1.8 litre engine was also introduced to the range. The Baleno was powered by a 1298 cc G13BB i4 engine, allowing it to reach a top speed of 160 km/h with an acceleration of 12.5 seconds [0-100 km/h]. It was 4195 mm long and weighed 890 kg, with a fuel consumption of 6.6 litres/100 km. Interestingly, while the 1.3 litre engine was supposedly exclusive to the 3-door hatchback, the sedans sold in Singapore had them too.
Production of the Baleno ended in 2002 for the Japanese market with a total of 122,978 units sold, although it was made as late as 2007 in India. The hatchback was phased out in 2000, followed by the sedan in 2001 and the wagons in 2002. It was succeeded by the Aerio/Liana, and also the Chevrolet Optra which was imported and sold by Suzuki. It was sold in Singapore from 1998 by Champion Motors, which still remains as our Suzuki dealer and was retailing at S$86,950 for the sedan and S$96,950 for the wagon.
I understand that there is a blue pre-facelift wagon still around and it is most likely the last one standing. This sedan is long gone unfortunately, but it is still impressive that the owner had kept it for so long. This is an example of a classic that would have flown under the radar for many of you, and even I was quite lucky to snap a shot while it was at a red light. Though I never saw it again, I feel that it is good enough that this picture even exists, and I hope that this has been informative for you!