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Old 16th August 2016, 04:20   #1
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Default Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63842.jpg
You know, I think it is time we discussed the inevitable.
Eh What?
Don't give me that man, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
But.. well you know the turmoil it creates..
Someday you gotta bite the bullet, swallow the pill, face the music. I'm out of idioms now.
Oh well alright.. Let me think on what all we have..
(a short pause)

Bursting my smeagol-gollum-esque moment was a woman who was bickering on her phone at probably 100 decibels. She had taken a moment off the squabble still ensuing on her phone to ask me, rather impolitely to move aside. Not quite liking the scowl on her face, I obliged and moved aside so that she could pass through and continue her argument on the phone. All this, completely normal here in the Delhi Metro. And there I was crammed against a corner in a coach that looked more like a can, with people inside packed like sardines.

And yet.. it was home. If you asked me how to sum up my life in 20 years if I lived in Delhi it would certainly be the phrase "Life in a Metro". No not the city, but the Delhi Metro. Travelling by it almost everyday had me accustomed and comfortable to all things in the metro. Yes, it's almost always overcrowded, and yes a limping man will run like Bolt to occupy the seat reserved for the disabled, making you wonder, more often than not as to who is the disabled one here. But there can be no denying the fact that in the non-punctual mess that is Delhi, the Metro shines like a torch bearer for punctuality. Always on time, and quite frequent. There was, for me, no reason to complain, and frankly, I never did. I could happily ride the Delhi metro for hours, no sweat.( That no sweat bit is because of the AC.. I'd be sweating like a pig if it was absent!)

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-metro.jpg
(Image source: http://www.dubaimetro.eu/tag/delhi-m...y-corporation/)
My very own home the Delhi Metro, Reliable and on time from the get go

But there is a problem. You see the metro lines are laid out radially, just like Delhi. With the centre being Rajiv Chowk(Connaught Place) and the metro lines going radially out from this point of origin(Roughly). Now the problem lies when you want to travel, say, somewhere between the lines, what do you do? You have to resort to all the overcharging auto-wallahs to go anywhere. Until the ring lines are laid out( they are nearing completion ), there is nothing you can do but resort to other modes.

And so, I had to decide on a car. I was trying to keep it at bay, trying to distract myself, but no. The gollum inside me was growing ever impatient, and poking me with the What car? question every time it got the chance. It is no easy question to decide on something like that. I have seen many a poor mortal on our What car? sub forum seeking desperately for salvation from the gurus. No sir, it's no easy task. But the problem runs even deeper.Knowledge suddenly becomes a ruthless double-edged sword. Since, like most of you, I read about cars, I knew all the choices, all the variants that fit my budget. And I wished I didn't know all that. It was causing too much confusion and endless debates in my head. Sometimes all I wished for was a scenario like this to breakout-

A completely ignorant me going to a Maruti showroom(because obviously) and a conversation with the SA going like-

Welcome Saar to Maruti Suzuki, How may I help you?
Uhh I'm uhh looking for this car.. it's called something like a plant? Celery?
Oh Saar you mean Celerio? Come right this way saar, get inside the car saar, best seller from Maruti saar, no competition from Hoondai
Ohh yeah this is the car I saw on Google, I also read something about safety and something called ABS.. Does this have ABS?
Saar what ABS, ABC. Are you in nursery? These steering mounted controls on the other hand can control the music..
Oohh so I can change the volume with this? That's nice.

(A half an hour of dumb QnA later)

Saar you take car from here, you take insurance from that corner, and you take accessories from that corner, and you are done. Oh and don't forget to go for the anti-rust treatment on the seat covers Saar! They are absolutely vital for your safety, and cost just 10k bucks!


An ignorant me would've probably gone that way. But it was not so. In reality I would be there with a magnifying glass, scoffing at the orange peel in the paint. I do wish I didn't know what was Orange. Or Peel. But I do, and so you gotta make do with what you are and what you've become.

And thus began my journey for my ride. A confused and perturbed man, I was, fumbling in the dark. And this is my story as to how I finally found the Light. Now I know in today's era where everyone just wants bullet points highlighting the pros and cons of a car, so that they can read it in a jiffy and be off for meetings. But this car is long discontinued, so I am taking the luxury of putting forth the story, by starting at the beginning, then the middle bits, and then the (sort of) ending. Unlike my Mum, who would rush to the ending first, and then explain the former bits. Sorry Mum, but you were never a great story-teller. I hope I can do better, and so, here we go lads, to the start of things.


I am a 22 year old student. Thin, nerdy, a backpack always on me, disheveled hair and with eyes much larger in proportion to my face. I read books, I play video games, I'm shy in front of girls.. you get the picture. I fit right into the profile that you just imagined me to be. Apart from all this, I am also interested in cars. And so when by a fleeting chance, my dad's friend was selling his Fiat Adventure 1.6, I jumped on it.
There was nothing like it on the road, and probably there never will be.

A nice little orange tank it was. No one could guess what it was, it was so damn rare. The engine was an absolute treat, it would feel like as if you were riding a train. The car was slow on acceleration, but boy, once you sit pretty at some speed, you do sit very pretty indeed. The independent rear suspension really made it corner so very smoothly, and dare I say, and I will say it, that on the highway, it is probably only the 3 Germans who can give you a better sense of weight and being planted on the road.

But like with all things, it too had it's shortcomings. It was just too big for the road. Cars like these were meant for the highways. Nice long swooping roads, devoid of any traffic. Trouble is, Delhi became the exact opposite. You probably spend more time stuck behind an auto than enjoy anything.

But an incident happened, which made my family inclined towards something else

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-advy.jpg
This Fiat would pass off as an orange tank; to run it, I'd need to rob a bank!


My dad has a 1.4 petrol Tata Manza. He doesn't drive very often and so the Manza has only clocked 30k kms in 6 years. But that day he did drive it, and was off to Gurgaon, or Gurugram, it's hard to keep track of these names. Anyway, I get a call from him saying that ALL the coolant has come out, and a nearby mechanic has said that a seal has ruptured, so the car won't go anywhere. He'd take an Ola/Uber and be on his way, and told me to come get the car.

Feeling like a rescue ranger, I called up my local mechanic, and we went together to fetch the Manza by towing it with the Adventure.On the way he asked me how the Adventure was doing and I replied it's good except the few times it refuses to start, same old story. We reach there and there is trail of coolant oozing out from underneath the manza, ALL of it had come out. There was no time to play Sherlock Holmes at that moment, so I lined the Adventure in front of the Manza and got busy tying the tow ropes to the two vehicles. Once done the mechanic popped into the Manza, and I into the Adventure, slotted the Key in, IGNITION aaaaand..

Nothing. It would refuse to start.

I look into my side mirror and see my mechanic looking at me, wondering what's happened. And then we both simultaneously burst out laughing. What a nice mess to be in! Now the towing car would need be towed as well! It was those rare moments where you don't know if you should laugh or cry. But I'm glad I laughed, a bit of positivity never did you any harm eh?

So now I was wondering what to do. Should I call a tow crane? And tow both cars one by one? Or should I wait some time so that the car starts? I decided I will wait, the car will heal on it's own in a while and I shall be going off pronto with the manza merrily behind. Now, Patience is not an adjective that you would normally associate with young people. And you'd be right. 15 minutes in and I was getting impatient. Time for a change of plan. I gestured to my mechanic to get into the manza and get ready to get towed. I force-started(no not the star wars way) the car by pressing on the accelerator and tried my best to gently move the Manza.

Didn't happen.

What happened was a massive jerk and a horrible metallic thud noise and then both the cars were rumbling along the road at 11 am on a weekday in Delhi.

So here was the SitRep- The car would not idle, so any time I put my foot off the throttle, the rpm needle would start falling.. 3k..then 2k then 1k.. engine spluttering then to 0k and engine would stop. So I had to manually put in some throttle input with my foot so that it would remain somewhere around the 1k mark while idling. I had done this before on a couple of occasions but never ever while hauling Tata steel(Manza) at the back. Braking was another issue, usually all of us right foot brake, by moving our right foot from the throttle to the brake and then applying it. I didn't have that luxury, if I shifted my foot off the throttle, then the rpms would drop down to zero. So I had to solve this by left foot braking. All those years of watching rally videos suddenly became very useful indeed.

Starting the car from a standstill was another issue. Every time we would stop at a light or in traffic, I had to start the car by revving it upto 4k, then the entire car would jerk as it pulled the Manza from behind, the rpm would fall to 2k, and then I would have to manually adjust the throttle with my foot so that it doesn't fall down any further. I managed to do this for the entire journey to our mechanic's workshop near my house so I could drop off the Manza there for it's repairs. Once I had unhooked the Manza and started the Adventure again to go back home, the engine was perfectly idling now. Great.Dear Murphy, may you be ever so kind to us.

Narrating this incident to my parents later during the day tolled the bell for the Adventure. It had to go. Long story short, I put up an ad on our classifieds, and it was sold the very next day! And at a decent enough price too. Was I sad to see her go? Of course I was, that exact moment when she turned away from my colony gate is forever etched in my memory. And it shall always be there. But I knew I could not be her guardian at this stage of my life. And that realization was the one which talked some sense into me.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-advy2.jpg
The tank made for really good show, but sadly I had to let it go

Last edited by Samar117 : 19th September 2016 at 10:45.
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Old 19th August 2016, 01:42   #2
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Default re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

And so a budget of around 2 lacs was set. It was time to scan the used car market. And now I was completely and absolutely overwhelmed by all the options! You see if I was a family man with kids, I would be searching for a MUV right?*cough* Even though my heart would still say a nice red two seater *cough*. Having no as such preference for brand, body type, number of seats, my options list was H-u-u-g-e. To narrow the search down and to help with my dilemma, I started asking people about what to buy. I asked all manners of people. Uncles, aunties, car enthusiasts, people who knew nothing about cars, my dog, everyone. Here I put forth what I generally found out about these car brands, from the collected and varied views of people on them.

Just a few things were out, primarily diesel cars. Knowing fully well that a well-read, and well-researched team was behind NGTs decisions, I know, that whatever study they do, diesels would face the axe first. Cars nearing the 13-15 year old mark were not considered. Hatches were preferred, but a good sedan was not taken off the list either. And so here is the list of cars I took an interest to, in no particular order-


Oh boy. Here comes the Big daddy right at the start. This is the leviathan that consumes all other car brands like they were mere plankton. Let me put it this way, if Maruti was a person, it would be that guy who did his engineering, then MBA, went to the States, married the girl his parents selected for him, had the kid overseas because wanted citizenship, and then the kid would go on to obliterate the competition in Spelling Bee.
Maruti and most of it's cars have this unshakable aura of reliability and dependability around it, which I would find out once I started looking for the following from the maruti stable

The Swift

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-swift.jpg
(Image source: https://www.motorbeam.com/2011/08/ca...g-term-review/ )

Oh God this car is everywhere, not a moment passes by on the road till you see one of these. My budget had the first gen falling in it. So it was the G13BB, and what a brilliant rev happy engine. The chassis too was nice and nippy, very flickable indeed. When I drove it for the first time, I knew why all the other enthusiasts harped about it. The trouble was, everyone else did too! And so the prices were sky high for even the most ill-kept Swifts. No one wanted to part with their swifts at a low price, and no one was even interested in a lower offer! Simply because they knew the next day some other bloke would walk in with the cash ready. I kept the car in my radar, but it seemed like I would have to up the budget to get a decent car.

The WagonR

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(Image source: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/travel...bangalore.html (2000 Kms with our little one(Bangalore-Pune-Bangalore)) )

Oh God this car is also everywhere. For every swift that you see passing you by, you can be sure there will be a wagonR behind it. And that created the same problem again, the prices were too high for these. I liked the overall car, even though it was obviously no corner carver, nor was it meant to do. A few of my sporty car enthusiasts friends had also warned me that they would severe all ties with me if I ended up with a Waggie. Nonetheless I quite liked the waggie except the vague-ish gearbox, and I would be quite happy with one. So I kept this on my radar too.

Now I'm switching straight over to a brand which might not be the front runner when looking at cars from a non-enthusiast point of view. But from an enthusiast's point of view there is one very good reason! Hydraulics! Ah the magic of pressurized oil which suddenly makes the steering come alive. Even though the newer Fords might have the EPS now, the era in which I was looking for had the HPS, and so I had a look into this as well

The Fiesta/Classic 1.6

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-fiesta.jpg
(Image source: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/indian...nstration.html (Ford Fiesta 1.6S Track day & ABS demonstration) )

One of the darlings of our enthusiast community isn't it. It's hard to fault this car. It has everything, decent power, nice steering, great dynamics. And it comes with 4 doors, and a boot making it a nice complete package. I test drove the car, and in my mind the one thing which I immediately associated with this car was Balance. Nothing was off the charts, the steering, power, brakes, dynamics, all seemed to be working in absolute harmony with each other. Needless to say, this car went straight into one of my top choices. Prices were cheap too. Except for the 1.6ses, they were priced atrociously high. Only thing going against it was the potential steering leaks along with AC compressor issues. But that was all.

The Figo 1.2

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-red-figo-2.jpg
(Image source: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...e-summary.html (Ford Figo 1.2 petrol LXi 2011 - An exhaustive summary) )

Yes it's underpowered. I said it before anything I have to say about this car. A dear friend of mine has it, so I went on a longish test drive, and that is the first thing I noticed. But my friend, find a corner and the Fiesta-ish attributes suddenly spring forth. What a great car to take corners in. I liked the looks of the car too, contrary to a lot of people who might find them dull. This too had a similar problem of steering leaks and compressor problems. Still, it too went to the top of my list.


Bhai tu paagal ho gaya hai(Bro you've gone nuts) is what I'd be greeted with by my non enthu friends along with a considerable chunk of my enthusiast friends. There was also another camp of friends, those who knew I had a Fiat before, and wanted to make sure I got another Fiat. The sort of people who will defend the cars to death

Bro, get a Punto bro, It's the best car
But don't you think it's not very Swift? hehe get it man?

(the lame pun does not go too well with the fan)
The swift may be faster, but once you enter the Ghats, you'll see.
Dude, I live in Delhi, there are no Ghats here!
Whatever man, it's your choice

( Rides off in a Vespa )

The Punto 1.2/1.4

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(Image source: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/offici...ve-review.html (Fiat Grande Punto : Test Drive & Review))

The door thud was very reminiscent of my Palio, is what first came to my mind when I first got into one. The way it rode over rough roads was also excellent. There can be no doubt that the suspension and the weight of the car makes it really glide over rough patches. The steering was, obviously very acurate owing to the HPS. Unfortunately things quickly went downhill after that. Since these were the petrol models, the 1.2 was very very lethargic. I think Lethargy sums up the 1.2 pretty well. The 1.4 on the other hand was adequate for it. Nothing special, but a nice linear acceleration of the car once you put the foot down. But the biggest problem which I felt was the feel of the gearbox. What is it made out of? Mush? Every single time I put my left hand on the gear knob to shift, ugh that rubbery mushy bean bag feeling would go up from the palm of hand and jitter my spine. Yes, I really did hate it that much. The family was not too keen on another Fiat, but the good thing was, resale was rock-bottom, so prices were cheap. Though not at the top most priority, I did keep it on my list.


Ah wunderbar. It's Das Auto. Aaand that's all the German I know. Anyway VW definitely enjoys an image of well-built, well-finished and very German looking cars. Look at all the straight lines in all the strong metal grey black and white colors. So very German. A symbol of affluence and taste it is, if you buy a VW. My affluence only allowed me the 1.2 petrol Polo obviously. Yes the one with the very odd number of cylinders. Explaining this to a hardcore VW enthusiast as I found out, was rather difficult. You see for such friends, their day begins with the chant of OM NAMAHH GT TSI.

The Polo 1.2

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(image source: http://www.topgear.com/india/volkswa...trol/itemid-51)

Hey bro could you give me the pros and cons of a used Polo 1.2 NA?
(A shocked and disgusted look is shot at me at hearing the two letters N and A)
The 3 cyl!? Are you crazy man! It's as fast as a turtle, it vibrates so much that it could be put to some other use! You should, and I sincerely mean it go for a..(short pause for drama) GT TSI.
I can't just triple my budget my man. I know it's a good car but it's not in my radar, it would've been obvious to you but it seems your thoughts are somewhere else!
(I hear incoherent mumbling of words like VCDS, Vagtune, MK7 paddles etc)

Though the engine was quite a downer when I finally test drove one, I found, like all, the interiors to be a really nice place to be in. Good quality plastics all around, and everything felt nicely screwed tight.

Prices were not too cheap, not too expensive. The service center, on the other hand might be very expensive as reported by owners. Kept a lookout for a Polo too then.


Why is this brand even here. I mean sure, things might be really Superb at the upper end of things, but here? A second hand petrol Skoda? Seems like jumping off a cliff without a parachute. The car I wanted to have was really a long long shot away of ever becoming any reality of mine. But hey, I had driven one some time back, and was smitten, so I include it here too.

Skoda Fabia 1.6

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(Image source: http://www.cartoq.com/indias-best-mo...a-cars-part-i/ )

Thud. The thuds are back, doors are heavy, steering is of a lovely design. Good plastics all around. I love the speedometer with all the numbers etched beautifully in the white. But all that comes later. The best bit? Is that lovely smooth revving 1.6 engine, plummeting the car up ahead on the road. It wasn't surprising that I liked this car. It was in essence, a modern day Palio 1.6 to me. A heavy hatch with a heavy engine makes for a really heavy irresistible pie, that is quite hard to ignore. But alas dreams are dreams, finding one in good nick is a challenge for classic car hunters. Add that to the small numbers it sold from an even smaller company, the price of everything associated with this car goes up. What an absolute bummer. Still every now and then I would sneakily hunt up the classifieds for a good one, even though I knew, this was never going to happen.

Two glaring omissions will be immediately noticed,

First no Honda. Why? The one and only one Honda that I wanted and fit the bill was sadly just too old.The OHC Vtec was nearing it's elimination by our informed NGT, how sad. For a dear friend of mine has one, and shod with new Michellins, this car can corner, and corner sooo good. The seating is low, the engine just keeps on giving till the redline, and it sticks to the road like it were made of glue. I could've perhaps tried a workaround way of registering the car elsewhere, but I know traffic and pollution in Delhi is to grow and only grow, and it is these cars that shall face the axe sooner or later
Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-ohc.jpg
(image source: http://www.team-bhp.com/forum/test-d...-ohc-vtec.html (My 2001 OHC VTEC))

Second is Hyundai. Now I know that the i10 is a brilliant little city car, it's absolutely terrific. It was bang on my budget. I even liked the seating position and the nice little peppy engine. But now is the time for some snobbiness or high-headedness. I absolutely hated the steering feel with a passion. If cars were meant to run on rails, this car would be totally fine OR if the roads were just straight lines. In the real world, get into any corner at any speed, doing anything, the moment my hand would turn that joystick of a steering wheel, all I wanted to do was stop the car and get out. It really was that bad for me. For those who want commute, and even a little bit of peppy fun, i10 is the way to go. But if you hate lifeless steering, God you're gonna hate this car.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-hyundaii10era1.jpg
(image source: http://priceadvices.com/hyundai-i10-...n-india-us-uk/ )

And so there you had it, a big basket of cars to choose from. The light at the end of the tunnel was almost visible.

Now you might imagine, hm alright maybe he went ahead and got a Figo or a Swift, they're both good cars. But nothing of the sort happened. You see, at that point of time, I had a certain itch inside of me which I really couldn't put my finger to. Something was troubling me, but what was it? I had no answer. But then one day something happened which shed a lot of light on the matter and I shall try my best to explain what happened through that event.

The MASERATI Quattroporte GTS episode

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-maser.jpg

Occasional writing for another automotive website granted me access to this car. It was as much of a meet your hero moment as it could be. An excess of 500 bhp from a V8 was something completely out of this world. For someone used to the hard plastic seats of a bus, the ventilated leather cushion like sofa seats were nothing short of heaven for me.

I made for a pathetic reviewer for such a car. What could I review? Brakes? Power? Who was I kidding. For someone who spent his life on cheap Maruti cars, of course the power would be tremendous. Of course the brakes would act like anchors. Of course the music system sounded like an orchestra. All objectivity had gone straight out of the window. But that wasn't the problem.

After spending one whole day with the car, and after I had kiddishly sent pictures of myself with the car to all my friends, after all of that had happened, when I came home, there was one and only one question that was continuously hitting away inside of my head like a sledgehammer-

Why do I feel so terrible about it?

What had gone wrong? Was it the car? Surely not. It was as much of a shining bright angel-like representation of a car as it could be. No, it wasn't the car. But it was thePrinciple behind it. All through the day when I was with it, I could never let go of the thought of the cost of this car. I just wished that I had a huge neon sign right on top of the car that said "I'm Sorry" or "Not my car, just testing it".
If cars could be viewed in abstract, taken away from the world we live in( I am sure a lot of people do that ). I would be perfectly fine. But once you put it into context and into this world, to me it just seemed wayyy too much.

And I have never ever dreamed of owning a luxury/high-end car, not at any age in my life. Something about them bothers me, and I'm not sure what. Maybe it's class. The car shines a burning spotlight on the demarcation between socio-economic classes, and I'm not sure it's good or fair. It's not a popular narrative in today's society, but it's real, and this Maserati was a palpable reminder of it. I became acutely aware of a whole other order of lifestyle utterly foreign to those of everyone I knew.

I think there's additional friction in the fact that the act of driving on public roads has little to no physical boundaries to shroud class. The only "upper crust" roads are the residential ones guarded by gate houses. Every other road can be traveled by people who can barely afford this month's rent. There's no curtain to separate the transport class, like on a plane, or separate private decks for the fancy suites on a luxury cruise liner.

And now I realised I was feeling the same way when I was thinking of getting a used car in that budget. I didn't want to be seen in a car like a Punto or a Figo. I wanted to be seen in those cars when I was older. You might think those are modest goals in life, but that's just how my brain is wired up, I couldn't help it, nor could I lie to myself about it. There is at least some peace in knowing who you really are.

A day after reviewing the Maserati, I gave up on the thought of a car. And all thoughts of searching on classifieds, going for test drives, asking friends and colleagues, all of that went into oblivion.

Last edited by Samar117 : 19th September 2016 at 11:04.
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Old 18th September 2016, 05:29   #3
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Default re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi


Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63802.jpg
The Beast Arrives
The Leviathan Awakens
The Tank Rolls Out
The Tiger Snarls

Here are some of the ways our members have christened their start of the journey with their cars(Pardon the exaggeration eh?). I'm going with a simpler one, and one which suits the car too in my mind. This is no Oh so excited going to the showroom moment, things started rolling in a much simpler and seemingly random fashion.

Over a family dinner, my uncle asks me about my transportation to college. Well, actually that comes after the usual Padhai theek se kar rahe ho?(Are you studying well?) standard question every kid has to face and shuffle his/her feet and reply in the same vague way every time. Haan theek hi hai(Yeah sort of).
He tells me has an old Zen which he doesn't use anymore. He hasn't for quite a few months, and that it is nearing the 15 year old deadline set by the NGT. He adds that if I can get it up and running, I can take it and use it till the registration runs out. He doesn't want to get bothered with re-registering it and going through that hassle since it's value isn't even that much.

Who in their right mind is gonna pass on the chance for a free car eh?

Alright I'll get it up and running and take her home.

The very next day, I reach the place where the car is parked. I have seen pictures of our members here taking their car deliveries. Brand new spanking cars with ribbons attached to the bonnet, the Service Advisor handing them the keys, and then smiling at the camera while you keep wondering that you shouldn't have eaten those atrocious chocolates that they hand you during delivery.

My experience was erm rather different. At least I avoided the chocolates.

Right at the very corner of the parking lot, jammed up against a tree, was this tiny little red car. I say red, but that color I could only make out later because there was all sorts of debris on top of it. Leaves, mud, dirt, dust all jumbled up on top of it. It seemed like a tiny little zoo with all sorts of animals living merrily in this ecosystem. The tires were all flat, and it seemed the car had sunk into the ground.

This car looks like it's going nowhere.

Anyhow clutching at straws, I cleaned up as much debris as I could, and after all the animals had said goodbye to their now destroyed home, I opened the door and got the hood up. I knew the battery was flat, so I had got a jumper cables with me. Hooked the car up with a jumper from the Manza, let me see if this contraption even starts. I turn the key.

The engine turns a few times and then wheezes into life! the initial black smoke that comes out the back would put many a remapped diesel to shame. After a bit of coughing and spluttering, the engine settles down into a nice purr of an idle. The next half an hour is spent filling the air up in the tires with a portable pump.

Time for a test-drive. I get in and get the car moving. All seems okay to me. Ah yes but when you move, you have to stop too, and it seemed like this car had absolutely no brakes, the pedal went right in. I gingerly take the car to my nearby mechanic's place for a quick service.

  • Engine oil
  • Brake oil
  • Air filter
  • Oil filter
  • Brake Bleeding
  • Car Cleaning

After a cheap as chips 2500 bucks service, the car feels like absolutely new. Everything else seems fine to me, so after a short test drive to make sure it runs and stops and turns, and I end up bringing home a 1.9Lac run 2003 Maruti Suzuki Zen Vxi

Sally comes home.
Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63612.jpg

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Old 18th September 2016, 05:41   #4
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Default re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi



Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63582.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63562.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63492.jpg

Welcome back to the 90s folks, for this is where the Zen belongs. A simpler time, some might say. And that reflects into the Zen, no fluidic lines, or happy face theme, or aggressive german face here. Just plain old cute jelly bean shape all around. Nothing threatening about the Zen, it just smiles at you. Nothing spectacular about the rear end either, as basic a design of a car that can be.

Because of this non-threatening cute nature of the car, I gave her a similar name as you might have noticed.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63632.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63662.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63692.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-fog.jpg
Cheap LED lights that I got for 600 bucks a pair. Does a decent job of lighting

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-front-ind.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-side-ind.jpg
Not even clear indicators, it's that 90s

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-door.jpg
the old school door handle

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-tyre.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-wnw.jpg
Luxury feature! You get a rear wash and wipe

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-lhs.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rhs.jpg
I believe this hideous light is not OEM. Will replace soon.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-boot.jpg
Small boot. But you can keep a few boxes in it without any fuss

Last edited by Samar117 : 18th September 2016 at 17:42.
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Old 18th September 2016, 13:24   #5
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Default re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi


Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-first.jpg
Come, step into the lap of luxury.

Hehe Just kidding!

Interiors of the Zen are the most basic as it can be. Nothing is here that would make you feel you're inside a premium car. Absolutely Nothing.
Everything the light touches... feels like cheap plastic. The Zen was a built to cost car, it sure does feel so. Everything feels light and flimsy-ish. But, a very good thing is that nothing rattles in the car.( Probably because there is not much to rattle anyway)

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-console.jpg
The Aircon controls

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-ash-tray.jpg
Ash tray doubles up as a place to keep change

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-cubby-hole.jpg
Probably the only cubby hole in the car. It's useless.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-glove.jpg
Decent sized glovebox

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-bonnet-release.jpg
The broken bonnet lever. Works perfectly.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-hu.jpg
Got myself a basic Head Unit

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-int-light.jpg
The light of the 90s

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-gear.jpg
The slick gear shift. Absolute joy to use.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-odo.jpg
The Odometer

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-speedo-lights.jpg
The warning lights on ignition

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-wheel.jpg
The thin steering wheel

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-mpfi-stick.jpg
MPFI sticker, a reminder of its carbureted past

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-pedals.jpg
These pedals have probably reached the end of their lives

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rhs-door.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rhs-bottle.jpg
The broken door pad now serves as a bottle holder! Neat!

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rhs-handle.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rhs-pw.jpg
The power window luxury

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-right-dummy.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-right-stalk.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-wnw-button.jpg
The buttons for rear wash and wipe

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rear-door.jpg
No power window here. Be a man. Wind it up.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rear-leg.jpg
Legroom is just about there

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-rear-window.jpg
Visibility at the back

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-manual1.jpg

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-manual2.jpg
The service manual

Last edited by Samar117 : 18th September 2016 at 17:44.
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Old 18th September 2016, 17:42   #6
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Default re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi


Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-eng.jpg

It's my fault, this. And I am really sorry for it.

Often in our lives, we start expecting some great things from very ordinary scenarios. And this is precisely what has happened to me.

This stubborn old engine at 1.91 lac kms.

Drive it in traffic, drive it in the rain, in the heat, in the cold.
Drive it on twisty roads, on open expanses of concrete.
Drive it for a few minutes, or for a few hours.
Make economical shifts, or red-line at every gear.

This adamant engine will continue to purr like a cat. No complaints, no tantrums, no fuss.


It seems so wrong to expect this sort of reliability from an engine that has run so much and is now nearing 15 years of age. And yet; and yet I kid you not I trust this engine more than I trust the one in the Manza. It just keeps on running, come the apocalypse. The G10BB just holds rock solid come what may. I had heard of people saying that it was reliable, it's a great feeling to join that club.

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-cover.jpg
No hood insulation. Obviously.

So How's it like to Drive?

After putting close to 3000 Kms on the Zen, here's how it feels to drive

First off let's get some Biases out of the way.
The cars in our family have been a Gypsy followed by a Santro and now a Manza along with the recently sold Adventure. It should be safe to say in Bane's words-

You merely adopted Body roll, I was born in it, molded by it. I did not see flat cornering till I got this car

I was deeply uncomfortable for the first week. Sitting down so low in a car.

How the tables turned! The seating position of the Zen is absolutely spot on for someone with average height. The large glass area, thin A pillar, gives really good visibility of the road and the surroundings. I have never felt squashed sitting inside the Zen even though it is quite a small car. The steering wheel is quite thin but it fits well in my hand at least.


If you asked to sum up the driving experience in a word it would be that. The dimensions are perfect for city travel. However there is a distinct speed limit to the fun that you can have.
As long as you are under 80Kmph, you feel like you are having the time of your life. The car is eager to pickup speed, and sheds it decently quick enough as well. The steering, although with not the best feedback, feels really precise, and you can literally drive the car like a scooter.
The moment you cross 80Kmph, you do not think about much else except OH GOD I AM GOING TO DIE!. The light chassis, it's weapon of mass destruction in low speeds, transforms into the achilles heel now. I feel absolutely zilch confidence past this speed. Maybe I am spoilt by the excellent stability the Fiat offered here. But the Zen was never meant to do high speeds, and I certainly don't want to either. It's an urban warrior and thankfully I have no highway driving to do in this. I really don't recommend either.

Did you know the Zen came with Power modes? No? It did.

It's called the AC button.

Power mode: AC off. One person in the car. You are invincible. Nothing can stop you. The car behaves like a really angry and flustered terrier. The engine pulls well at all RPMs and at all gears very linearly. Advantage of the linear acceleration is the very immediate nature of the vehicle. Your foot can easily tune the accelerator and make the engine and car dance. It makes for great spirited driving right uptil 80 kmph, after which it's time to slow down Sally. Enough of fun.

Comfort mode: AC on. For regular traffic use, the power is adequate. But give it the beans, and you're faced with lethargy. The angry terrier turns into a lazy labrador. The air-con really does sap a lot of power from the Zen. But again for regular traffic days when you are stuck behind that WagonR, you atleast have cold air blowing at your face. It's no chill your bones AC, just gets the job done. Oh and also, there are three levels for the blower. Stage 3 is an absolute no-no. It's as loud as a hair dryer right on your face.

A special mention to the Gear shifts. Even though the throw is long by today's standards, it is as satisfying as the click-tuck of a bolt-type sniper rifle. I guarantee you, after a drive in a Punto, you will be absolutely beaming from ear to ear once you shift this gearbox. Really precise and a great feel complimenting a brilliant engine.

I have personally never faced any issue with the lower ground clearance. Haven't scraped anywhere in Delhi so far, but yes it is at the back of my mind to be a wee bit careful over potholes and speed breakers.

The ride quality is uh well, questionable. Well you can't really expect a light cheap car to act like it firmly holds onto the ground do you? Good thing is, I like it just the way it is, a bit on the stiff side.
Potholes are dismissed with ease at high speeds. Haha. That's what I felt when I had the Fiat. Here? You'll go flying right off the road if you try such madness! But I don't blame Sally, it was never her job to be on the Autobahn.

I am sure a tire upgrade will make matters much much better but right now the puny ones will do, being in traffic all the time doing sub-50kmph is doable in these. I don't want to push a 13 year old car as well, you never know what nut might be lose where.

Kitna Deti Hai? Somewhere close to 12 kmpl, in traffic, with the AC on. Like I said I won't be taking this to any highway to do mileage runs.

Just like in school where we used to write certain important points in bullets, here is a concise list of reasons as to why or why not you might want to add a used Zen to your garage.

+Cheap to buy. You can get a 2003-2004 model for close to 50-60k bucks.
+Cheap to maintain. You are looking at near bike levels of cost of maintenance.
+Reliable, peppy engine with decent fuel mileage.
+Fun, absolutely chuckable chassis.
+Can be used as a project car with mod potential(engine swap with G13B,G13BB,G16BB)
+Small size is a great plus in a big city.
+Roomy and airy cabin, cures claustrophobia.

-Safety. Ye kis chidia ka naam hai?(What bird is this?)
-Average braking, best to keep the car under three digits
-Dated looks
-Strictly average AC. You will feel the heat in the summers
-With 4 people and AC on, engine feels quite underpowered
-At this price point, you are better off getting a motorcycle

Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-front.jpg

Some Final Thoughts With Sally

Okay this is gonna get a bit weird. But since you've come this far, just bear with this madness a teeny bit more.

I finally found a car that I was not embarrassed to drive, and one which I fell in love with. There were a couple of things which really bowled me over. As car people, cars become an extension of you, they come to define you, it shows your taste in things in this varied platter of cars that are available.

Sally is honest.

This attribute might seem weird but hear me out. In my mind certain cars would embrace what they are come what may, and the Zen is one example of that. It is a cheap, built to cost city car. And it acts that way. The doors are thin, the engine is small, size is compact. It's like if you took it to the highway, she would look back and say Hey I'm not meant for this, and YOU know that. Another car which comes to mind is the WagonR. Heck even the name has wagon in it. It's a spacious city car and that's about it. Why are you expecting it to carve corners? Isn't it telling you in all honesty what it's capable of?
And cars like these are a dying breed. It seems the world has been taken over by imposters, wearing plastic claddings and pretending that they can off-road.

This certain magical event has happened elsewhere as well. My limited knowledge on international cars gives me two worth mentioning, one is the Austin Mini, and the other Fiat 126p.
The recipe it seems, is rather simple. Take a small car, give it a good decently powerful engine. Keep the centre of gravity low, and push the wheels to the four corners of the car. You must understand that these cars were not made to be fun to drive, they were supposed to be cheap transportation for the masses. And yet, if you get the recipe right, Magic Happens. They suddenly transcend the objects they were designed to be, and become cultural icons.

The 800 may have brought personal transportation to the masses. But it was the Zen that brought fun to them.

And even now, here in 2016, for someone who's never had a Zen in their family, for someone who never liked low seating, it has come to mean so much.
Think of the Zen as that comfortable old cotton pant or boxer that you wear at home. It doesn't matter if it's discolored or torn, you know you are the most comfortable in them, no matter how good that pant from Zara looks on you. All of it's faults and all of it's virtues meld together so that you don't notice them anymore. And I think this faded out Zen sign is highly symbolic of that, I shall only have Sally with me for a couple of years, the NGT will make sure it goes away. And yet, just like the chrome Zen badge is gone but the glue remains, this car is gonna stay in my heart for a lifetime.
Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi-img_63702.jpg

It surprises me even to this day how car people can make such a strong connection with something that is Steel, Oil and Rubber. These pieces of transportation gain as much place in your heart and soul as a mate, girlfriend, boyfriend, significant other. And that is what Sally is to me.
You know when you go to a coffee shop with your really close friend and spend hours there, not utter a single word, and yet feel completely at peace and ease with the others company. Likewise when I park Sally everyday and look back, there really isn't much to say.

I simply nod. And so does She.

Last edited by Samar117 : 19th September 2016 at 11:06.
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Old 20th September 2016, 09:26   #7
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Initial Ownership Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 20th September 2016, 10:22   #8
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Originally Posted by Samar117 View Post
Likewise when I park Sally everyday and look back, there really isn't much to say.

I simply nod. And so does She.
Excellently penned down report. I owned a 2007 model Zen which had a facelift from this version. Such a hoot to ride in city and happy enough to carry three people with luggage. Absolutely a maintenance free car and she never let me down anywhere during her journey of 86659 KMS with me.

Sally will definitely get into you over time and it's very hard to part ways with her. Please double check the AC compressor bearing noise for which Zen are notorious for. Get a good pair of alloys.

For tyres, Go for 165/60R13 with same PCD alloys. It'll enhance the driving feel and provides much more confidence with larger rubber.

Wish you many more happy moments with Sally.
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Old 20th September 2016, 10:58   #9
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Just one word - brilliant.

It's like you have written your heart out and it's one of the most simple and honest review of a car which is an icon in its own right.

And you have got a wicked sense of humor.

Wishing u many happy miles on this, take care of her and she'll be by your side always till NGT make you guys apart.
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Old 20th September 2016, 11:18   #10
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Amazing write up. Wish you many more safe miles with Sally
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Old 20th September 2016, 11:26   #11
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Excellent write up ! We had a zen in our family as well and have a lot of stories. It was the last model before Maruti brought the Estilo.
Accurate review and completely agree with all the points you mentioned !

And I and my brother used to fool around with that AC button, as if we were launching a rocket or flying an aircraft. We used to do it with Pilot-like professionalism. My Brother used to drive and say 'Boosters ON' and switch off the AC, and I, the co-pilot, confirmed the surge in power by listening to the engine sound and confirm- 'Boosters ON, Checked !' (man, i feel weird writing this, we were in college then)

She was the car I borrowed from my dad so I could impress my girlfriend (who went on to become my wife later). The car is so dear to us that we sold it to our cousin at a loss, but that way she is still with us. She is 11 years old now. Whenever he brings the car, I take a short drive to re-live those moments

Ever heard that song ?

Well, Long Tall Sally,
She's built for speed,
She's got everything that Uncle John needs
Oh Baby, yeah Baby

Last edited by NiInJa : 20th September 2016 at 11:35.
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Old 20th September 2016, 11:28   #12
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Smile Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

What a wonderful write up. I can very well relate to your story as i was exactly in your position in college and used to drive a Tata Nano ( I still own the car ) but the upgrade itch started to sink in one fine day. Fast forward a few years combined with extreme hard work day and night, i now drive a Fiat Punto Evo which i bought 1.5 years back

I usually do not tend to reply on threads and just enjoy reading them but your write up encouraged me to do so. And yes Sally looks hot!

Drive safe mate
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Old 20th September 2016, 11:45   #13
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

You are only 22. Wow. You do have a way with words!

Sally is pretty. The first car we had in the family was a pre-owned 1999 Zen LX. Drove it 40,000 km and loved it to bits.

By the way, I do believe Sally was born an LXi, and not a VXi, till her previous owner felt the need for an inexpensive upgrade.

As far as I can remember, a VXi should have 4 door power windows, a factory fitted music system, rear window glass defogger, black steel wheels (and factory-fitted wheel caps), internally adjustable ORVMs, rear seat head-restraints (so-called), body coloured everything (bumpers, grill, door handles etc).
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Old 20th September 2016, 12:03   #14
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Well written mate. Totally loved it.
A fallen angel from the yore is what the Zen is.

I drive a Santro and I can relate to every thought process you've been through. Only difference, I'm not a student and I'm between cars. A dear buddy of mine happily loaned me his 11 year old santro for an 'indefinite' period of time. Ever since I adopted it, I've not got a new car and the car has travelled with me from Hyderabad, Mysore, Chennai, Bangalore and now in Pune happily purring - All in 1 year of getting her.

Happy driving and if purse permits, do spend on upkeep, you can always keep it as a second or third car.
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Old 20th September 2016, 12:05   #15
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Default Re: Cheap Thrills: My pre-owned '03 Maruti Zen VXi

Originally Posted by CGB View Post
For tyres, Go for 165/60R13 with same PCD alloys. It'll enhance the driving feel and provides much more confidence with larger rubber.
Thanks a lot. Yes the tyre upgrade is first priority now, should make it handle even better and at least give confidence at speed!

Originally Posted by Viju View Post
Sally is pretty. The first car we had in the family was a pre-owned 1999 Zen LX. Drove it 40,000 km and loved it to bits.

By the way, I do believe Sally was born an LXi, and not a VXi, till her previous owner felt the need for an inexpensive upgrade.
Thank you, yes you may be right, it's gone through multiple owners, it even had body colored bumpers at one point in it's life, I like the black ones that are currently on it though more!

The trim that I love is the LX, the Non-powersteering makes it feel like an absolute go-cart! The power steering is fine, but I do want more feedback. And since the car is light, turning even at low speeds is certainly not an issue at this age
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