Used Car Review: 2001 Suzuki Baleno

2001 Suzuki Baleno GTi

We are starting a series of blogs where we will be driving used cars and give our opinions about them. The purpose is to help you find a second-hand car in a certain budget. And for the first post in the series, we have decided to start with one of the all-time best selling cars from Pak Suzuki, the Suzuki Baleno. It was undoubtedly one of the most famous sedans from Suzuki and was widely liked in Pakistani car market.

A little history of Baleno in Pakistan

Baleno was launched in Pakistan back in 1998-99, after Pak Suzuki decided to discontinue its much loved Margalla. Baleno was Suzuki’s first attempt at the compact sedan category and was initially launched to global market in early 1995. Baleno had quite a different body design and styling than what Suzuki had offered before. In 2002-3, Pak Suzuki started to sell facelifted version of Baleno. It was discontinued in favor of Suzuki Liana in 2005.

Pre-facelift model had following variants (1998-99 to 2002):

  • GL
  • GLi
  • GLiP
  • GXi
  • GTi 1.6

It was offered with 1.3 and 1.6 liter 4-cylinder petrol engine. 1.6l was only available in the infamous GTi version with a manual transmission. It was notorious among boy-racers. Rest of them only had 1.3l engines.

Facelift version had completely different and updated front end. It had different headlights, bonnet, fenders, bumper and front grille. The pre-facelift model was a snubbed nose. Facelift looked much sleeker and slightly longer due to the protruding front bumper. Rest of the car was same.

Facelift Baleno had three variant (2002-3 to 2005):

  • JXR
  • JXL
  • Sport

All models were launched with 1.3l 4-cylinder petrol engine, and the much loved 1.6l engine was completely dropped. Baleno Sport had bigger alloy wheels, power antenna, power windows, and rear spoiler among other small updates. Differences were mostly cosmetic. Since that was the time when CNG business was at its full swing, Pak Suzuki also started to sell Baleno with factory fitted CNG kits.

Facelift Suzuki Baleno had one of the best car security features of its time in Pakistan. It was launched with the factory fitted immobilizer, and it was not possible to start the car if you don’t have the original Pak Suzuki issued key, or unless you change the ECU and use the corresponding key. Baleno was famous for being one of the least stolen cars of its time.

Test car’s background

For the road test, we found ourselves a well maintained, Japan assembled, 2001 Suzuki Baleno GTi, in Moonlight Silver color. First a little about the car, before I start on the actual review. The owner bought the car in 2005, and it has been in his family ever since. It’s around 222,000 kilometers driven. According to the owner, he has changed the shock absorbers of the car once since he bought it. The car had CNG kit and cylinder fitted when he bought it but removed them soon after.

Since it’s a GTi, the car had 1.6l petrol engine with 5-speed manual transmission. The owner of this Baleno told me that he was looking for a good reliable auto car, but couldn’t find anything of his liking within his budget. So he decided to swap an auto engine in this Baleno. The car now has 1.5 liter petrol engine with a five-speed automatic transmission. The transmission is electronically controlled, and you can select ‘Power’ or ‘Snow Mode’ with the flip of a button. When in Snow Mode, the car starts rolling in second gear, to counter the wheel spin in snowy conditions. The swap was done three years ago, and the car is going flawlessly, according to the car owner. The engine swap was not a half-job. The instrument meter of the manual Baleno was changed to an auto one, with proper gear indicating lights. The center console was also changed to the automatic Baleno one, so there are no gaps or poorly fixed plastic pieces to fit and house the auto gear lever.

The car also has a very basic body kit, that comes originally with Japan assembled Baleno; front and rear lip and side skirts. A moonroof was installed few years ago in the car. This Baleno has a normal security system and reverse parking sensors installed in it by the current owner.

I have driven two Suzuki Baleno cars up till today, one was a 2007 Baleno Sport variant back in 2007, and now this one. I do not remember much about that 2007 Baleno, so no point talking about it. This 2001 is the second one that I have driven, but the purpose of this drive was to critically observe the car and how it drove. The owner was kind enough to let me take the car on the motorway as well. Although for a short time, but I have a enough idea about the Baleno by now.

The first impression of the interior of the car is that it is minimalistic. There isn’t much going on one the dashboard to distract you except the LCD DVD head unit. The seating position was good, and so were the view angles. I adjusted my seat and cranked the engine.

Drive within the city

Lets start with the city driving experience I had with the car. Since the car is auto, city driving was a breeze. I understand if you are interested in buying a Baleno, you will not find auto Balenos that easily, and there is that manual clutch pedal labor you will have to endure. But as far other experience of the car is concerned, the review can help you make your mind.

One word to explain my experience when the Baleno within the city would be effortless. The car is quick and responds to the throttle. It is a light vehicle, so you don’t end up pressing accelerator hard. I felt the car is easy to maneuver in the traffic when on the roads where traffic was traveling at 80 km/h or so. It was zippy, and I didn’t feel it resisting to the steering input. I did feel the steering to be a bit numb, like it was not connected to the road. There wasn’t any play in it as such, but it took me some time to get used to the feel of it. On bends and corners, I didn’t feel any body roll at normal speeds. It is still a normal family sedan and not a race car, so of course if you turn in at high speeds, being a front wheel drive, you will start to under-steer. However, I do think the ride is a bit bumpy. Maybe it was because of the aftermarket shock absorber owner had installed in this Baleno, or maybe it is an inherent thing for all Baleno cars. But I do think the car bounced a bit even on otherwise normal roads.

Fuel average:

  • City: 11-13 km/l
  • Motorway: 15-16 km/l

Feel of the car

Overall, even after being driven for 222,000 kms, the car’s body and chassis rigidity was still in great condition. I think it is a great example of Suzuki’s engineering. The car didn’t rattle and even when jumping through pothole filled roads, all I could hear was a slight thud sound from the boot. Old cars losing their body rigidity is a common thing. But that was not the case with this car even with that many miles on the odometer. Chassis had not lost its integrity. This, I think, was a major plus point of the car. Of course, a lot depends on the way car is maintained, and being a second-hand vehicle, how all the owners have kept it will make or change your decision about it. But there must be something solid there in the first place to take care of.

The brakes had a good bite to them. Since we were driving on normal city roads, I didn’t try to do any tricks with the car to check its brakes but the owner told me that he has taken his car to northern hilly areas many times and never faced any problem as far brakes are concerned.

On the motorway

As mentioned above, I had the chance to take the car on the motorway as well. The car just flies when you press the throttle. One thing that I noticed was the wind noise above 150 km/l got louder than I would like it to be. However engine didn’t feel stressed or revving madly at all. The car felt planted otherwise but on certain turns, I felt the back-end is trying to slid out. Although I do believe that happened because I was being adventurous with the car, and not the fault of the car as such.

Likes

Fun to drive

Zippy

Good boot space

Parts are easily available in second-hand scrap markets everywhere

Dislikes

Those rear lights are hideous

Slightly bumpy ride

AC blower needs upgrading

Wind noise above 150km/h

Steering felt numb

How I would rate Suzuki Baleno

Performance 4.5/5

Handling 3.5/5

Comfort 3/5

Practicality 4/5

Behind the Wheel 4.5/5

Overall 4/5

Market price of a used Suzuki Baleno

Quick search through the PakWheels used car section showed that pre-facelift Balenos are available from around PKR 500,000 to PKR 700,000 depending on the condition, engine size, and the variant. Baleno 1.6 are usually more expensive that 1.3l versions. You can find some units even cheaper than PKR 500,000 if you look hard enough.

Cars available in same price bracket

In the price range of PKR 500,000 to PKR 700,000, other sedan options that you can buy are sixth generation (1996 – 2000) Honda Civics (both EXi and VTi) depending on the condition of the car. Honda City can also be an option considering it is closer to Baleno in size and engine capacity than Civic. You can also find the late 90s Indus shape Toyota Corolla in the same price range. Dewan Mitsubishi Lancer can also be an option, but their spare parts are not that easily available nowadays.

To wrap it all up, if you are looking for a cheap to maintain second-hand saloon, do look at Suzuki Balenos as well, among other options. I agree that this review can’t be applied to all Balenos considering they are all used and no one is same as the other. But the point of the write up is to provide you with an option. Yes, the car you might test will be different from the one I drove, but basic on-road characteristics of both cars should be the same. If you buy a used Baleno, and spend some time and effort to improve it, the car will be as good as any and will provide you reliable service, winter or summer, rain or snow. Happy motoring!

  • Umer Fayyaz

    even if i don’t like suzuki baleno, i loved the idea, detailed reviews for cars which are otherwise outdated by pakistani market yet they are very practical options for one with tight budget. for one thing, i am glad to know that even a 2lac plus driven car can be good if its ‘good’, i would have given a straight no to any car with this mileage before today. so…mind opening initiative.

  • Farhan

    I’ve heard from many mechanics to stay away from Baleno. Not just from mechanics, but previous owners too. They say that the problem with this car is the computer. If the computer malfunctions, then it can’t be fixed, which basically turns into a junk car

  • Dr. Saleem (MBBS, FCPS)

    Thinking to sale Baleno, and buy FAW V2…. What is CDM (Chinese Domestic Model) it is,…..after Junks of JDM (Japanese Accidented Domestic Model)…. you can get a ZERO METER FAW V2 WITH 3 years warranty…… better than to buy VITZ, Passo (Reversed Meters) with not ENGINE , TRANSMISSION AND EPS Warranty…..

  • Ammar Khan

    DR. sb you are right, but i have seen that the Plastic dashboard of Faw v2 is not very good.. Its plastic dashboard and insulation might cause body noises on rough roads.. Any ways, Vitz ki body to achi hai… but agar engine, Ac, aur gears Vitz k kharab ho gaaay to phir Vitz 1 lacs aur mehngi paray gi…. because of 3 years parts warranty i am lovi’n FAW V2.. Will buy soon.. after selling my SUBSTANDARD WAGON R VXL….. POOR RESALE OF WAGON R….

  • bhatti

    sir yeh Review baleno ka hai….. Mera dil dukh gaya hai aap ka comment parh k, because mein nay abhi zero meter cultus li hai…. ab Faw v2 chala k maza aa gya….not satisfied with cultus vxl… bakwaas as compared to Faw v2

  • wwhite

    While we are talking about a decade old “baleno” from Paksuzuki, Maruti Suzuki has launched a completely new baleno in India last week.

  • Usman Ansari

    having experience of several Balenos in our family, i’d say its a nice car to run on Petrol, but nightmare on CNG.

  • haseeb

    kindly write a review about suzuki liana.

  • Guest

    1. Because Maruti Suzuki is not our role model.
    2. Because what Maruti Suzuki does is India is not our gold standard.
    3. Because there is a shortage of cars in Pakistan.
    4. Because few people buy new car, most people buy old car.
    5. Even people having respectable jobs can only buy a 10 or 20 year old car.
    6. Because even a 20 year old car is a status symbol.
    7. Because even people who can afford a new car would want to buy an old one because the crime rate is so high. Not only somebody would snatch the car, there are other problems, if you buy a new car people would start monitoring you, you will become a hot target for robbery at home, policemen’s extortion money also goes up, mechanic’s charge and plumber’s rates also go up.
    8. People would buy an old car rather than risking their own lives or the lives of their children because somebody would shoot them for a new car.
    9. Because of the inflation and currency exchange rate, new cars have become 3.2 times as expensive in the past 15 years, while the income has not risen accordingly. A new car is a dream for many and they keep running after it because their old car takes away the lion’s share of their income. They can never save enough to buy a new car.
    10. Mechanics cannot understand new cars because no training is provided by the companies that sell these cars. So if you drive anywhere else than the big cities, you must must must buy an old car so even if something goes wrong in Khoski the mechanic can understand it. Because the mechanics will be on average 10-15 years behind the rest of the world and every new thing will be faaaiiiilll gaddddi aaay ji for them.

    11. This is a very good initiative by Pakwheels blog to provide review of used cars because most people purchase used cars. If you are not sure then see how many ads of new cars are in the Sunday newspaper and how many ads for used cars are there. Look around you and see how many people bought new cars and how many bought used.

  • Guest

    The term you coined is great, CDM, but FAW V2 in Pakistan even though manufactured in China and exported to Pakistan, is not a CDM (Chinese Domestic Market) model. Because Chinese Domestic Market has left hand drive. The cars made for Pakistan and other right hand drive countries are purposely made for export.
    The similar happens when Dewan or Gandhara imports zero-meter cars for sale in Pakistan. They are purpose-made export models. But those JDMs you get as used imports were definitely for Japanese Domestic Market, and now just a re-export. They were not purpose-made for the intended market of export.

  • Guest again

    Plastic of dashboard of Prado 120 series is also not good.
    Yet it serves its purpose (off-roading) well.

  • Guest again

    Used cars are the lifeline of Pakistan, whether locally usd or Japan or UK import.
    These cars are not “outdated for Pakistani market”. They are very much relevant or you can even say advanced because still most mechanics cannot understand them.
    Most cars that are sold are used cars and many people can never afford a car that has been used “only” 20 years, or only for 1.5 million km or so.

  • Zulfiqar Ali Soomro

    I’ve had the car for 8 years now.. never faced a problem on cng and the car just goes mad when on petrol.. bilkul hawa hawaai :p

  • Zulfiqar Ali Soomro

    Baleno feels more connected to the road than the likes of corolla, city and to some extent Civic (not all models).. Civic is great though

  • wwhite

    I accept everything you say. All you said are not reasons for why new automakers are entering into our auto markets, or existing ones introducing new cars. But mere excuses what the so called “big 3” says, and so do you.

  • Khurram

    Only those mechanics who are not capable of handling the car. Otherwise, we too bought second hand Baleno, 2001 model, back in 2005 and used it for 10 years. Never once in 10 years it disappointed us. And we travel to Mirpurkhaas from Karachi very often.

  • قیصر ریاض

    Any suggestion about coils of baleno, which one are best for 1300

  • twister286

    “Wind noise above 150kph”…seriously? It’s a city cruiser car, not a freeway-slayer.

    This car isn’t even meant for those speeds…heck, my Toyota Aurion TSE (aka Camry XSE in some markets) with a 3500cc engine starts to get substantial wind noise close to 150kph, let alone this little city cruiser with the aerodynamics of a fridge…

  • Zulfiqar Ali Soomro

    My original coils were short due to some carelessness from the guy servicing my car, didnt cover them properly. Now many might not believe but the electrician put the coils of Corolla Indus in them.. Idk how he did that, maybe back then I didnt have much know-how about cars that I cant explain it or maybe coils do not matter?? but they’re working perfectly..

  • Zulfiqar Ali Soomro

    Big3 more like Pig3 :p

  • haha… #Big3

  • Adnan Siddiqui

    i’ll wait for suzuki liana review

  • Zaeem Khalid

    Jahil Mechanic most likely.

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