In 1963, Suzuki started to sell a small line of lightweight, low-cost motorcycles in the United States as its initial offering. But it wasn't until 1985 when this Japan-based auto manufacturer began enjoying its luck in the automotive world with its practical, fuel-efficient cars. Its focus was on the compact car segment, placing itself as a value-priced brand.
The Suzuki Esteem was one of the compact cars produced by Suzuki between 1995 and 2002. Production for South Asia continued until 2007. This model, which marked Suzuki's first attempt to get into the compact segment, hit the market of different countries around the world under various nameplates. The Suzuki Esteem name was used in the North American market. The car was called Suzuki Cultus Crescent in Japan and was marketed as Suzuki Baleno in some Asian markets, as well as across Australia and Europe. In India, it was named Maruti Baleno to give tribute to its manufacturer, Maruti Suzuki.
1996 Suzuki Esteem
The 1996 Suzuki Esteem was introduced in the global market to replace the Suzuki Swift/Cultus sedan. It rode on a slightly longer Cultus platform to achieve a more spacious cabin room. It was initially offered as a four-door sedan and three-door hatchback, powered by the SOHC 16-valve G-family engine--1.3 L for the hatch and 1.5 L for the sedan. The '96 Esteem also got standard air conditioning and daytime running lights. The GL trim got body-color bumpers.
Shortly after, Suzuki's first ever station wagon, Esteem Wagon, was introduced with a 1.6L and received 4WD as an option in two larger body variants. In the spring of 1996, a sport variant named GT was also introduced. It was also on that same year when the Suzuki Baleno entered the European market and the Baleno Altura was revealed in India.
1999 Suzuki Esteem
In late 1998, Suzuki restyled the Esteem for the 1999 model year. The redesigned Esteem rolled off the assembly line wearing a new front end, with new headlights and rounder grille. The Esteem 1.6 was replaced by the Esteem 1.8L in the wagon, which got a respectable 30 mpg on the highway. In some markets, the sedan that was outfitted with the 1.8L engine became Esteem's sports model.
2002 Suzuki Esteem
Despite its being the last Esteem to be produced, the 2002 front-drive subcompact Esteem wagon and sedan receive only a few upgrades, including an inside trunk-release handle, new upholstery, and 14-inch aluminum wheels, which were outfitted only for selected models. It was still available in GL, GLX, and GLX+ trim levels. For this model year, Suzuki also offered a 24-hour roadside assistance program. Though it was Suzuki's only remaining passenger car, the company stopped Esteem's production in 2002.