Maruti 800: 25 years old but still going strong

Despite its 1980s looks and feel and lack of safety features, the Maruti 800 continues to be popular because it is easy to drive, park, and maintain, says K Shivraj.

The car that revolutionised motoring in India back in the mid-80s, the Maruti 800 was for long the flagship car of the Maruti-Suzuki partnership. Its sales have now been discontinued in cities that have to adhere to BS IV emission norms, because the company decided that re-modelling the engine was uneconomic.

But it still does decent numbers in smaller cities and rural markets; and moreover paved the way for India to become a global auto-making hub.

By current standards the Maruti 800 looks minimalist - a basic car that facilitates a journey for four people in decent comfort. But if this country had safety norms like those in more developed markets, the 800 would have been long dead - despite the facelifts it was given over the decades. Given its uniquely boxy and conservative styling, it is easy to determine the age of an 800 today by a mere look at the appearance of the car.

Even the latest models of the car appear outdated. Yet it continues to exert a certain pull on first-car buyers. The 800 may not show a high build quality - it isn't as solid as most of the cars available today.

Yet the 800 does not feel sorry. Available in four shades, it continues to feel relevant. The front is made up of wrap-around lamps and a uncoloured grille and bumper (fender). Set into the bumper are the turn indicators - a trend that was popular in the cars of the 80s.

As the dimensions would reflect, the 800 has a minimal footprint on the road. Taking very little space to park, the car has doors that when operated feel like they were made of tin rather than steel. This may have something to do with the light feel the car has, but there's something undoubtedly familiar about them; the distinct sound of their closure.