India’s largest car maker Maruti Suzuki is the most successful brand for a reason. Maruti Suzuki has its hands on the pulse of the Indian car buyer like no other car maker does and along with that, Maruti also has products and after sales service to back its keen understanding of the car market in India. A proof of what sells in India is the ubiquitous Maruti Omni, which most Indians know as the Maruti Van. Quite literally a van, Maruti manages to put about 5,000 examples of this multi purpose vehicle on Indian roads every single month, and we’re talking about a 3 decade old platform here.
Maruti has just introduced a “Limited Edition” variant of the Omni, one which adds the much needed features to this bare basic van. The Omni “Limited Edition” model features,
* A CD player with AUX input
* A 4 speaker set
* Rubber Floor Mats
* LHS Wing Mirror
* Seat Covers
First introduced in 1984, close on the heels of the Maruti 800 hatchback, the Omni has outlasted even the Maruti 800. While the Maruti 800 made way for newer cars like the Alto F8D and more recently, the Alto 800, the Van has continued to soldier on as there’s literally been no direct competition for this unique and versatile vehicle. The only competition to the Maruti Omni worth a mention, is the Tata Venture van, which while being diesel powered costs more than double as that the van. So, the Venture hasn’t really managed to make a dent on the Maruti Omni’s fortunes given the big price difference.
So, what is it that makes the Maruti Omni tick and thrive, even after existing for nearly 3 decades in the Indian car market?
To answer to this question can be summed up in two words, Utility and Versatility. The Maruti Omni is aimed at the Indian car buyer buying his or her first car. Given that India is a developing nation, the first time car buyer is looking for not just an inexpensive option on four wheels, but is also looking for utility and versatility for the least possible price and with the higher fuel efficiency possible. The Maruti Omni delivers all this and then some more. The Omni is available in 5 and 8 seater variants. The Omni can also be specified with LPG power, making it even more economical than the petrol variant.
The Omni’s engine is the supremely reliable F8D-3 cylinder 796cc engine good for 37 Bhp-62 Nm. This engine is mated to a 4 speed manual gearbox and is a frugal yet punchy unit given the light weight of the Omni, short gear ratios and rear wheel drive layout. The Omni costs INR 2.15 lakhs for the LPG variant while the BS4 compliant petrol version costs INR 2.51 lakhs(both prices ex-showroom Delhi figures), making the Omni the second least priced car and least priced van in India, more expensive than only the Tata Nano.
The Omni is also available in ambulance and panel van form for commercial use. Detractors of the Omni often point to the car’s biggest downside which happens to be the lack of frontal safety in the form of crumple zones and their ilk but then again, it is a van that’s meant to be driven slowly and carefully, at speeds well under 80 Kph, and finally you get what you pay for. Most Indian car buyers are more concerned about utility than safety and unless the Indian government steps in to tighten safety regulations, the Omni will continue to sell in large numbers as a certain Aristotle wisely remarked “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”.