Snapshot – As the winds of liberalization swept through the Indian economy in the 1990s, the automotive industry was a major beneficiary of foreign investment. A slew of passenger cars hit the market, seeking to capitalize on the growing economy and spending power among consumers. However, few cars succeeded amid evolving market conditions, with most falling by the wayside. Today, we take yet another walk back through memory lane with our second instalment of the 10 forgotten cars from the 1990s.
Indian like long cars, as a long automobile is generally seen as an image builder. Curiously though, station wagons/estate variants of cars never really hit bulls eye in the market here, which over the years has been littered with failed examples. The Tata Estate is yet another station wagon that never took off despite having plenty of features that were quite progressive in its day and age. Based on the 207 pick up truck platform and with a ladder frame chassis to boot, the stately looking Tata Estate used a 2 liter, naturally aspirated diesel motor with 68 Bhp-118 Nm on tap.
The Tata Sierra was one of the most radical SUVs launched in the 1990s, for its design and the kind of features it brought to the table. Powered by a 2 liter, indirect injection diesel engine that churned out 68 Bhp-118 Nm, the Sierra was an underpowered beast. Things improved on the performance front when Tata Motors turbocharged and intercooled the 2 liter diesel mill. However, the three door design meant that ingress and egress was difficult, making the Sierra unsuitable for the elderly lot. This was one reason why the Sierra never really hit bulls eye at the hustings.
Premier 118 NE
Based on the Fiat 124 and served up as more modern and luxurious alternative to the Premier Padmini, the 118 NE was first launched in 1985. The initial variants of the car came with a 1.2 liter Nissan sourced petrol motor. In the 90s though, a diesel powered version of this sedan was launched, and this helped the car gain traction. However, the Premier 118 NE never managed to do a Padmini for the brand in India, always a few steps behind the latter in terms of numbers.
The Daewoo Matiz was a hatchback ahead of its time. Launched in 1998, as a competitor to the likes of the Hyundai Santro and the Maruti 800, the Matiz was a brisk seller. However, Daewoo couldn’t capitalize on the car’s success, soon going belly up. The safety that this car’s body shell offered was outstanding at it time. Though diminutive in terms of size, the Matiz packed in decent space. Powered by a 796cc, triple cylinder engine with 12 valves and a DOHC head, this motor was a class leader in terms of the technology it brought to the table.
The Mahindra Voyager was based on the Mitsubishi L300 Delica van, which has some reputation as a go anywhere, expedition vehicle in four wheel drive guise. In India though, only the rear wheel driven variant was offered. The Voyager was positioned as a comfortable people mover for the market here, and featured a 2.1 liter turbo diesel engine sourced from Peugeot. The vehicle’s price tag of 5.25 lakh rupees ensured that it found few takers here. However, the vehicle, along with the Armada, represented Mahindra’s baby steps into the passenger car segment, a space that the Indian automaker is now comfortable in.