Ownership review - Maruti 800

Looking back and looking forward : Atom

The odometer reads 96275 Kms.  For a first time car owner, it is a matter of pride to own a car that put the nation on wheels. The ‘people’s car’ as it was fondly called was a dream come true for middle class Indians to own a car so affordable. It was a total shift from the Ambassadors and  Premier Padminis at that time. I am bit late to share my opinions of a legendary car that was launched way back in 1983 and since received numerous upgradations over the years, but I now understand how people at that time might have felt to own a car that was light in the wallet, commute to office and weekend getaways, become the guy next doors’ envy and their family’s joy.

 But my initial perspective of the car was the opposite of what I feel as I prepare to sell the car which I learned to drive, had numerous outings and became the perfect companion for fun. Whether it was the movies or out for dinner with friends, the nimble Maruti 800 was effortless to navigate the narrow, crowded streets of Jalandhar with its 1440 mm width. Not to mention the ease of parking in given its 2175 mm wheelbase. The 170 liters of boot space was sufficient for weekend shopping and a weekend's worth of luggage. The 28 liter fuel tank gives a range of more than 300 kms before stopping for fuel. 

The car grows on you, building up your confidence in driving. Be it scorching summers, monsoon rains or harsh winters in Punjab, Atom (my car) braved it all and that built to last feeling of the car became quite apparent. Speaking of built to last, the sturdy bumpers don't seem to be bothered even when a Swift banged Atom's front bumper while taking a reverse (the Swift's rear bumper became loose !)or when Atom hit a lamp post when my friend was behind the wheel.

                             Simple, functional dashboard with enough  storage space and cubbyholes

The rack and pinion manual steering compared to today’s power steering cars might take a little effort but the compact dimensions of the car helped a lot maneuvering tight spots. The water cooled SOHC 796 cc, 3 cylinder carbureted engine churning out 37 BHP @ 5000 RPM never ran out of breath, impressing us with its quirky acceleration. The 4 - speed manual gear box has a rubbery feel and takes time to get used to it. The car is equipped with drum brakes in all four wheels and needs to be worked more to get it to a stop without any drama. Even after all the rugged use, broken roads you throw her way, the suspension handles without any complaints and the 170 mm ground clearance ensures the under body isn’t affected at all. Spending five thousand rupees on service and other maintenance made the 800 almost as good as new. A music system with aux input and USB port sealed the entertainment quotient of the car. The quality and easily available spare parts never burned a hole in the wallet when Atom was due for service. We had driven the car for more than  4200 kms in 10 months, driving mostly for office use and weekend city runs. Sadly we never got a chance to take Atom on a long drive to assess her highway manners.
                             The rear can comfortably seat two people, three at a squeeze

It’s hard to find fault in the car that has stood the test of time, for 18 years and still feels eager to rev, has the same enthusiasm that you feel like the engine has never really aged. As I write this column sitting in my office on Dec 31 and reflecting back on 2016, it has been a full - on car-nival ! With a lot of mixed feelings I have to part ways with Atom. Adiós Atom! 

        Mfg year:        1998                                                                                                              
Month acquired:  Feb 2016
Total mileage:     4235 Km
Fuel:                    368 liters
Economy:           11.5 kmpl