Between the year 1995 and 2002, Suzuki had introduced a compact car in Japan known as the Suzuki Cultus Crescent with the continuation of the south Asian production till 2007. Till May 1998, Cultus Crescent was sold as such only in Japan, when it was given a new name of Suzuki Cultus because of the stopping of the sales in Japan of the Cultus. This was also sold in North America as the Suzuki Esteem and in Australasia, Asia and Europe as Suzuki Baleno. Since, Maruti Suzuki was making it in India, it was known as the Maruti Baleno.
Cultus Crescent was the first attempt made by Suzuki in the compact segment which was introduced in the first half of 1995 in the global market. For better cabin room, this was made on a little stretched platform of Cultus as a replacement for Suzuki Cultus (Swift) sedan (in 1995, the three door hatchback was redesigned and thus remined) by North Americans, otherwise maximum of the internal components being shared with the smaller model and thus even marketed known as a distinct model.
Initially, the availability of Cultus Crescent was in the form of three-door hatchback and four-door sedan, with petrol engines of 1.3-liter (hatch only) and 1.6-liter respectively along with the ranging of power between 85 to 99 PS (63 to 73 kW; 84 to 98 hp). The line was increased in 1996, with the Esteem Wagon (known in European countries as Baleno break and in India as the Baleno Altura) which was the first station wagon of Suzuki also with the similar 1.6 liter that also got option of four-wheel drive in the two bigger body variants.
In 1998, Cultus Crescent was redefined by Suzuki and thus was featuring a new frontend, with new headlights and round shape grille, also the expansion of the engine lineup was done to include chain-driven DOHC engine of Suzuki’s J18A that was put in to wagon and sedan. Esteem 1.6 was completely replaced by the Esteem 1.8-liter wagon in North America, but in maximum markets 1.8 sedan has been known as the sports model. In few of the European countries, the 1.8-liter in the hatchback was fixed and was sold as Baleno GTi’s limited edition. Even a diesel version was introduced in Europe along with a XUD9 engine of 75 PS (55 kW; 74 hp) supplied by Peugeot.
Aerio/Liana, launched in 2001 had replaced the Cultus Crescent in many markets. Sedan was stopped in Japan in November 2001, though wagon was there till August 2002. In 2002, the whole range was pulled back in North America and Europe after the overlapping of Aerio/Liana for one year. In many developing countries, this car was available in Southeast Asia and India till 2007, when maruti factory had stopped its production giving way to SX4 Sedan.