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Old 28th June 2012, 22:18   #1
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Thumbs up '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Greetings, fellow members -

I'm the proud owner of a golden colored 1999 Maruti Zen VXI. The car has done approximately 66,400 km as of today, and to me, it feels like I'm driving a new car. Sure, there's been plenty of maintenance involved (some of this because the car sat idle for a few years where I wasn't able to drive it - I was not in India at that time), but at the end of the day the zippy car that I own (which puts some of the more "modern" cars to shame in terms of pickup and driving ease) makes it more than worth it.

The Zen is affectionately christened the "Pocket Rocket" by many - an apt term indeed, provided the car is taken care of and maintained well.

I drove this car for a few months in 2003 (an average drive of like 45 km daily). After that, I left India for a few years, for which period the car really (and unfortunately) wasn't driven all that much. Perhaps a short drive to the supermarket in the evenings, and maybe the occasional drive to the office, but nothing regular. I got this car back in 2009 - at which point there was quite a bit of work needing to be done on the car, primarily due to it not being driven all that much over the years.

Fast-forward three years to 2012, and I can confidently say that all the work's been WELL WORTH it - this car is ultra-reliable at this point. It's been taken care of real well ever since I "re-claimed" it, and holds its own even on the highways with other, bigger cars. In fact I can think of no better car for city drives, and it doesn't do too badly on highways either.

The car was originally a petrol version, but I got a CNG kit installed in 2010 due to the rising fuel prices. At the time, I was a tad bit wary of installing CNG - and the initial issues with the installation made me feel like I was justified in my concerns (though that was more the installer's fault than the vehicle's), but once I got past the initial hiccups, I cannot say enough good things about the installation. The older Zen models take to CNG like a duck would to water. Sure, the pick up decreases slightly with A/C on, but even that can be taken care of by tuning the engine (note - tuning the engine as opposed to kit) correctly.

For those of you that are wondering, or maybe looking to buy a used Zen, I'll post the positives and negatives (from my experience) of owning a Zen:

Benefits (many!)

1. Easy, and fairly cheap to maintain provided one takes care of the car, and drives it on a regular basis (but then again, which car wouldn't go bad if it was not driven regularly). Routine services (sometimes at 5k, sometimes 7K) usually cost between Rs 1300-1900 including labor, and thats NOT bad at all.

2. Reliable, smooth engine and great pickup - both with CNG and on petrol. Again, the guy tuning the kit and engine needs to know what he's doing, but I can confidently say my own Zen can hold its own against other bigger models in terms of pick up and speed!

3. Decent enough fuel economy

CNG: Around 25km/kg (sometimes more) on the highways WITH A/C on full blast. Haven't checked without A/C on the highways, but it can only be more. I get around 15km/kg with A/C in cities (read 99% stop and go traffic in Delhi), and between 18-20km/kg without A/C on.

Petrol: I get something like 13km/liter without A/C in the cities, and 10-11/liter with A/C on. This may be a bit more than what some modern cars claim to get - but I somehow think this type of mileage is not bad for a city like Delhi. As far as highways go, this goes up drastically - surprising enough, I get almost as good mileage on petrol on the highways as I do with CNG!

4. Easy to drive and park - A veritable boon in cities like Delhi, where even finding space to park one's vehicle at night is an absolute nightmare. Very easy to drive as well, despite the lack of power steering. You'd think that would hold true for all hatchbacks, but for some reason, the Zen just seems simpler to reverse and park than some other hatchbacks (A-star for instance).

5. A great car to MOD - enough said on that one!

... and perhaps more, but those should be enough for now!

Drawbacks

1. The A/C! Though my car A/C works well, as well as any Zen A/C of it's class does, it's still not sufficient to cool the car in temperatures approaching 45 degrees C or so. It battles through the heat manfully, but never really "chills" the car. Now this doesn't mean that the A/C doesn't cool - it does - and does so to the best of it's capacity but it's not like a Baleno A/C, for instance, which literally chills the car within the space of a few minutes.

Personally, I think the blowers are too weak - the A/C blows chilled air, but the blowers are just too weak to keep the car cold. Of course, I literally prefer the car to be like an ice chest when I drive, so maybe I'm being too demanding!

I have many stories on the Zen A/C, but will save those for later.
2. Limited space, especially if one installs CNG - but then that is a problem with most hatchbacks.

3. Low ground clearance - leads to plenty of scraping if one doesn't drive the car carefully, but it happens even if you take proper care while driving the vehicle.

... and thats pretty much it, can't think of other drawbacks at this moment.

And thats it for the moment. I love this car, but unfortunately may have to sell it off soon. . .

Hope this review was useful - I look forward to your comments on it!

Cheers
Rahul
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Old 28th June 2012, 23:31   #2
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Default re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Hey, thanks for the ownership thread and welcome to the forum as well

But, I disagree with your point on AC performance. My cousin used to own an 99 Zen few years back and I've been in his car plenty of times and I can say for sure, Zen's AC was one of the best, It used to cool the car in no time.

Have your got your car AC serviced ? If not then, I suggest you to get it done, as your car is pretty old, The cooling coil must have accumulated a lot of dust by now. Get it serviced, with a gas topup. Maybe, the performance improves

And ya, No ownership thread in Team-BHP is complete without pictures, Please post them soon.

You want to sell your car. Can you please tell me- How much you're expecting ?

Cheers,
Sameer

Last edited by sameerg001 : 28th June 2012 at 23:32.
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Old 29th June 2012, 13:45   #3
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Default re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Sameer, thanks for the welcome. My apologies for not posting pictures - I'll try and get it to it ASAP - maybe this afternoon if I can get to it.

With regard to the A/C, yes, I've got it serviced plenty of times. Like I said, it works fine, but the blower is a bit too weak for my taste - I'm the sort of guy who prefers sleeping in front of an A/C at home thats turned down to 16 degrees!!

By the way, this is a new compressor (which uses R134 as opposed to R12 gas) - the old compressor (original one) conked out a while back - long story there - so I got the bottle, pipes and compressor changed. Cost me a bomb to be sure, but the cold air is well worth it, especially in Delhi heat!

I should have also added in the original review that a lot of the parts of the car are brand new - got the alternator replaced a few weeks ago, and the battery is new as well (got that replaced a month or so ago if memory serves right). The car's been serviced regularly by a GOOD mechanic (which are rare in Delhi, as you probably know) - and it runs like a dream!

I'm expecting around 60K or so for it - and that figure is negotiable to a degree. Let me know if you're interested, and we can discuss further via PM to avoid going off-topic on this thread.

Cheers,
Rahul
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Old 29th June 2012, 17:15   #4
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

I am in the process of downsizing my lifestyle. I am looking to get my hands on a well maintained Zen; preferably a recent one like 2004 onwards. I have always liked the cute jellybean shape and remember lusting after the new canary yellow Zens that used to flash by in the early (mid?) 90s.
The Zen has a great engine and a friendly gearbox and is good to whip around on tight roads. I wonder if the later models had power steering, mpfi etc !
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Old 29th June 2012, 17:28   #5
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

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Originally Posted by fiestarry View Post
I wonder if the later models had power steering, mpfi etc !
I think the post 2001 models do have MPFI, not sure about power steering though. I've never really felt the loss of power steering in my Zen though, even after I switched to it after driving a Toyota (with power steering) for a long time in the US. I guess you could always get it installed after your purchase though - has anyone does that as yet to their vehicle?
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Old 29th June 2012, 21:02   #6
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

I also own a 99 model ZEN - Carb-. I used to feel the lack of power steering for parking and reversing. But for normal running , I felt it is having a super light steering feel though no under or over steering.
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Old 29th June 2012, 23:16   #7
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Originally Posted by Zenster99 View Post
Sameer, thanks for the welcome. My apologies for not posting pictures - I'll try and get it to it ASAP - maybe this afternoon if I can get to it.

I should have also added in the original review that a lot of the parts of the car are brand new - got the alternator replaced a few weeks ago, and the battery is new as well (got that replaced a month or so ago if memory serves right). The car's been serviced regularly by a GOOD mechanic (which are rare in Delhi, as you probably know) - and it runs like a dream!

I'm expecting around 60K or so for it - and that figure is negotiable to a degree. Let me know if you're interested, and we can discuss further via PM to avoid going off-topic on this thread.

Cheers,
Rahul
I am interested in her, Do post the pictures as soon as possible, I want to have a look at her.

As you're a newbie, I can't PM you, nor you can to me either. So, contact me on sameerg001@gmail.com

Cheers
Sameer
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Old 30th June 2012, 07:41   #8
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Nice review Zenster!
I too own a 2001 Zen LX , MPFI and you're right - it indeed is a pocket rocket and a hoot to throw around corners! Pretty economical to run and maintain too. I very often get a FE of 12-13 in city and 15-17 on highways (derived via the tankful method). I regularly used to get it serviced at an interval of 5K kms or one year whichever came earlier, but for the past three services the guys at the MASS have repeatedly told me that the car needs to be serviced only after an interval of 10K kms. When I asked them the reason, they said that the oils that are being used today are of such high quality that they don't need a replacement before 10K kms. Is that true? In fact two years back when I took it for the regular 5K km service in Pune, the SA did not change the oil and just added some sludge busting additive. Upon enquiring, he again said that the engine oil doesn't need to be changed before 10K km, though the oil that is used is the regular mineral oil. I still make sure that I get a proper service done between every 5k-7K kms. I hope the experts and other Zen owners may shed some light on it.
Happy Driving !
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Old 30th June 2012, 13:57   #9
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Mod Note : Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another on the SAME THREAD!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sameerg001 View Post
I am interested in her, Do post the pictures as soon as possible, I want to have a look at her.

As you're a newbie, I can't PM you, nor you can to me either. So, contact me on sameerg001@gmail.com

Cheers
Sameer
Will upload pictures ASAP, couldn't do it yesterday since the car hadn't been washed, but will try and get to it as soon as possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ironhide View Post
Nice review Zenster!
I too own a 2001 Zen LX , MPFI and you're right - it indeed is a pocket rocket and a hoot to throw around corners! Pretty economical to run and maintain too. I very often get a FE of 12-13 in city and 15-17 on highways (derived via the tankful method). I regularly used to get it serviced at an interval of 5K kms or one year whichever came earlier, but for the past three services the guys at the MASS have repeatedly told me that the car needs to be serviced only after an interval of 10K kms.
When I asked them the reason, they said that the oils that are being used today are of such high quality that they don't need a replacement before 10K kms. Is that true? In fact two years back when I took it for the regular 5K km service in Pune, the SA did not change the oil and just added some sludge busting additive. Upon enquiring, he again said that the engine oil doesn't need to be changed before 10K km, though the oil that is used is the regular mineral oil. I still make sure that I get a proper service done between every 5k-7K kms. I hope the experts and other Zen owners may shed some light on it.
Happy Driving !
Thanks for your response, Iron hide.

I too used to get my car serviced every 5000 kms, but stopped doing so last year. YES, there are engine oils you can use which last for 10K kms - or are supposed to, at least - to be on the safe side, I generally get the car serviced every 7000 kms these days, but not 5000 as before. Just make sure you get the correct engine oil put in though - preferably Castrol, or some other "brand name". I got Castrol put in my Zen the last service - cost me around Rs 980 or so if I recall correctly. More expensive than regular engine oil, but then one saves money on services as well.

The only caveat to this is that you *may* need to change some other things before the 7K interval - in my case, I had to change the air filter once before my regular service, but then I'm running mostly on CNG. So, there may be some small things you need to get done - but overall, I think 7k is a reasonable service interval (I wouldn't let it get to 10k though!).

Cheers,
Rahul

Last edited by GTO : 2nd July 2012 at 13:15. Reason: Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another!
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Old 30th June 2012, 17:53   #10
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

I took a few quick pictures with my phone this afternoon with my cell phone (please excuse the somewhat blurry-in-parts photos - my phone doesn't have the greatest of cameras). I intend on posting more pictures after I get the car professionally washed at a car wash (of course, that effect will only last a day or so!), but for now, these should give readers a good idea of what the Zen looks like.

Some may recall I mentioned in my opening post that I may possibly sell the car off soon (certainly NOT due to performance!) - for those that may be interested, I'm looking at a price between 70k-80K for it, as opposed to the 60K I posted earlier in a response. This figure is erroneous - I did not factor in the CNG installation and the new A/C compressor in the calculations. I've already asked a moderator on how to edit the post, since I do not see an "edit" button next to it (perhaps because the time limit for editing posts has expired).

And finally, before I get to the pictures here is a list of some "aftermarket" extras I've installed in the car: -

- A set of Minda horns (replaced the stock horn)
- Philips 100/90 "Rally" bulbs along with relay - these are by far the best lighting option for this car (and I've tried many), barring perhaps HID lights which I haven't yet tried, and probably won't be any time soon.
- Fog lamps (for the life of me I cannot recall the brand at the moment - will post it as soon as I remember)
- Alto center console (not ideal, but all I could find)
- Cup holders on the doors
- Black Rexine seat covers

The car is also fitted with a central locking system (Autocop) - I recently got the siren changed, and the locking system "serviced" (not sure if thats the right word to use) once.

Cheers,
Rahul

PS: As I said, please excuse the somewhat blurry/dusty pictures - will get better ones taken once I get the car professionally cleaned at the car wash - might not have the time to do that right away though.
Attached Thumbnails
'99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review-zen-front.jpg  

'99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review-zen-back.jpg  

'99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review-zen-interior.jpg  

'99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review-zen-fog-lamps.jpg  

'99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review-zen-cng-fitment.jpg  

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Old 30th June 2012, 18:36   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zenster99 View Post
I took a few quick pictures with my phone this afternoon with my cell phone (please excuse the somewhat blurry-in-parts photos - my phone doesn't have the greatest of cameras). I intend on posting more pictures after I get the car professionally washed at a car ....................PS: As I said, please excuse the somewhat blurry/dusty pictures - will get better ones taken once I get the car professionally cleaned at the car wash - might not have the time to do that right away though.
Let me know, When i can see the car personally. We'll discuss more about price when we meet. I am put up in dwarka, where are you ?

Sameer
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Old 30th June 2012, 20:37   #12
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Originally Posted by sameerg001 View Post
Let me know, When i can see the car personally. We'll discuss more about price when we meet. I am put up in dwarka, where are you ?

Sameer
Hi Sameer

Thanks for the response. I'll be more than glad to show you the car personally - it'll probably have to be after next week though, as I'm quite busy with work-related stuff until the end of next week.

I sent you an email this afternoon as well (would prefer to discuss personal details such as location and/or sale related specifics etc on email since thats private) - did you receive my e-mail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by srikanthns View Post
I also own a 99 model ZEN - Carb-. I used to feel the lack of power steering for parking and reversing. But for normal running , I felt it is having a super light steering feel though no under or over steering.
Good point - those are the only times I ever felt the need for power steering in the Zen myself!

Rahul
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Old 3rd September 2012, 01:20   #13
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Hi Rahul !

Hope you're enjoying the Middle East!

Just curious if you have the MPFi Zen? You mentioned (in another thread) that you've been using Philips rally for a long time. Did you make any drastic changes in the wiring/relays or change the reflectors? I own a 2001 MPFI Zen and want to upgrade from the stock OEM bulbs. It has the stock headlights , the stock reflectors & the stock bulbs.

I have a few queries , namely :-

1. What changes am I looking at?
2. Any specific bulbs and relay modifications ?
3. Withe the Philips Rally, do I need to change the reflectors ( presently stock ones)?
3. Will the guys at MASS be able to do it?
4. Will it affect the battery/dynamo/charging circuit/wiring adversely?


Cheers!
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Old 3rd September 2012, 09:25   #14
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Hi Rahul !

Hope you're enjoying the Middle East!
Hey IronHide - Thanks for the message! Not sure if I'm really "enjoying" the Middle East in its entirety - but one thing I WILL enjoy here is driving - the roads here are fantastic, and speeds are good as well. One can easily maintain an average speed of 100km/hr on most roads here. Getting a driving license here is another issue altogether - a huge drama - but that's another topic for another thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ironhide View Post
Just curious if you have the MPFi Zen? You mentioned (in another thread) that you've been using Philips rally for a long time. Did you make any drastic changes in the wiring/relays or change the reflectors? I own a 2001 MPFI Zen and want to upgrade from the stock OEM bulbs. It has the stock headlights , the stock reflectors & the stock bulbs.
No - I had the carb Zen, 99 model, but I think the wiring (as far as headlamps is concerned) for that one is similar to the wiring for the 2001 MPFI.

I upgraded my wiring yes - got a relay installed for around Rs 1000 if I recall correctly (can't remember the brand as of yet). I did NOT upgrade the reflectors - I thought I'd need to, but the mechanic said there was no need, and it turned out there wasn't.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ironhide View Post
I have a few queries , namely :-

1. What changes am I looking at?
2. Any specific bulbs and relay modifications ?
3. Withe the Philips Rally, do I need to change the reflectors ( presently stock ones)?
3. Will the guys at MASS be able to do it?
4. Will it affect the battery/dynamo/charging circuit/wiring adversely?


Cheers!
1. All you need to do is get a decent relay installed, and some good bulbs - that's it.So long as the wattage doesnt go above 100/90, I doubt you'll need new reflectors.

2. Haha, good question. I didn't know a thing about this when I first started - initially started with "local" 100/90 halogen bulbs (actually pretty decent bulbs, but weren't adequate for what I needed). Then experimented with some fake HID's which I picked up from Kashmere Gate on a whim - white light (of sorts), but the left one blew out soon, so that experiment didnt last too long. Finally ended up with genuine Philips Rally 100/90 bulbs, and used them for over 10 months without A SINGLE problem.

So yeah, I'd recommend Philips - either Rally, or maybe Diamond Vision. I used Rally because I wanted white light, but they have other brands as well - Diamond Vision seems to be a popular one (I hope I got the name right!). As for relays, just get a decent brand name, and make sure the mechanic does a good job - thats about it.

3. As I said, no - so long as the wattage doesnt go above 100/90, the stock reflectors should work just fine. And the guys at the service center should certainly be able to do it, but a trusty local mechanic may get the job done for a bit cheaper.

4. Not at all - just make sure your battery is in decent working condition - thats all you need to look at.

Hope that helped just a little - let me know if you have further questions!

Cheers

Rahul
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Old 3rd September 2012, 10:00   #15
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Default Re: '99 Maruti Zen - Ownership Review

Nice review. I have the same 99 Vx in metallic Red colour. Mine has run 130K Kms. Its a very simple and good looking car. The ground clearance is an issue one needs to keep in mind.
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