As India prepares to celebrate its 73rd Independence day this year, we look back at some of the most iconic cars which graced the streets of our country. While many of them became significant, by their sheer popularity, a few of them even changed the landscape of the Indian auto industry as well.
While there are plenty of cars, which deserve to be on this list, we have selected our top-five. There are also a few honourable mentions, which had to be mentioned for obvious reasons.
(Note: the list isn't arranged in any specific order)
1. Maruti 800
One of the most iconic cars in the country, the Maruti 800 had to be the first model to be mentioned on our list. The entry-level hatchback was and is still one of the most popular and iconic cars in the Indian market.
The car was launched in 1983 and was the model which paved the path for Maruti Suzuki in the Indian market. The Maruti 800 also brought with it a sense of affordability, allowing the aspirations of many wanting to own a car, a reality. The Maruti 800 also had the longest production run of over 30 years, before being discontinued in 2014.
2. Hindustan Ambassador
Hindustan Ambassador is yet another iconic car in the country. The model started off as an Morris Oxford in the UK, before being brought to the Indian market in 1958. The 'Amby' as the car is fondly called was the obvious choice for almost everyone; even serving as the official car for former Presidents and Prime Ministers of India.
The Hindustan Ambassador offered plenty of space in its cabin and came with an extremely impressive build quality. The Ambassador was discontinued from the market in 2014, however, it still resides in the garages of many enthusiasts and owners to this date.
3. Tata Nano
The Tata Nano enters the list just for what it represented at the time. The Nano was a result of the promise made by Tata to introduce in the Indian market, the 'world's cheapest car'. The Tata Nano was introduced in India in 2009, fulfilling this promise.
Although the car initially generated a hype, it soon declined, with the 'cheap car' tag not being to everyone's liking. Over the years, Tata did bring in a number of updates and even introduced the GenX model, however, these updates did little to revive the declining sales of the Nano. The car finally faced the axe and has been discontinued from the brand's lineup.
4. Hyundai Santro
The Santro is an iconic car for many reasons, most importantly for being the model which made Hyundai, a household name in the country. The South Korean carmaker was back then wasn't very well known in the Indian market and was just trying to find its foundations.
The Hyundai Santro was the first model from the brand and was introduced in India in 1997. The hatchback came affordably priced and packed with features a trend which has stayed true to this day. The car was also fun to drive and the fact that Shah Rukh Khan was its Brand Ambassador, further added to its appeal.
The car was unfortunately discontinued in 2014, however, Hyundai did bring the moniker back to the Indian market, with the all-new Santro in 2019. The new-generation model carries forward the legacy of the old proudly.
5. Tata Indica
The Tata Indica was the model which officially announced the entry of the brand to the passenger vehicle segment. The Indica was also the country's first indigenously developed passenger vehicle as well.
Launched in 1998, the Tata Indica was quick to capitalise on the developing Indian auto industry and paved its way to success. This further led Tata Motors to introduce various different versions of the model, such as the Vista, Monza, Indica V2 and Indica CS; to name a few.
However, the newer-generation of Tata cars such as the Tiago and Tigor, led to the Indica being outdated, with the company finally pulling the plug on its production.
1. Premier Padmini (Fiat 1100)
The Premier Padmini is probably as iconic as the Hindustan Ambassador itself. The car was on sale in India between 1973 to 1998 and was a perfect match in the country. The car even today can be seen on the streets of Mumbai, Maharashtra finished in Black & Yellow, becoming synonymous with the phrase 'kaali peeli' taxi.
Image Courtesy: Easa Shamih/Wiki Commons
2. Maruti Gypsy
The Maruti Gypsy is yet another model in the Indian market, which deserves a mention as an iconic model. The Gypsy was popular even before India's obsession with SUVs began. Although the car wasn't great to drive in the city, the lightweight 4x4 model was a capable off-roader.
It's off-roading capabilities was displayed in many rally competitions and wins. The car also became the choice of the Indian Army and has been part of their fleet for quite a while now.
3. Mahindra Scorpio
The Mahindra Scorpio was first introduced in 2002 and was among the few models which started the obsession of SUVs with Indian customers. The car was also the first-ever in-house developed passenger vehicle from Mahindra & Mahindra.
The car over the years has received a host of updates and changes. However, the most significant change came in 2014 with Mahindra updating the Scorpio to make it more upmarket and premium than before. To this day, the Mahindra Scorpio commands healthy sales figures, with the brand expected to bring in another significant update for the SUV sometime next year.
So there you have it, that was our list of some of the most iconic cars to ever be introduced in the Indian market, along with a few honourable mentions. Do you agree with the list? And which other models do you think should be part of it? Let us know.