Maruti Omni: spacious, but drive carefully!

The roomy Maruti Omni is the ideal city runabout for small businesses or large families; but styling, features and safety levels are minimal. It is also underpowered for highway driving, says K Shivraj.

If a buyer chooses the Maruti Omni over similar-priced small cars, he or she is most likely to be a business person who apart from personal use, needs the extra space to transport goods.

Its spaciousness both in the seating and luggage areas is impressive - space enough to move a large family as well as household or business goods. The versatility of the Omni is due to its being born out of a Suzuki mini-truck that is popular in Japan.

It is said that there was a plan to launch the pick-up version of the Omni in India in 1984, when the Maruti Suzuki partnership began production. Somehow the plan did not take off, and Maruti launched only three models - the Maruti 800 (still popular in areas where the new emission norms don't apply), the Omni van and the four-wheel drive Gypsy (which, after good initial sales, has almost disappeared from the market, mainly due to stability problems).

But having moved up the ladder in terms of appearance and finish over the years of its existence, the Omni continues to be in demand, both in its five-seat and eight-seat variants. There is a cargo variant too.

Safety may not be the best feature of the Omni, but even in an environment where stricter emission norms could become countrywide soon, the vehicle continues to find good acceptance. Keeping safety out of the envelope, except for seat belts and a tough-looking bar fitted behind the non-existent grille, the Omni is utilitarian to the hilt.