The Suzuki Esteem is an export nameplate for the Suzuki Cultus Crescent -- also marketed in Europe and many Asian countries as the Suzuki Baleno — manufactured by Suzuki Motor Corporation. In India, it was manufactured by Maruti Suzuki and sold as the Maruti Baleno.
The Esteem was introduced in the global market in 1995 as Suzuki's first attempt in the compact segment, at the time dominated by European cars such as the Volkswagen Bora/Jetta and Opel Astra, and Japanese models such as the Nissan Sunny/Sentra and Toyota Corolla. As a North American replacement for the Suzuki Swift sedan (the 3-door hatchback remained after it was redesigned in 1995), it was built on a slightly stretched Suzuki Cultus platform for improved cabin room, but otherwise sharing most of internal components with the smaller model — and marketed as a distinct model.
The Esteem/Baleno was initially available as a 3-door hatchback and 4-door sedan, with 1.3L (hatch only) and 1.6L engines, with power ranging between 85PS (63kW) and 99PS (73kW/97hp). In 1996, the lineup was extended with the Esteem Wagon (Baleno Break in most European markets and Baleno Altura in India), Suzuki's first station wagon, also with the same 1.6L, which also received optional 4WD in the two larger body variants.
Suzuki restyled the Esteem/Baleno in 1999. The car was given a new frontend, with a rounder grille and new headlights, and the engine lineup was expanded. Mazda supplied the 1.8L BP engine, that was fitted to the sedan and wagon. In North America, the Esteem 1.8 Station Wagon completely replaced the Esteem 1.6, but in most markets the 1.8 sedan became the sports model. In some European markets, the 1.8L I4 was installed in the hatchback and sold as the limited edition Baleno GTi. Europe also gained a Diesel version, with a 75PS (55kW) XUD engine supplied by Peugeot.
The Esteem/Baleno was replaced in most markets by the new Aerio/Liana. It was pulled from the market in Europe and North American in 2002, after one year of overlapping. The car remained available in many developing countries, including India and Southeast Asia, where it was sold until 2007, when production stopped at the Maruti factory, with the assembly line giving way to the SX4 Sedan.