(By Somnath Chatterjee)
My first crush? It was the Maruti Zen; and I am sure many auto enthusiast, who grew up in that era would resonate with the idea as they reminisce about the Zen with their sepia tinted glasses . The Zen was a landmark car for not just Maruti but the Indian car buyer. It was the first proper enthusiast car or a sporty car- something you would aspire to buy and not just have as a means of transportation. The Zen was a huge step up from the 800.
It looked cool especially because it was one of the first cars to have coloured bumpers (a big deal back then). It had a more powerful 50 bhp all aluminium engine. The seating was low and the cabin was a significant change from the more bare bones 800. The Zen was still bare bones when compared to today’s cars, but the materials and finish was a first for that time. The idea was to introduce the Indian car buyer to a car that was meant more than just a means of transport.
Maruti Zen first gen pre-facelift
Of course during its 13-year long shelf-life the Zen was given many revisions along the way. The earlier model designs were the most sought after and cherished, while the later ones remain less desirable. Maruti also did a stunning three-door limited edition which is very rare today, called Zen Carbon and Steel. There was also the controversial Zen Classic which flopped and was the only blemish for this line of cars. Of course the Zen moniker was brought back towards 2009 with the Estilo, but it had not even a fraction of the personality of the original Zen. Thus the first Zen will always be remembered as the first hot hatch for India and Maruti might just bring this name back like Baleno!