PAL or the Premier Automobiles Limited, a company renowned for the Padmini also tried to attract customers with another car. It was the Premier’s version of Fiat 124 sold globally. In India, it was sold under the alias of Premier 118NE. A car, known for a very refined engine and the slickest gearbox at that time, failed. But why? Let’s find out. But before that, we’ll have a look at the specifications and some major points of the Premier 118NE.

1985 – A new saloon car in India

Premier Padmini
Premier Padmini

Premier launched the 118NE in 1985 after acquiring the production techniques and tooling from Fiat. The car launched in India was very similar to the Fiat 124. But Premier decided to make some changes under the hood. And these changes proved to be good for the car. Premier decided to equip the 118NE with a Nissan sourced 1.2-litre A12 engine. This engine was capable of producing 52hp of power. But the major USP of this engine was the refinement. The square-shaped engine was quite a talk of those days and was smooth while revving. Using this engine, one could reach a top speed over 135 kmph.

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Talking about the car, it was a mid-luxury car at that time offering a good amount of features at that time. The interiors seem to be pretty sturdy too as compared to the more and more plastic in the Padmini. This car was made to last long!

Premier 118NE
Premier 118NE

Later on, in 1996, PAL decided to give the 118NE a new 1.3litre diesel engine capable of producing 42hp of power. This new engine powered Premier 118NE was known as Premier Viceroy while the car was reaching the end of the production days. By 2001, the company halted the producing this saloon due to low demands. But why were the demands so low even after having an engine and a transmission no one was complaining about?

The answer is simple!

People were not ready to spend money on the 118NE when there was a relatively cheaper option from Maruti Suzuki available a.k.a the 800. At that time, actually no car stood a chance against the mighty Maruti 800 which became everybody’s favourite car at that time.

Have a look: Maruti 800 vs Suzuki Mehran: An Indo-Pak Duel

Maruti 800
Maruti 800

But this was not the only case. Actually the company was not able to deliver the car on time. Some people even reported that they booked their car in 1985 and got it after over 6 years of waiting. This is enough to kill the interest of people. The first car took 2 years to come out of the factory after launch in 1985.

But then also, the ones who have had the chance to drive this beauty know-how sturdy and refreshing the Premier 118NE is. People now also are interested in restoring one to its glory. Do you own a Premier 118NE or have come across the car? Let us know in the comments section below.

A fun read: Premier Padmini (Fiat 1100D): India’s Most Loved Family Car


  1. I think the car lost its market because of body rusting. I don’t agree that it failed to Maruti 800 coz 118NE and 800 is not apple to apple comparison. If anyone gave up 118 NE for Maruti 800, then he doesn’t have any sense for cars. 118 NE was the best Indian car that could come those days. Beautiful engine, superb sitting comfort, excellent gear and driving pleasure. I can bet if this car comes back with new technology, it will do good

    • Hi Shaleen,
      This is true that there was no comparison between the Premier 118NE and the Maruti 800. But at that time, the major Indian customers just wanted a car, no matter the make or the body. It was all about the price and the fuel efficiency which of course 800 offered better. 118NE was a failure due to the company’s failure to deliver on time. Stay pinned!

  2. the car was rusty too., but major problem in delivery of vehicle and waiting period was too long at that time. but the driving comfort was superb. the viceroy model came with better metal body at the last stage of closure. i enjoyed the driving very much especially on ghats compare to maruti800 and still enjoying as owning the NE .38D.

    • Hi Gurunath,
      The delivery of vehicle and availability of parts is what led to the failure of such a good car, especially when compared to the rivals at that time. It’s great to know that some people like you still have the car, which does showcase the build quality of the cars of that era. Stay pinned!

    • Are you still looking for an original 118NE that has done just 50,000 Kms and is in execellent condition? If yes, then please get in touch with me. I am old and I am not driving it anymore.

  3. I own one and it drives superb ,the only major problem that I’m facing now is the availablity of spare parts. Can you recommend some dealers in Assam?

  4. Excellent family car with best technology and comfort in 90 n early.2000.Service at PAL showrooms were very bad.Staff very arrogant n not listening to Customer problems.Delayed delivery.Above all the labour union problem at PAL production plants n not maintaining the quality of the car was also big issues.Maruti at that time offered all the things,,,new design,, refined engine,, fuel economy,, Good Service n less price,,,,so it killed the market of NE 128

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