|Efficiency||11.5 kmpl (City), 14 kmpl (highway)|
|Expenses||18 services, whose costs were not more than Rs.1500 each.|
|For||Reliability, ability to take abuse, ability to pull large loads, spacious interior, cheap maintenance.|
|Against||Harsh ride quality, NO equipment at all, excessive body roll, NO air-conditioning, Underpowered engine.|
The Maruti Suzuki Omni; launched in 1984 and being produced till date, has sold lakhs of units. Back in 1984 when Maruti first launched the Omni, little did they expect it to be such a phenomenal hit with the masses. It had no competition at all because, no such vehicle existed in the country at that time. Maruti engineers had paired-up with Suzuki engineers to design this masterpiece. It was the most basic 4 wheeler one could find. A steel chassis and body, a very crude cast iron, 783cc, carburetted, 3-cylinder inline, 33bhp engine taken from the Maruti 800 which was launched a year before, drive was sent to the rear wheels via an open differential, leaf springs with shock absorbers for suspension and drum brakes with internal expanding shoes were used on all four wheels in the Omni.
On the interior front, the Omni seated the driver and the front passenger right above the engine and there was a bench seat in the middle and two foldable baby seats in the trunk. It had a sliding rear door to allow easy ingress and egress. But what made it such a success in India was its utility, reliability, ability to withstand abuse and the cargo carrying capability. One could fit in eight people along with luggage and go on a road trip through the pretty much non-existent roads in India at that time. I remember one of my uncles owning an Omni and, it was considered a luxury to own one at that time. But I had never thought that one day my family would own one.
Come, August-2006 and when I was in the seventh grade. My father went ahead and got an Omni for the family. It was our first car and I could not wait to get behind the wheel, but unfortunately I was too young to do that. The Omni had gone through a lot of upgrades by this time. The design had changed; it looked much prettier than the first Omni. The headlamps were no longer round and boring, they are rectangular-ish shaped and feature a separate reflector for the parking lamps. That was the only major change on the exterior of the car and of course, the body had much cleaner lines. The interior layout was pretty much the same only the addition of options. One, in which the two rear bench seats face each other and another option, was the cargo option in which there are no seats or windows. The quality of material used is higher than the first generation, but still leaves a lot more to be desired when compared to today’s cars.
The engine is now a cast iron, naturally aspirated, 796cc, inline 3-cylinder with electronic fuel injection mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox. It now had McPherson struts with coil over springs for the front wheels and leaf springs with shock absorbers for the rear wheels. Braking is now handled by disc brakes up front and drum brakes with internal expanding shoe at the rear and all four wheels have booster assisted braking. And it still is driven by the rear wheel!
How does it feel to drive?? The Omni handles okay, but the body roll is so bad that one
All said and done, I still do feel that my dad made the right choice in purchasing this car due to the following reasons, it has acres of space on the inside, we once managed to fit in 13 people. It is not that bad for road trips, only the air-conditioning will be sorely missed during summer road trips. Driving seven people with luggage for 432km in 9 hours, no problem! It is utterly reliable and trustworthy. Not a single problem in the 8 years of owning the vehicle. Then of course, the Maruti Suzuki advantage of finding service backup and spares anywhere in the country and cheap maintenance etc. Work well in favour of the Omni.feels that the car is toppling over every time a corner is driven at medium pace, but it does not. It is just the body roll. The ride quality is the worst one can get, thanks to the leaf-sprung suspension at the rear. The steering provides good feedback since it is mechanically operated and the driver feels every bump or undulation on the road. Since it is rear wheel drive, it is sometimes fun too! And there is absolutely no torque steer which can be found on most of today’s front wheel drive cars. I have even tried drifting it! (Only tried).
The driver is sat up high which provides a good view of the road ahead, and since there is no engine in front of the car, even amateurs can drive it easily with the confidence that they can get through traffic without denting or scratching the car(other’s cars too!). Driving the Omni is a very simple but by no means easy task. Turning the car at low speeds(i.e. parking speeds) is a herculean task because of the manual steering system and shifting gears at crawling pace traffic is a pain in the wrong place due to the hard mechanical clutch and the hard gear-shifts. That tiny 3 pot engine lacks the power factor and hence the word Omni and performance cannot be said in the same sentence. It also lacks the most basic features found in today’s cars, like air-conditioning, power windows, power steering etc. Also, the quality of the materials used is very low and leaves a lot more to be desired. The features are at a bare minimum, there is nothing really that it has to offer. Another big disadvantage to the Omni is that, on long drives, along with the engine heating up, it also heats up the buttocks of the driver and front passenger because they are seated right above the engine!
The Omni definitely has its disadvantages out-weighing its advantages, but, the one big advantage the Omni has, that other cars don’t is the value for money factor. It really is a very capable car for the price it is being sold at.
Everything said and done, the Maruti Suzuki Omni still is the best MUV for the average Indian family, ONLY WHEN ON A BUDGET!!!
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