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Maruti Suzuki Zen: All About The 1993 OG Hot Hatch!

Here’s a challenge for you – Which car will you choose if you are somehow in 1995. Most millennials these days would easily bring in the Maruti Suzuki 800. However, there is one more car that was a great vehicle for those who were looking for something ‘different’. The name is – The Maruti Suzuki Zen. So let’s dive straight into the details of this memorable car from the 90’s!

History of the Maruti Suzuki Zen

1993 Maruti Zen
1993 Maruti Zen: OG Premium Hatch Of India

The Maruti Suzuki Zen had many changes and notable events during its stint.

The Birth

1993 Suzuki Cervo Mode
1993 Suzuki Cervo Mode

The Maruti Suzuki Zen took birth in 1993 as a hot hatch from the Maruti’s stable. It was based on the 1993 Suzuki Cervo Mode, a Japanese only car model. In fact, the initial batches of the Maruti Zen were equipped with imported Japanese parts. Long story short it quickly claimed the title of being the country’s first luxury hatchback. It was one of the very few fun to drive hatchbacks in India.


Maruti Suzuki Zen: Also known as the Jelly Bean Car
Maruti Suzuki Zen: Also known as the Jelly Bean Car

The Maruti Suzuki Zen started 2 trends in the car industry – 1) Was the first premium hatchback in india and number 2) Some car finally didn’t have a boxy shape. Many are during the 90’s including the Maruti 800 had boxy figures, with minimal round inserts. However, Maruti Suzuki didn’t do the same for Zen. They gave the car a few round edges, hence claiming another title of the ‘Jelly Bean Car’

Specs of the Maruti Zen

Enough of the philosophical talks of this car. Let’s get into specific details to prove to you, how the Maruti Zen was a hot hatch.

Engine Specs
Maruti Suzuki Zen Engine
Maruti Suzuki Zen Engine

The engine from the Maruti Suzuki Zen was an all aluminium one, capable of churning 50 bhp of power and 71 NM of torque. The engine was a 4 cylinder unit, which was an upgrade from the 3 cylinder from the 800.

Another upgrade from the 800 was that the power to weight ratio compared to it, was much better. And hence it also claimed its 3rd title of being a zippy car (0-100 came at around 15 odd seconds in the 2000 model).

The Gearbox (yes yes, it IS a big deal)
Gear Knob
5 Speed Gear Knob: A Luxury Back In The Day!

Another highlight of this car was that it got a 5 speed gearbox, against the 4 speed usual norm! To put in perspective, imagine if the 2022 Creta facelift got a 7 speed manual transmission. It would be a surprise, wouldn’t it! Speaking of Creta though, here’s a little something about it – What Will Be With The New Creta 2022?

Gearshifts were quite slick too, and we couldn’t find a more appropriate time to use this – ‘A hot knife cutting through butter’.

Talking about exterior (other than the round edges), it had a body coloured bumper which was not available in the Maruti 800 (it was a thing back in the day, and we wish carmakers bring it back).

Why Not The Maruti 800 Instead?

Maruti Suzuki 800 MPFI
Maruti Suzuki 800 MPFI

Positioned above the Maruti 800 in its lineup, the Maruti Zen was already a quick upgrade from the already popular car. Maruti stated that its target audience was the aspirational middle class.

In fact, many Maruti 800 owners decided to go ahead to upgrade their cars to the Maruti Suzuki Zen, instead of jumping right to the more expensive Maruti 1000 (or the Maruti Esteem later on). And at that time, there were some significant features that the Zen carried over the 800. We talk about them in the next section.

Also Read: 38 Years Of The Maruti 800 | Gone But Not Forgotten

Timeline, and updates received by the Zen

The Maruti Suzuki Zen had got many changes throughout its 16 years of glorious journey.

Update #1: The 1997 Subtle Changes

1997 Zen
1997 Zen

The basic Zen launched in 1993, was followed by this facelift in 1997. There were a few subtle changes done to the car, which included the addition of body coloured bumpers, and a new grille.

Update #2: Zen VX – 1998

Zen VX
Zen VX

Just next year after 1997 in 1998, Maruti decided to give the Zen a new variant – VX. It carried a Kenwood Music system, and power windows at a cheaper price! Talking about music, here are the Popular car audio system brands available in Indian market!

Update #3: Maruti Suzuki Zen Diesel – 1998

Zen Diesel
Zen Diesel

This was the same year that the Zen diesel was launched to combat the presence of Indica Diesel. The engine was borrowed from the Peugeot TUD5 engine making 57 bhp of power and 95 NM of torque.

Although it was noisy, 65 kgs heavier and NVH levels wasn’t exactly its strong point, it was much more torquey than the petrol. It also became the most fuel efficient car in India!

Update #4: Zen Classic – 1999

1999 Maruti Zen Classic
1999 Maruti Zen Classic

Maruti gave a completely refreshed look to Maruti Zen changing the whole character of the car. It then had retro inspired elements, along with tasteful chrome bits. Talking about chrome here are 6 Popular Cars In India With Chrome Overkill!

Indians hated this style from Maruti, as they didn’t approve of the styling inspired from other Asian markets.

Read about the Zen Classic: The 1999 Maruti Zen Classic | A Less Desirable Zen

Update #5: Emission update, leads to power update – 2000

The Indian government in 2000 had just enforced new emission regulatory norms, forcing Maruti to give the Zen a refreshed and more efficient engine, which thereby increased power to 58.5 bhp and torque to 71 NM. The interior game was also upped by Maruti, and it also got India’s first power steering!

Update #6: Carbon & Steel Versions – 2003

Zen Steel

Two Words – Limited Edition. These editions were sold in extremely small numbers (600 units, 300 each) making it a very rare find. Many car enthusiasts modified the Zen Carbon & Steel Editions, pushing it to its true limits. There are many cases where these cars are modified to make 150+ bhp!

Sriniketh's Modified Maruti Suzuki Zen
Sriniketh’s Modified Maruti Suzuki Zen

We have a full coverage in detail about these right over here – Zen Carbon & Zen Steel | The 3-door Zen Twins

Update #7: The Estilo – 2006

Zen Estilo
Zen Estilo

The Maruti Zen Estilo was a half baked attempt to give the WagonR inspired styling, and the Zen inspired design cues at the same time. In fact, the chassis of the Estilo was the same as WagonR, and the Alto. This was later discontinued in 2015 as it couldn’t achieve expected sales targets.

And hence, we will grab this opportunity to say this cliche, but true statement: ‘The Estilo wasn’t just able to re-create the magic that the OG Zen did.’

3 Fun facts About The Maruti Zen:

Zen Stands For 'Zero Engine Noise'
Zen Stands For ‘Zero Engine Noise’

As we move towards the end of this half tribute and half interesting blog about the Maruti Suzuki Zen, we decided to give 3 fun facts about it:

  1. ZEN actually stands for – Zero engine Noise
  2. It Had a dedicated boost button for making overtakes!
  3. It was the 1st car from India to be exported!

Now you can up your ‘Aatmanirbhar’ skill, and read about – 10 Most Indestructible Cars In India

So this was everything about the Maruti Suzuki Zen. Meet you next time, and don’t forget to follow the GoMechanicBlog!


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