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Old 13th April 2022, 11:50   #1
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Default Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history

Introduction:


Maruti Esteem used to be one of the most familiar faces on Indian roads, its lineage went back to the Maruti 1000 which was launched in 1990. In 1994, Maruti plonked the fabulous 1298cc all-aluminium engine into the 1000's body, added a few cosmetic changes and the Esteem was born. Available with manual and automatic transmission options, the Esteem quickly became the preferred set of wheels for senior management in the corporate world. Everyone loved the Esteem at one point of time, and still do, for its calm interiors and smooth engine but above all they loved the Maruti badge - a badge that over the years has come to stand for quality, reliability and aspiration. The Esteem was battling the likes of the Hyundai Accent, Ford Ikon and Opel Corsa in the early-2000s.

Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220812_220012.jpg

The sheer brand equity of the Maruti Suzuki brand name propelled the sales of the car and suddenly there were Esteems all over the place! At one point, only the rich could afford an Esteem, but today, if you've got just enough money to put down on an iPhone 13 Pro, this sedan can be yours for as little as ₹ 1,00,000 for a mint-condition MPFI car. With a hefty 84bhp wrapped in a lightweight shell, the Esteem MPFI was a rocket no less. The car was a tuner's favourite also in the late-nineties and if someone was looking at a good base car to start building a street-machine, or just a commuter saloon with plenty of excitement, an Esteem was the way to go during those days, for sure.

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It's been 14 years and a half since the last unit of Esteem rolled out of the production line. Production of the Esteem came to an end by December 2007, and the relevance of the model was almost completely outlawed due to the advent of Swift and Dzire. Yet the 'Esteem' remains as one of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history. Time passes like a flash, and I believe it's now time to look back at the story of the brand in India, that too in a very detailed manner. So, let's embark upon the journey of Esteem in a series of posts. This thread contains some of the brochures, unseen advertisements and photos of the Esteem/1000 from the bygone era.

Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081515312302_f541918c7893c52dbd1ee5d319333948.jpg

Also, I would like to thank the following websites and groups for sharing those unseen treasure of images, magazine articles and advertisements:
www.indiacontent.in
www.timescontent.com
www.gettyimages.com
www.afaqs.com
• Classic Maruti Enthusiasts, Facebook
• Wildfilms India, Youtube
• Addict Car, Twitter

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Old 13th April 2022, 11:59   #2
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Default re: Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history

Story Index:

Chapter 1 : Maruti 1000

Chapter 2 : Esteem, a car with attitude

Chapter 3 : 1998 Esteem, first facelift

Chapter 4 : Fun-infused Esteem

Chapter 5 : The Aged Workhorse

Chapter 6 : Esteem Diesel

Chapter 7 : The Finale

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Old 13th April 2022, 12:01   #3
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Chapter 1: Maruti 1000



Back in the early-90s, the Maruti 1000 used to be the status symbol for many families in India. It was actually the first time the nation's largest car maker tried to sell a luxury car in our market. Did it really work? Was it better than the HM Contessa or the Premier 118 NE? Was that just a brand building tool for Maruti Udyog? Or was that a hoax from the company? Hang on. As the dust settles over the launches of more mid-size SUVs in our country, we need to move back in time and ask some simple questions - Where have these good ol' sedans gone now? Have they been scrapped? Or have they been sold in small towns at a cheaper price?

Export-spec Maruti 1000's brochure from early-ninties shared by @addict_car on Twitter.
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Indian Auto November 1989 issue's cover page featuring a Maruti 1000. Picture was shared on CME group by BHPian anjan_c2007.
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Coming back to the topic. There was nothing wrong with the HM Ambassador too back then, better known as the Amby these days. Yes, there were about a million-odd car owners who chose nothing but a Maruti 1000 as their Ambys passed into old age. Nothing was against the cars like Premier Padmini and Ambassador except for the times. Maruti Udyog used to sell two small cars also at that time, the 800 and the Omni, and the smallest, the 800, made strong economic sense for a country like India. Maruti 800 already had 90 percent local content by late-eighties and the sticker price was among the lowest one could ask for in a four-wheeler anywhere in the world.

Maruti 1000 being compared with HM Contessa and Premier 118NE by Indian Auto in June 1991.
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When Maruti hurried the launch of its 1000cc sedan, nobody realised that they were anticipating future events. Maruti 1000 was one of the first contemporary sedan-type cars launched in India. Back in the day, it was the most expensive model in MUL's product range. The sedan was launched in November 1990 in three variants : Standard, AC and GLX, priced at ₹ 3.2lakh, ₹ 3.4lakh and ₹ 3.5lakh ex-showroom respectively. The company had adopted a computerised lottery system to figure out who will own a Maruti 1000. Thereby, it matched the taste of elite class, for whom it was like a status symbol.

R.C. Bhargava, the former CEO of Maruti with a 1000 in 1990. Photo from www.indiacontent.in
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In fact, there were rumours that the IT department was sending queries to all people who had booked a Maruti 1000. Most of the external changes in the 1000, adapted from the the three-box Suzuki Swift, was perceived as cosmetic at first sight, but the truth was that there was a purpose behind every changed curve. Spacious grey interiors of 1000 had moquette seats which added to the looks of cabin. Equipments like fabric upholstery, floor carpets, lockable fuel lid, trunk room lamp and air-con were incorporated in this car. Superior White, St.Germain Red, Blue and Silver were the exterior body colour options offered initially. At the heart of Maruti 1000 lied a 1.0-litre carburetted petrol engine that churned out 46bhp at 5500rpm and 71Nm at 3500rpm, mated with a 5-Speed manual gearbox. This engine was such a weakling for this car due to its weight measuring in 825 kg.

Maruti 1000's picture infront of Rashtrapati Bhavan from www.indiacontent.in
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996cc engine was a bit underpowered particularly with the AC switched on.
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One major drawback that drivers encountered while manoeuvring the Maruti 1000 was the drop in its pick-up with air conditioning switched on. On the other side, this sedan was good on fuel consumption. The car was actually perfect for those people who needed a cheap-to-run, easy-to-maintain petrol saloon. While the power was just adequate to provide a decent driving experience, it was a completely different story with the air-conditioner switched on when the engine felt positively underpowered. The addition of aftermarket free-flow exhaust kits noticeably improved power and driveability.

Ambience inside 1000's cabin was similar to that of an imported car back in the day. Here's a picture from the interior of BHPian mole's 1000.
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Rear view of the Maruti 1000 showing its high boot line. Picture from Indian Auto's November 1989 issue. Courtesy : anjan_c2007
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The 1000 had an independent suspension setup at all four corners. The car used MacPherson strut units at the front and coil spring damper units in the back. 1000’s front suspension with its lower A-arm setup worked very well. The rear suspension, which employed a lower arm and strut also performed well. Body construction in the 1000 was all-steel monocoque. The metal under the wiper spindle was prone to corrode due to collection of leaves and debris. Absorption of water and retention of moisture led to corrosion of the area in most cars. The engine suffered from having to ignite the fuel-air mixture by means of a contact-breaker point system. This required constant attention to correct the breaker gap for achieving an optimum spark.

Assembly line picture of the Maruti 1000 from August 1992. Shared by BHPian anjan_c2007 on CME Facebook group.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081215075898_a23b203fd3aafc6dcb84e438dda678b6.jpg

Four years on, it was time for a major transformation to the character of the sedan, for the men with drive....

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Old 23rd June 2022, 23:14   #4
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Chapter 2 : Esteem, the car with an attitude



By early-nineties, Indian car buyers suddenly faced with an array of options to choose from. These made selecting the right car as difficult as it was to change gears on an Ambassador. According to Maruti, the feedback they got from customers was that the 1000's interior quality, fuel efficiency and cost of ownership were best in class, but the performance wasn't upto mark. The Esteem was supposed to remedy that. Yes, the Maruti 1000 recieved a much-needed engine upgrade from 1.0-litre F10A to a 1.3-litre G13BA in November 1994, and this upgraded version received the 'Esteem' badge. The 1000 went down primarily because it was underpowered at a time when buyers were asking for more power. Maruti too realised later that 1000 wasn't taking it anywhere in the mid-size sweepstakes. So, the Esteem carried a price tag of ₹ 4.7lakh ex-showroom when it was launched. Even after the introduction of Esteem, Maruti continued to sell the 1000 as an entry-level luxury car.

Footage from Maruti Esteem's launch event in November 1994. Courtesy : WildFilmsIndia


R.C. Bhargava, the former C.E.O of Maruti Udyog with an Esteem in the same event. Photo courtesy : www.indiacontent.in
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Cosmetically, the Esteem was almost identical to the 1000 from outside. Esteem had a green band on top of the windshield, 1000 does not. Unlike the earlier car, Esteem came with a Maruti logo on the hood just above the radiator grille. At the rear, everything remained same in the Esteem except for the combination of monograms. 1000 used to come with a 'मारुति' decal on the left side of boot lid and an usual 'MARUTI SUZUKI' monogram on the right side. The latter was moved on to left side of boot lid in Esteem, replacing the 'मारुति' decal on 1000. Swapping Esteem monograms on to 1000s used to be a common practice at that time. Also, the Esteem had a 1.3L monogram too on the front fenders to depict that it wasn't an ordinary Maruti 1000. Buyers in the so-called prestige segment wanted something different. And while everyone else who followed the Esteem into the market was offering just that, owners struggled hard with aftermarket colour coding and accessories to keep abreast of poseurs in Maruti 1000s wearing Esteem tags.

Picture of a metallic grey Maruti Esteem from 1995-96. Photo courtesy : www.indiacontent.in
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Front seats were well-contoured. Seating three persons in the rear seat required squeezing. Picture from www.indiacontent.in
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The Esteem was powered by a more powerful 1.3-litre all-aluminium four-cylinder motor, codenamed G13BA, that was very contemporary by the standards of 1990s. This engine generated 65bhp at 6000rpm and 99Nm at 4000rpm. Lack of low-end torque combined with tall gearing, with the engine’s grunt concentrated in the top half of the rev range, demanded frequent gearshifts. However, when built up the revs and kept the mill there, users were rewarded with smile-enhancing performance and a decent fuel efficiency. Everybody wanted an Esteem to ride on the rally circuits, because it was easily the fastest and most drivable sedan around. 0 to 60kmph figure was achievable in just below 7 seconds. Like the Zen, the Esteem’s engine was virtually trouble-free and easily capable of six-digit mileages without even the need for an overhaul. Esteem G13 engines had a characteristic clatter at idle, which was essentially tappet noise. This was not actually a major problem and it was possible to resolve this issue with a thorough tune-up and proper adjustment of valve clearances.

At the heart of Esteem lied a more powerful 1.3 G13B unit. Photo courtesy : www.indiacontent.in
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The handling remained as average in the Esteem too. Most disappointing fact was that that the car still begged for better tyres, lower profile would have been good for those enthusiastic drivers who woke up earlier in Sunday mornings for a spirited drive. The entire suspension set-up remained unchanged from the Maruti 1000 which it replaced. Esteem also came with an all-independent suspension with MacPherson struts all round. Fact to be told, passengers were greeted with choppy ride quality, and undulations and other surface irregularities on the road were transmitted through. Combined with a twitchy front-end, these early Esteems were not the epitomes of ride comfort. Then again, for some people, the Esteem’s combination of engine performance and reliability, plus the not-so-expensive price tag, was irresistible. With a very positive power-to-weight ratio, the Esteem returned great fuel efficiency for a car of its class, combined with enough performance on tap for those enthusiastic drivers.

A 1996 brochure of the Esteem in Aquamarine Blue shade. Credits : Aditya Bhattacharya
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-esteem-1.jpg

CHANGE LOG

• April 1995 :
- Introduction of catalyser

• August 1995 :
- Launch of basic LX variant
- Features like body side moulding and remote fuel lid opener were added.

• November 1995 :
- Launch of VX variant
- Power windows, central locking, Kenwood-branded casette player and sunvisor with vanity mirror were added
- Basic two-spoke steering wheel was replaced by a more chunkier and softer one

• April 1996 :
- Introduction of evaporative hydrocarbon control system to meet revised emission norms

• May 1996 :
- Launch of 3-Speed torque-converter automatic AX trim with same features as VX

• September 1996 :
- Addition of hydraulic power-steering for AX

• November 1996 :
- Upgradation of air-conditioner system for all variants
- Addition of power steering for VX

The Maruti 1000 used to sell in decent numbers even after the advent of Esteem. Here's a leaflet shared by BHPian Zibby.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-imgonlinecomuatwotooneuytfmknrono.jpg

Year 1997 saw the introduction of a much-needed facelift for India's favourite mid-sized car to move ahead in luxury....

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Old 28th July 2022, 21:51   #5
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Chapter 3 : The 1998 Esteem. Pure exhilaration, inside out.



The mid-sized sedan segment was fast growing back in late-nineties. In stepped the Daewoo Cielo, the Opel Astra and the Ford Escort, bang against the likes of ageing Maruti Esteem. But the Esteem was trending even after General Motors, Daewoo, Ford and Peugeot followed suit with the best that the world had on offer in similar three boxed packages, the Esteem still reigned supreme. This, of course, was due to the high local content, hence the lower price and a well-developed dealership and service facilities. Throughout its life, Esteem was the choice of vehicle for those value-conscious buyers. It always offered great size-for money-ratio, compared to Astra, Escort and Cielo.

Facelifted Esteem's brochure from October 1997. This is one of the oldest brochures of Esteem in my collection.
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A total refreshment for the Esteem brand was never on the cards for Maruti since it meant raising the price of the product. But, due to the increasing competition in the Indian car market during after the arrival foreign brands, the company finally responded to the scenario with a facelift for the Esteem in October 1997. The updated model was marketed as the '1998 Esteem' and it had almost nothing to hang its head in shame about. Honestly speaking, the Type-1 Esteem actually remained unchanged for far too long, for about eight years, that too in a then status-conscious segment of our car market. It was a pity that the Type-1 Esteem users had to be content with a body style that was already made popular by the 1000.

Mid-sized cars feature by India Today in October 1998.
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Barely one month after upgrading its popular 800 hatchback, Maruti introduced the facelift version of its then-flagship Esteem in October 1997. The 1998 Esteem was launched in the following variants :
• LX, priced at ₹ 4.6lakhs ex-showroom
• VX, priced at ₹ 5.1lakhs ex-showroom
• AX, priced ₹ 5.7lakhs ex-showroom
LX variant of the sedan became expensive by ₹ 5,200 while the VX and AX versions got dearer by ₹ 10,100 and ₹ 11,600 respectively. Those were the days when the Esteem was enjoying a market share of about 34 percent in the mid-sized sedan segment. Daewoo Cielo, one of the closest competitors to Esteem claimed a market share of 20 percent in this segment during the year 1997.

RSSLN Bhaskarudu, the Managing Director of MUL posing with the 1998 Esteem during its launch event.
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Facelifted Esteem, popularly referred to as the Type-2 model, looked a little bit different and much more matured from the older model. Three-scoop body-coloured radiator grille and a redesigned front bumper with slots for fog lights were brought to the car during this update. The glass headlamps of Type-1 Esteem were replaced by slightly-redesigned poly glass headlamps with amber turn indicators (popularly known as samosa lights). On the rear end, the tailgate wraparound finally got complete with additional stop lights and brighter reverse lamps. Henna Green, Madison Blue, Wine Red and Golden Beige were the exterior body colour options added in 1997.

A Maruti Esteem advertisement from 1998. This was shared by BHPian anjan_c2007 on Ads from 90s' thread.
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Better quality seat upholstery, colour-coded door trims, redesigned dashboard and a fresh instrument cluster made the interior of Esteem comparable to that of Astra and Escort. The instrument cluster of facelifted Esteem featured a much-needed tachometer that shared premium space along with the relatively-large speedometer. Lockable glove box, restyled lower console box with extra cup holders and ashtray, and reworked controls for window control and central locking systems were the other minor additions that came inside the interiors. Esteem had gained internally-adjustable ORVMs too. Only VX and AX variants got this feature for both LH and RH mirrors, basic LX trim never had ORVM on left side.

Another advertisement from 1998 featuring the refreshed interiors. Credits : BHPian anjan_c2007.
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Esteem was too low and made egress and ingress an unpleasant task, especially for the elderly people. An annoying design factor were the narrow door openings which again made it much more difficult to get in and out of the car. The raised seat height reduced headroom and tall passengers got their hairstyle messed up. Even then, Esteem continued as the best-selling car in its segment. No other mid-sizer matched its price nor the peace-of-mind factor it came with, thanks to a widespread availability of spares and Maruti's service quality. Esteems were known to hold their value better than others in the second-hand market also, which was another powerful incentive to opt for this car.

Lowe was the advertising agency for Maruti Esteem. Fog lamps seen in the picture wasn't standard on any variant.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220811_132109.jpg

The 1997 facelift really helped the Esteem to grow up ergonomically by arranging the controls for air-con vents and music system at a closer angle to the driver. Original Type-1 Esteems were ergonomic disasters for the truth to be told. VX variants of the Esteem had an in-built Kenwood-branded music system with CD support. Size of the rear speakers were increased for the 60W four-speakers Kenwood stereo system setup. Changes for front seats of the Type-2 Esteem were limited to slightly bigger headrests and better bolstering. Brake booster system of the car also got upgraded. Mechanically, the Esteem remained unchanged in this mid-life refresh. The model always offered great value and Indian car buyers always recognised it during those days.

Late Mr. Jagdish Khattar with a fleet of first lot Type-2 Esteems in 1998. Shared by Hormazd Sorabjee on Instagram.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-fb_img_1660321124988.jpg

Esteem's ad campaigns went through fairly forgettable tag lines that included "Move Ahead in Luxury" and "Pure Driving Luxury"
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220811_094134.jpg

CHANGE LOG

• April 1998 :
- Carburettor modification
- Addition of second air circuit
- Addition of manifold catalyst
- Floor catalyst change

• October 1999 :
Following features were added to VX and AX trims
- Driver seat height adjuster
- Rear seat arm rest
- Cigarette lighter
- Chrome-plated front grille

• November 1999 :
Following features were added to LX variant
- Front power windows
- Central dood locking
- Chrome-plated front grille

Detailed technical specifications data of all mid-size sedans from the comparison test conducted by Autocar India in December 1999.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081114585738_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.jpg

It was the beginning of a new millennium, the Esteem got an extension of its life, and in the process, gained some excitement too....

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Old 30th July 2022, 14:22   #6
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Chapter 4 : Fun-infused Esteem



When emission laws were made stricter by early-2000, Maruti eventually ended up offering their models with MPFI system to get compatible to the Euro-II norms. The company offered its entire product range, except the Omni, a multi-valve per cylinder layout. So, the results were that the Marutis became more environment friendly, and at the same time, were powered by exciting versions of the die-hard powertrains inside. The two cars in the Maruti range that benefited from this treatment the most were the 800 and the Esteem. What made the Esteem MPFI even more exciting was that the car once again became capable to tackle other newer players in the performance sweepstakes without missing a beat.

An October 1999 Esteem advertisement. This campaign came soon after the addition of driver seat height adjuster.
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When entry-level sedan segment recieved more contenders by late-90s, it was enough for Maruti to dip its fingers in this pie. Fiat Siena, Hyundai Accent and Ford Ikon were new entrants at that time. Maruti's idea of injecting more zing into the Esteem was to make it more than just a mundane family car. Cars had to be appealing to own and drive if they were to win the hearts of buyers. When the Esteem was originally launched in 1994, it was India’s premium saloon car and enjoyed that status until the arrival of global competition, which reduced it to play the role of an entry-level saloon car. As a family car too, the Esteem was outclassed by several of its bigger rivals. Though Maruti had put efforts to improve the overall ambience of the car, it remained the most cramped vehicle of its category and lacked the ride quality of its rivals.

A family with their brand new Esteem LX in 1999. Photo courtesy : Getty Images.
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The MPFI Esteem came out in March 2000. It was released in the following variants :
• LX, priced at ₹ 4.8lakhs ex-showroom
• VX, priced at ₹ 5.5lakhs ex-showroom
• AX, priced at ₹ 6.1lakhs ex-showroom
During this update, no changes were made to exterior and interior of the sedan. The car gained some new body colour options like California Gold, Sapphire Blue and Exotique Green, replacing Golden Beige, Madison Blue and Henna Green shades of the older carb Esteem. Even after the introduction of the Euro-II compliant models, Maruti was still selling the terribly underpowered 1000 alongside Esteem till May 2000. Just like Esteem, Maruti 1000 also was subjected to various upgrades during 1995 to 1998 period.

Brochure cover from the year 2000. Shown in picture is a Moonbeam Silver Esteem MPFI.
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Anyways, the going was good for the Esteem, until the competition started to turn on the heat. The original G13BA Esteem with its 65bhp at 6000revs and 99Nm at 4000rpm was decently quick for the fact to be told. So what Maruti did in the March 2000 update was, it just used the multi-valve formula, giving the Esteem an SOHC 16 valve engine with multi-point fuel injection system. This, in turn, took the power up to an interesting 84 horses at the same rev count and 104Nm of torque at a much lesser 3000rpm. Power-to-weight ratio was also the most favourable for a mid-size car, weighing a mere 875kg, it was only 15kg heavier than the first-gen Maruti Wagonr. The combination of its light weight and a much more powerful engine turned the Esteem into an even more nimble automobile.

A Closer look at the engine bay of Esteem MPFI.
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Technical specification details of Esteem MPFI, Accent, City 1.3, Corsa 1.4, Corsa 1.6, Ikon 1.6 and Siena. Data taken from Overdrive magazine's May 2000 issue.
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The all aluminium engine felt sportier and made an exhaust rasp that delighted everyone. Specific output of this engine worked out to 64.8bhp per litre and was second to just the first-gen Honda City 1.3. With just a single gearshift to get upto 100kmph, the Esteem scorched competition to register 13.5 seconds. With tall gearing to the fourth and fifth gears which had a low ratio, the Esteem lost its steam in these gears and highway cruising was a constant shift into third. Esteem went upto 160kmph in the third gear itself while it struggled to maintain that speed in the fourth gear. Maruti had to bring the fourth ratio closer to 1.00 and the fifth close to 0.85. The entire experience of driving the Esteem was that, it brought a feeling of thirsting for more. There was plenty of juice available when needed, and that made the Esteem a great highway stomper indeed. The car was quick enough for showing others its not-so-exciting rear at traffic signal drag races.

Acceleration figures of Esteem MPFI and its competitors, taken from Overdrive's May 2000 issue. Esteem was the quickest car in its category back then.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081114363453_40deb401b9ffe8e1df2f1cc5ba480b12.jpg

Despite losing out on higher gear driveability, the Esteem managed to be quicker than the City 1.3 in the fourth gear 40-100kmph roll-on. The saving grace came from the excellent gearshift quality. So for those sporty drivers who didn't really mind working the gearshift a lot, the Esteem MPFI was a great car to be driven through Indian highways. Then again, aggressive gearing would have improved the Esteem’s acceleration to set the performance benchmark in its class. About ride and handling, something that was not known to Maruti was that, several years of rallying in Esteems saw MRF and JK rally teams spending lakhs of rupees on developing suspension systems to make any road feel like velvet. Taking the Esteem more upmarket and developing it to outperform the Ikon would have done wonders for its brand image. Instead of playing the price card, it had to play the performance one, at least after the introduction of Baleno in 1999.

JK Tyre Rally team with their rally-spec Esteems sometime in the late-nineties. Sorry for the poor quality image.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-fb_img_1660225080891.jpg

Hari Singh's souped up rally-spec Esteem, a picture from 1999.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-mtu1odqxnzixmh5afjq5.jpg

Esteem lost its sheen in the face of competition from Accent and Ikon, the product needed an immediate upgrade if Maruti wanted to maintain its presence in the lower mid-size segment....

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Old 31st July 2022, 00:35   #7
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Chapter 5 : Obsolescent Workhorse



After the entry of more modern sedans like Ikon, Accent and Corsa, the demand for the Esteem began to wane slowly. Although the City and the Lancer were more expensive products, the Esteem did see a small shift of buyers to those bigger cars. It was actually a strong product but the model ageing process became a whole lot faster by the end of nineties. Even the splendid days of MPFI-engined Esteem didn't last too long. Maruti had upped the power substantially, but it was almost similar to an already 10-year old Maruti 1000 in all manner except for the performance area. Altogether, the 2000-2003 period was disastrous for the Esteem brand.

One more advertisement from October 1999. The Esteem was touted as a driver's car through this ad campaign.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-026-esteem-chauffeur-1.jpg

Foray of newer models into the segment contributed to some serious damage to Esteem's brand value and sales. In January 1999, the Esteem's share of the mid-size car segment was more than 40 percent. Later, in January 2000, that number came down to 18 percent and by January 2001, it became just 15 percent. During the calendar year 1995, Esteem car sold 20,500 units, in 1996 it sold 25,400, in 1997 it sold 19,400 units. The sales began to dwindle slowly from 1999 onwards, total sales went down by 5,200 units to 15,300, compared to 1998's sales. By 2000, a serious decline in sales of the model was noticed. It sold only about 11,000 units during the year 2000. The consensus was that it was time for a new product to replace the Esteem from Maruti's product line-up.

An Esteem advertisement from the early-2001 campaign, sorry for the poor quality image.
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Hoping to turn the tables against other mid-sizers, Maruti tried to promote its age-old Esteem by launching roadshows and even organising various events related to the model. A fresh advertisement campaign, comparing the car with competing models was released sometime in early-2001. Esteem was always highlighted as a "driver's car" in most of its ad campaigns. The 2001 campaign positioned Esteem as the most powerful model in its segment. Then again, it was not enough to convince the customers. The fact remained that the Esteem was familiar to everyone, everybody knew how she looked like and no one gave her a second glance.

Another Maruti Esteem advertisement from July 2001.
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All other models except Esteem in the entry-level sedan segment were subjected to timely upgrades, be it the Ikon or the Siena. Due to heavy competition in this segment, Ford had launched a more basic 1.3-litre Endura petrol version of Ikon in November 2000, positioned at the lower-end of this category. Of course, this particular model of the Ikon was also eating up the sales of Esteem. Maruti was not actually particular about bringing in a diesel version of the Esteem, but their buyers were. It was not wise for Maruti to ignore those buyers who were queuing up at Ford showrooms for the Ikon 1.8 diesel. With the diesel-engined Accent, Hyundai also won in the engine transplantation area. Despite low sales, Siena and Corsa only added to the Esteem's woes.

Seriously, Accent and Ikon were eating up the sales of Esteem during 2000-01 period. Picture from BS Motoring's May 2001 issue.
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As a part of the initiatives taken by Maruti Udyog to boost the sales of Esteem, a special edition variant called 'Limited' was introduced in September 2001. Priced slightly under ₹ 6lakhs, the Limited variant was positioned above all other variants in the Esteem range. It was one of the earliest special edition variants of the sedan. Being a limited production version, only 1000 units were manufactured. This particular variant boasted of features like power antenna, fog lamps, rear defogger, keyless entry and anti-theft alarm system. Body-coloured ORVMs, rear spoiler with stop lamp and six-spoke alloy wheels came as a part of the special edition. These cars were sold only in Starlite Silver, Pearl Silver and Superior White shades. Additions inside the cabin were limited to beige leather upholstery and wooden-finish centre console. Even before the launch of Limited variant, Maruti had silently refreshed the Esteem. LXi and VXi variants with power steering were added to the Esteem line-up and VX was permanently discontinued. The car received a fresh set of body colour options too in that minor update.

Special edition in India means adding an extra feature or two, here's a picture of Esteem Limited's alloy wheel.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220815_012816.jpg

Esteem Limited's interior comprising of leather seats, wooden garnish on door handles and centre console.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220815_012928.jpg

To further tighten the grip in the mid-size car market, Maruti offered the Esteem a diesel engine option. A classic case of too little, too late....

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Old 4th August 2022, 10:35   #8
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Chapter 6 : Better late than never



Maruti was idle in the mid-size sedan segment for many years after Baleno launch, but the announcement of Tata Indigo in early-2002 prompted the company into action. Competition in this segment was heating up back then with the launches of Tata Indigo with a 1.4-litre turbocharged diesel, Accent CRDi with a 1.5-litre three-cylinder common rail diesel and also the 1.9-litre turbocharged engine from Fiat. Maruti had to release the diesel version of Esteem way back in 1998 itself, in line with the launch of the Zen Diesel. Heart transplant route wasn't followed in the case of Esteem since diesel Esteems would have definitely sold more units than the meagre numbers which Zen D managed. Garages down south and up north took this as an advantage and did brisk business plonking Toyota diesel engines into Esteems and 1000s in mid-90s.

A very rare, original wallpaper of the Esteem VXi in Pearl Silver shade from 2002.
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Whatever the reason for being late maybe, eight years after the Esteem was launched (twelve years if the 1000 is included), Maruti finally found that it is mature enough to change the drinking habits of its mid-size car. The Esteem diesel was launched in September 2002 without much fanfare and was initially available only in South India where demand for diesel vehicles was strong. With the imported le moteur, it was introduced in the following variants :
• D, priced at ₹ 5.4lakhs ex-showroom
• Di, priced at ₹ 5.7lakhs ex-showroom
Like good wine, the Esteem diesel came in a period bottle that cannot be termed classic. There were some minor changes on the cosmetic side too. All Esteem variants were updated with a chrome-surrounded mesh grille which made the car look like a miniature of Type-1 Honda City when seen from front.

An Esteem diesel being test driven by BSMotoring team in September 2002.
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In this September 2002 update, the top-end Esteem VXi also gained some features like rear spoiler, front fog lamps, rear defogger, etc. Body-coloured ORVMs and Baleno-style wheel covers became standard for VXi. Silky Silver, Bronze Mist and Aqua Blue colours were added to Esteem's shade card. This updated Esteem had slightly reworked interiors also but scars of heavy localisation were visible inside the cabin. Dry texture of the plastics was something which most people were not comfortable with. Even the interiors of the Zen felt more contemporary and upmarket back then. Equipment levels for Di variant consisted of tachometer, air-con and front power windows. No music system, no rear power windows, no defogger, not even central locking.

Esteem VXi's advertisement from January 2003, pardon me for the poor picture quality.
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Coming back to the diesel. PSA Group used to sell ready-to-fit and reliable diesel engines back then. Maruti also knew that they wouldn’t go wrong with them. We first saw the indirect injection TUD5 diesel engine in the short-lived Peugeot 309 GLD, and later on in the Maruti Zen and in small numbers under the hood of Hyundai Accent. The 1.5-litre oil burner developed 57bhp at peak revs of 5000rpm and torque of 95Nm at 2250rpm, the torque curve was relatively flat from 2250rpm to 3500rpm and then tapered off. Same gearbox was carried over from the petrol-engined Esteem with identical ratios. Final drive ratio was varied to better optimise the box to account for the increased weight. Again, not perfectly optimised to the weight and power characteristics of the engine. Maruti didn't put any effort for bringing down the NVH levels, only deaf persons had difficulties in identifying this as a diesel car.

Engine bay image of diesel-engined Esteem from BSMotoring's September 2002 issue.
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The power delivery of engine was almost like that of the Zen diesel, all peaky with not much by way of a bottom end. Maximum power was developed at maximum revs, the car had to be redlined in all gears to extract all the performance from the engine. It took about 7 seconds for Esteem diesel to spit out 60 kmph, slightly slower than the Zen diesel and way slower than the good old Peugeot 309 GLD. However, holding the steering steady and going through the sleek gearbox, it used to hit the 100 kmph mark in 18.9 seconds and a top speed figure of 145 kmph. Altogether, this car was perfect for those drivers who loved kicking diesel engine to get the best out of it.

All attributes of the Esteem's diesel version in a single advertisement.
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Chassis and suspension package was again straight out of the regular Esteem with slightly more strengthened front suspension to account for the extra weight of the engine. Ride quality still remained average and was nowhere near that of the competition. With the extra weight of the engine up front, chassis balance was almost lost. At high speeds, straight line stability really became an issue for Esteem diesel. To compound all this, it was the light steering that was great for city driving situations but not so great on the highways. Keeping all these problems aside, the Esteem diesel’s real strength was its ability to stretch the sticky fuel.

An Accent CRDi being compared with the Esteem diesel by BSMotoring in December 2002.
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Picture of Esteem diesel, Ikon 1.8D and Indigo 1.4 diesel from the comparision test conducted by Autocar India in February 2003.
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According to users, the relatively high mileage figures nullified most of the drawbacks of the Esteem diesel as an overall package. Sometime in mid-2003, the Esteem received another special edition variant called 'Velocity' with almost same equipment level as that of an LXi. This variant being a special edition model had wider tyres, sportier steel wheels, rear defogger and silver-finish centre console and gear knob. Pricing and total number of units manufactured are unknown to me. Even though Maruti was successful in its limited edition strategy, it was not capable of sustaining the sales of Esteem in long run. By then, people had lost interest in Esteem for the truth to be told. Even though the diesel version was a better alternative than the problematic Ford Ikon 1.8 Diesel, it wasn't a strong seller for Maruti.

An advertisement of the special edition Esteem Velocity from the year 2003.
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Maruti was not in a mood to kill the Esteem brand, and hence gave the car another facelift. Falling in love with the Esteem again wasn't easy....

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Old 8th August 2022, 18:26   #9
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Chapter 7 : Esteem Redux and Farewell



Fast forward to 2004, the Maruti Esteem underwent a complete makeover to garner a considerable share in the entry-level sedan segment which was growing at a pace. Esteem’s fuel efficiency and cost of ownership were best in class, but the styling was outdated. The Type-3 Esteem which came out in July 2004 was supposed to amend this. For the Esteem brand, this particular facelift can be termed as an upgrade and a downgrade. The upgrade was a comprehensive facelift, while the downgrade was a welcome one, a major price cut. The Type-3 Esteem was introduced in the following variants :
• LX, priced at ₹ 4.4lakhs ex-showroom
• LXi, priced at ₹ 4.7lakhs ex-showroom
• VXi, priced at ₹ 5.1lakhs ex-showroom
• D, priced at ₹ 4.9lakhs ex-showroom
• Di, priced at ₹ 5.2lakhs ex-showroom

Jagdish Khattar, former managing director of MUL, during the launch of Type-3 Esteem.
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Brochure cover of the Type-3 Maruti Esteem from September 2004.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081219071783_f541918c7893c52dbd1ee5d319333948.jpg

The basic shape, which we have seen during the early-ninties in the form of the Maruti 1000, was still around in the nineties, it was pretty sure for people that a mid-life facelift wouldn't make it look fresh. Exteriors of the Esteem was restyled with chrome-surrounded Baleno-style grille, restyled front bumper, clear vision headlamps and clear lens rear combination lamps. Rear-end tweaks was restricted to a marginally restyled boot-lid treatment. All these changes made the Esteem's face look more mature and purposeful. An important physical change was what lied below the car, it received tubeless radials. Two new body colour options such as Icy Blue Metallic and Fawn Mist were added. Type-3 Esteem didn't look very different from its older avatars, as I said before, the lines were simply too old to look younger.

Wallpaper of a Type-3 Esteem VXi in Fawn Mist colour. Alloy wheels weren't standard for any variant.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-es4.jpg

Interior revamps were classy and subtle, which afforded the interior a more crafted feel, and made it seem airy than it actually was. Fabric upholstery in the facelift looked more premium, the white-faced instrument console and the chrome-topped gear knob looked sportier. Other subtle changes inside the cabin included chrome-tipped handbrake lever, silver-finished power window switch garnish and silver-finished louvers, garnish and bezels. VXi variant had received a new CD player too, the popular Kenwood KDC-MP232. In overall, this Type-3 version's cabin actually felt much better put together than it used to be on Type-1 and Type-2 Esteems. Of course, the car was still cramped for space and legroom at the back.

The plastics got more plasticky in the 2004 facelift and though the cabin felt spacious, the Esteem in fact had the smallest cabin among mid-sizers.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081310194806_f541918c7893c52dbd1ee5d319333948.jpg

The facelift somehow increased the appeal of Esteem again, followed by a dramatic increase in sales. With the huge price cut, it became as functional as a C-segment model but a couple of lakhs cheaper. One that did 90 percent of the job for just 70 percent of the price. At reduced prices, this aged product became moderately attractive to we Indians. Prices went down by ₹ 50,000 for all petrol variants while the diesel Esteem carried the same price tag. By then, Maruti had sold 1,75,000 units of the model in 15 years period. Sales of the Esteem actually climbed up by 14 percent in the year 2004-05. Maruti was steadily working on the Esteem back then, nipping a bit here and tucking a bit there. For someone who really, desperately, wanted to own a three-box budget Maruti, an Esteem was the car to get. The company even introduced an cut-price non-AC variant of Esteem in January 2005 exclusively for government departments.

The "Big Esteem" campaign came in 2005, it had the theme of a father and daughter, with the daughter discovering the "Bigness" of Esteem.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-20220813151521.jpg

When Euro-3 emission norms came into effect, Maruti silently discontinued the TUD5-engined D and Di variants of the Esteem in April 2005. The Esteem diesel was always considered as a car for those people who wanted to get from Point A to Point B at the lowest cost in basic comfort. It made sense for such people who had no issues in being seen with a car that was not-too-modern. For Maruti, import of engines from Peugeot in France was costly and India being a price sensitive market the company was forced to phase it out. Competitors had locally manufactured diesel engines at that time. Sales volumes of diesel counterparts of Esteem and Zen were much lower than the petrol versions. Cheap and cheerful, the G13-engined Esteem continued to provide affordable sedan experience. Maruti, at the same time, gave the Esteem petrol a 32-bit ECU in 2005.

October 2005 brochure of the Esteem, post the discontinuation of diesel variants.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081318374185_f541918c7893c52dbd1ee5d319333948.jpg

Summer of 2005 saw the entry of another legend into the Indian car market, the Maruti Swift. It was difficult to believe that the Swift was in fact, the grandson of the Esteem. Suzuki officials stated that the hatchback was actually two design steps ahead of the global first-gen Swift, which made it theoretically three whole steps ahead of our Esteem. Swift and Esteem shared the same engine block and head, but the camshaft, intake and exhaust manifolds and cooling system were completely different in Swift, aimed at improving bottom-end performance and breathing. The Esteem had an edge at the top end but the Swift had a more linear power delivery and was more drivable. Among customers, the "Swift or Esteem" confusion was a common affair during those days. The Swift was a better automobile in all aspects compared to the latter, but even then, Esteem's three-box car status, fuel efficiency, performance and reliability was irresistible for a few people.

Original wallpaper of an Indian-spec Swift ZXi in Garnet Orange colour.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-wall03-1.jpg

From the Swift ZXi vs Esteem VXi comparision test conducted by BS Motoring in October 2005.
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Finally, after 17 years and over 2 lakhs units sales, the last Esteem rolled out of the production line on 24th December 2007. Popularity of the Esteem waned over a period of time, especially after the arrival of more contemporary products like Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Verna and Chevrolet Aveo into the mid-size segment. The sedan wasn't generating huge amounts of volume interest during the last days of its life. After all, this was the product which established Maruti Suzuki as a serious player in the evergreen mid-size car segment. In spite of many ups and downs in the lifecycle of Esteem, it always had its own share of fanbase. For three-box lovers, Maruti brought in the Swift Dzire in January 2008 as a replacement for the Esteem. It's been 14.5 years since the Maruti Esteem was discontinued, but its role in the Indian car market cannot be forgotten.

This was the last released brochure of the Maruti Esteem in December 2006. Wine Red colour was reintroduced sometime in early-2006
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-screenshot_2022081318414009_f541918c7893c52dbd1ee5d319333948.jpg

Swift Dzire was considered as the spiritual successor for Esteem. This car ticked a lot of boxes that the Esteem didn’t tick.
Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history-img_20220813_200035.jpg

All good things must to come to an end. The Esteem is long gone and forgotten, faded in the pages of history books....

THE END.

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Old 15th August 2022, 17:31   #10
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Thread moved out from the Assembly Line. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 15th August 2022, 18:18   #11
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Default re: Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history

Excellent write-up, Shrey. An ode to the Esteem - amongst the first of the modern sedans in Indian auto scene.

Along with mention of the Swift & DZire, could have added a mention & Pic of the old Baleno ?
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Old 15th August 2022, 18:39   #12
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Default re: Maruti Esteem - One of the most respected nameplates in India's automotive history

Thanks Shreyfiesta for sharing the Esteem journey. Esteem was my first car bought is 2004 Nov. It was Esteem vxi, silky silver and I loved it. It was low slung, it drove beautifully and that 1.3 l engine was great in a light car. It was in the family for 16 years and it drove beautifully till the very end. The interiors didnt age well and rattles also creeped in but I still felt sad when I let it go in Nov 2020. Really fond memories of the car and your thread really made my day. Thanks a lot for this thread.
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Old 15th August 2022, 18:50   #13
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Nice informative thread. Thanks for sharing this.

But the word 'lemon' is highly misleading, it's still not clear with regards to the content shared why would the Esteem be regarded as a lemon.
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Old 15th August 2022, 19:02   #14
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Fantastic article. Thanks for bringing back memories of hand-brake turns!

We have had two of them from the 90s, you could always rely on them and expect to get to the destination - quick! Esteem stayed planted on the sort of broken roads of those days better than most cars , even better than cars that came afterwards. It's suspension is complaint enough not to let a lot of harshness through and made for a comfortable ride at higher speeds.

Though the brakes weren't great, the independent suspension meant that you CAN hit the brakes hard on uneven roads and expect to stay in the same direction of travel

Despite its shortcomings like low seating, tall hearing , sub standard AC, brakes that fade quickly etc, Esteem taught us that you don't need to rely on flights, trains , buses etc , just tank up and drive, you're going to reach the destination more or less in the same time or faster, loved them both. The older 95 model we had is still around with a family friend though, runs just fine.
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Old 15th August 2022, 19:04   #15
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Thanks for penning this down.

For someone who practically grew up with the 1996 Esteem (we had it for 20 years), and currently drives a 2008 Dzire - this thread had quite the nostalgic value.

I loved what both the rides provided to me, no modern car can ever take their place in my mind.

*goes for a long drive in my Dzire*
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