Maruti Suzuki, India’s largest carmaker, introduced India to the Maruti 800, in 1983. Since then, the carmaker has rolled out over 15 million vehicles from its plant in Manesar. Over the years, Maruti has introduced India to quite a few cars and many of these are the ones that people are starting to forget as there aren’t many of them on the road today. So let’s take a look back at 10 cars from Maruti Suzuki that you may have forgotten about.
The Maruti 800, which was based on the Suzuki Fronte SS 80, was India’s first hatchback to bear the Maruti badge. Seven years after the arrival of the 800, Maruti introduced the 1000, the first sedan to sport its logo. The Maruti 1000 was considered a premium car when it was launched commanding a price tag of Rs. 3,81,000, in 1990. Powered by a 970-cc engine producing 46 bhp, the 1000 weighed in at just 825 Kg with former PM Rajiv Gandhi a big fan. However, its price, which led to it being described as a project “by the elite for the elite,” meant that not many 1000’s hit the road. In 1993, Maruti replaced the 1000 with the Esteem.
Omni High Roof
The Maruti Omni was simply known as the Van to many Indians. The multi-purpose vehicle was used for everything from a school van to a cargo vehicle. Maruti offered a high-roof version of the Omni with more space; however, people were content with the regular van so the high-roof never really took off.
The Maruti Zen was launched in India in 1993 and the hatchback has a cult-like following in India. However, when Maruti decided to introduce the Zen Classic, a regular Zen with retro design cues in the form of a three-piece grille, round headlights and steel bumpers, not many Indians cared about it and it was soon discontinued. Finding one of these on the roads today is an extremely rare sight.
Zen Carbon and Steel
Maruti also released limited-run, two-door versions of the Zen in the form of the Zen Carbon and Zen Steel. Maruti made only 50 of the Carbon and Steel cars and they were quickly gobbled up by fans. If you find one of these on the road today be sure to burn the image of the sporty Zens in your mind as it may take you quite a while before you see one again.
Maruti introduced a diesel version of the Zen in the year 2000. The diesel Zen was powered by a 1.5-litre engine, sourced from Peugeot, that produced 58 bhp and 78 Nm of torque. Despite the big gap in the prices of petrol and diesel fuels at its launch, the diesel Zen was not popular and there are only a few still left on the roads today.
India’s relationship with estate cars hasn’t been a good one especially for station wagons. Maruti too fell in the estate-shaped hole with the Baleno Altura. The Altura was powered by a 1.6-litre petrol engine, but like every other estate car in India didn’t do so well in terms of sales and was quietly forgotten.
Maruti introduced the Versa as a larger 7-seater upgrade to the Omni van. Despite roping in Amitabh Bachchan to promote the Versa at its launch in 2001, the 7-seater people carrier did not garner much attention from Indian car buyers due to its hefty price tag. The Versa was discontinued in 2009, and a year later, the much cheaper Eeco took its place in the Maruti line-up.
The Maruti-Suzuki A-Star was launched in 2012 as a rival to the Hyundai i10. While its quirky style and easy of driving attracted attention, its price tag put it in a position where car buyers could buy a Wagon R or even a Swift, both of which were well-established brands from Maruti and offered more space. The A-Star did well for Suzuki in international markets but was discontinued in 2014, in India.
The Vitara is a common name in Indian households thanks to the success of the Vitara Brezza compact SUV. Back in 2009, Maruti Suzuki first introduced the Vitara name in India with the Grand Vitara SUV. Unfortunately, the Grand Vitara was imported as a CBU into India, which drove up its price to over Rs. 20 lakh. Apart from that, the Grand Vitara was only offered with a 2.4-litre petrol engine and the large Maruti SUV quickly faded into the background before being discontinued in 2014.
The Suzuki Kizashi was the carmaker’s response to the Toyota Corolla and the Honda Civic. The luxury Suzuki sedan was one of the most affordable CBU vehicles on sale in India. However, people’s perception of Maruti Suzuki as an affordable car brand along with its thirsty 2.4-litre petrol engine didn’t give the Kizashi any brownie points with buyers. The lack of a diesel engine also hampered the Kizashi’s chances and it bid India adieu in 2014, three years after it first arrived.