The Indian automobile industry. From just a couple of models available in the 80s and early 90s to a huge variety of cars available in each segment. But we wouldn’t be where we are if not for these cars. So today GoMechanic is here to pay tribute to the ‘OGs’. These are the 7 cars that started a new segment in India.
Maruti Suzuki 800- Hatchback
Currently, Maruti Suzuki is the most successful carmaker in India and it owes this success to their first car; the 800. It was launched in 1983 and was the first hatchback Indians could buy and it was an instant hit. It was a lot more modern than the cars offered at that time, a lot more nimble and came with a bulletproof 796 cc 4-speed gearbox transmission.
The 800 was the perfect car for that time; especially for the youth since they wanted something cool looking. And although many cars came and went, the 800 continued hustling and stayed in production until 2014; which also makes it one of the cars with the longest life. Even in the era when most of the cars are thoroughly designed using technology, the simple-looking 800 can give most of them are run for their money.
Fun fact: It is one of the very rare cars that exceeded their limit on the speedometer.
Tata Indigo CS- Compact Sedan
After the success of their first passenger car Indica, Tata decided to launch its elder cousin, the Indigo. The sedan did fairly decent on the market but it was the Indigo CS that started the ‘compact sedan’ segment in India. Launched in 2008, it was the sub 4m sedan and came with a 1200cc petrol engine which produced 65 bhp. It did not do well in the market at first; but was a huge hit amongst cab operators as it was cheap, easy to maintain and had a decent mileage of 15.4 ARAI.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for the CS, we would probably never have gotten amazing cars like the Maruti Suzuki Swift Dzire and the Honda Amaze.
Ford EcoSport- Sub-Compact SUV
Although Indians like to have the grand feeling of an SUV; they are pretty inconvenient due to their large dimensions, driving dynamics and maintenance cost. Ford observed this very closely and thus launched the EcoSport in 2013 and this was the car that single-handedly boosted sales for the ‘Blue Oval’ in India.
The credit was India’s first compact SUV should factually go to the Premier Rio, however, given that the Rio was a sales failure, it seems just to credit the Ecosport for this segment.
It was the first subcompact 4m SUV so Indians got the feel of a big brawny car but with all the practicality of a hatchback. They also offered a number of attractive options; including a 1.0 turbo petrol (bring it back please) and became the perfect car for city and as well as highway cruising. 8 years have passed by and it is still going strong.
Tata Safari- Luxury SUV
If you ask a late 90s kid about his favourite car, 9 out of 10 times they will say it’s the Tata Safari. It was the first full-sized Indian luxury SUV that was considered affordable. After its launch in 2000, it became the favourite car for movie stars, offroaders and even politicians due to its fierce looks, futuristic features (it came with a freaking PlayStation!) and a solid turbo diesel as well as a petrol engine. It has undergone a couple of generation changes and even though the current gen does not do justice to the OG model; it is one of the most iconic Indian cars ever.
Tata Sierra- SUV
If there is one Indian carmaker that could predict the future, it’s Tata. In 1991, Tata launched the first indigenous SUV, the Sierra. It came with 3 doors, a 2.0-litre Peugeot sourced diesel engine and 4WD. What more could you have asked for! It also had a number of features only seen in foreign imports like power windows, adjustable steering wheel and tachometer. But due to all this, it came with a price tag of 5 lakhs which was too much for Indians in the 1990s and thus the Sierra was discontinued in 2000.
However, this car has aged beautifully and has a huge cult following now. And even though Indians did not accept it at its time of launch, it was the SUV that brought the word SUV into the Indian market.
Toyota Qualis- MPV
Back in 1999 when Indian carmakers were just started to experiment with the word SUV, Toyota went one step further and introduced the MPV segment in India with the ‘Qualis’. Due to its longer wheelbase, better suspension and great overall comfort, it became an instant hit among fleet operators and large families. It came with a 10 seater configuration in the cabin with a 2.5 diesel engine in the front. It was discontinued in 2005 to make way for the Innova.
The Qualis was truly the first car that showed that even a car hauling 10 people can be cool. Again; we know the Kajah Kazwa was the first MPV but does it hold even half the significance as the Qualis? Certainly not!
HM Ambassador- Sedan
The car not only started the sedan segment in India but also made cars altogether mainstream in India. Born as the Morris Oxford; the Amby quickly became a big success when launched in India in 1958 amongst big families and especially the government. Even the Prime Minister’s official car was the HM Ambassador at one point.
It was made like a tank, had a torquey engine in the front and who can forget that comfy sofa seat. No wonder it was sold until 2014! And while all the other cars on the list have our respect, the Amby certainly tops the list of cars that started a new segment in India, due to its sheer image and significance.
If it wasn’t for them, the Indian car landscape would be a lot more different, and probably a lot more boring. So, guys, these were 7 cars that started a new segment in India. Do you own any of them? Let us know your experience in the comments section!
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